Friday, August 27, 2010

Jealousy––Is it "healthy" for writers?

One of my fellow teen-writer/bloggers brought up a question in one of her recent posts that really got me thinking. (Here's a link to the post. Check it out!) In this post, she wrote:

"I am jealous of other writers. … My question to you is: Is jealousy healthy for a writer, or even justifiable in any case? As long as I am not angry with the person, could this strengthen my writing in some way?"

This is a question that I've asked myself many times, and now I see that it is on the minds of other writers as well. So, can envy towards other writers "healthy" and/or justifiable? It's a tricky subject, but I think it's also an important one that should be addressed.

My answer: Yes––I think that a certain kind of jealousy can be very healthy for a writer. There are some cases in which it would be bad. But I think that, if you understand how to channel that envy into productivity, it can make you a better writer.

Let's face it, jealousy is bound to happen. I've never met a writer who said, "I'm the best writer ever!" In fact, writers tend to be really down on themselves (myself included). If you're on any writing forums, it's inevitable that you'll see something along the lines of:

Writer A: Gosh, I suck. I wish I could write like you, Writer B!
Writer B: Noooo. I'M the one who sucks! I wish I could write like YOU, Writer A!

Fact of life is, no writers totally like themselves. We criticize ourselves constantly. We see the flaws in our own work and agonize over how to fix them. Trust me, I've hated my own work with a burning passion before. Then you might look at someone else's writing and say, "Dang, this is perfect! How does he/she do it?!" But the truth is, that writer is just as––if not more––critical of him/herself as you are of yourself.

Good writing takes a lot of self-discipline. Someone may seem to write effortlessly, but probably (unless the writer is some freak of nature) they have not always been great at writing. And they may have gone through tons of drafts before they produced what you're reading. Just like you, this writer has been envious of other writers. He/she has tried and failed and tried again.

So ask yourself … What do I envy so much about this writing? The style? The characters? The world? The dialogue? And then see if you can learn something from it. Set goals for yourself. Maybe you need to study your characters more. Maybe you need more dialogue. Maybe you need your writing to be more concise or more descriptive.

In short: if this jealousy you feel is a form of admiration rather than hostility––if you learn something from it––then it can be a positive thing.

Of course, jealousy can also be bad. It's not good if you say to yourself, "Gee, I'll never be as good as so-and-so! I GIVE UP." Or if you say, "Gosh, I'm so jealous! I'm just gonna steal this idea and then everyone will like me. Teehee. 'ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A GIRL NAMED STELLA AND HER VAMPIRE BOYFRIEND, FREDWARD …'"

In both of these cases, you're giving up on yourself due to jealousy. While other writing should inspire you, you have to remember that originality is important. This "so-and-so" writer isn't "better" than you, necessarily. He/she just has a different style from you, and you shouldn't see that as a bad thing and/or feel the need to steal ideas in order to be "good". You have your own, unique style too. Good writing should motivate you to find your own voice, not to hate it. Be patient. Developing a personal writing style takes time and practice.

So, I urge you to ask yourself which writers you envy. Maybe make a list, and then write down what it is you envy about them. Then decide how you can channel these skills into your own writing (without becoming a plagiarist, of course!).

Thanks for reading! STAY GREEN!

(haha, Get it? It's like "Stay gold!" but with "green" instead because … you know … "green with envy". Wow. Outsiders reference + bad joke = not funny. But I couldn't help myself. I love The Outsiders, btw, but that's off-topic. PEACE!)


  1. Wonderful follow up to my own question! This is why we have blogs-- to communicate. You did just that. Beautifuly, by the way. :D

  2. This post reminds me of the good/bad jealousy in a romantic relationship.
    I enjoyed this post a lot. Particularly when you tlkaed about what makes writing good- we talked about that in English the other day- and I agree with you. It has to inspire.

  3. Brigid, this is amazing. I especially love this post. I think it's one of my favorites of all of yours, and you have a lot of seriously amazing posts. :D Brigid, you are so SMART. XD And I love the whole thing you wrote on here, so true and helpful. And you are so funny. The Stella and Fredward part was hilarious. And I like the whole Outsiders reference, even though I've never read Outsiders. It was still funny. XD

  4. Why thank you, Sella! And *gasp* you've never read The Outsiders?! Aaah! You must read it. I think you'd like it. ;)


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