Writer’s envy

“Man, I wish I wrote that!”

What writer hasn’t thought that. In fact, what reader hasn’t thought that at some point?

Be it a fanfic, a book, a play, movie or the lyrics of a song – we all have experienced that feeling of finding something that felt so brilliant to us that we desperately wished our brains could have created it. In short, we are hit by writer’s envy. (Or writer’s jealousy or writer’s admiration as the case may be.)

It could be that someone thought of a clever idea before you, or that someone has a way with words that you admire or perhaps they just managed to touch something in you that you didn’t even know was there.

Maybe you are in star-struck awe or maybe you are burning with jealous rage. Or perhaps your brain treated you to a more moderate mix of the two? Either way, you can’t help thinking… “Man, I wish I wrote that!”

So, should this quite mundane thought stop us dead in our tracks? Yes, actually, maybe it should. Because it makes us think. What is it I love so much about this? Can I learn to do something similar? Can it inspire me to grow or to work harder? And if you are someone who creates, it might bring you hope that someone out there looks at your work and thinks “Man, I wish I wrote that!”

This thought came to me a few weeks ago when I closed the paperback copy of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. Both that book and the first part of the series (Six of Crows) manages to bring together all the things I want to achieve in a book. For me, it has entertainment, characters that you feel connected to, incredible world building, smooth prose, diverse representation, a clever plot and the story takes reasonability for when something problematic or dark comes up. As in the case with human trafficking, something which is dealt with in the fantasy setting of the book and later brought up in the author’s notes to remind us that this is a real problem and supplying us with ways to combat it. But I digress.

After I had read it, I felt the same way I did after reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods – I can never write anything even close to this good. But you know what, it also made me want to try. As they say, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

As I’ve spent more and more time with writers I have found one thing to be true; Writer’s envy is a real thing and it can either hold you back or spur you on. I’m a good example of that. I always nourished a secret dream to be a writer but felt that I wasn’t good enough to really try making the dream a reality. So, I daydreamed about it and wrote two novel-sized manuscripts while commuting back and forth from work.

It wasn’t until I was hit by the envy from realising that my wife, who just wrote to cure her boredom, was offered a publishing deal without really wanting one – that I forced myself to test my daydream to see if it would hold my weight. (With ample loving support and pushing from said wife, I should add.)

It turned out that the ice cracked and broke a few times, soaking me and nearly dragging me under. But in the end, I got a publishing deal and can say that the dream finally held my weight.

All it took was work, support and a little faith.

And yes, maybe a swift kick up the bum from my writer’s envy.

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