Writer Envy?

Author Ilona Andrews posted a topic I hadn’t really considered before … but now I can’t stop thinking about it. 

Ilona referenced a post by Patty Jansen, who asks why some aspiring authors claim to hate the popular bestsellers (HARRY POTTER, TWILIGHT, DA VINCI CODE, etc).

So I’m wondering:  do these writers truly hate the mentioned books, or are they simply jealous of the authors’ success? How do we draw the line between criticism and envy?

Everyone is entitled to an opinion; we shouldn’t feel obligated to like a bestseller just because our friends and family do. We all have different tastes in styles and genres. 

But if your dislike of a book is based solely on the author’s yearly income … what’s the point of that? Sounds like a waste of time to me. 

We’ve all had moments of envy; after all, we’re human. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves. But how we deal with the envy makes all the difference. Quoting Ilona:

The mega-bestsellers are mega because they have a broad appeal.  They might not necessarily be superb on all fronts, but they do a number of things well.  Most importantly, they’re able to connect to a wide audience by triggering some of the universal themes.  I remember reading Harry Potter and having an acute sense of envy, not of the writer, but of the characters.  You know how much I would’ve wanted to attend Hogwarts?  To me, that’s where Rowling’s writing is magic.

So true! I never realized it before, but I am often jealous of the characters in my favorite books. For nearly twenty years now, I’ve wanted Anne Shirley’s bright imagination and even brighter red hair! I want to tesser like Meg Murry and swim with dolphins like Vicky Austin. I want to visit Narnia and Hogwarts. I want a supernatural ability or a magical power. 

Some of my favorite books do not have enviable characters; in those cases, I envy the author’s skill. I love John Green’s wit, Markus Zusak’s metaphors, Melissa Marr’s imagery, Laurie Halse Anderson’s courage to write the brutal truth … the list goes on and on.

I don’t know how many books these authors have sold, and I don’t care. I don’t want to be them … I just admire their writing. I’ll never be that witty or eloquent, and that’s okay. The most I can hope for is to be me

Every writer has a unique “voice.” Find yours—don’t try to copy someone else’s. Each time you finish a book, ask yourself what you liked and what you disliked about it. Use that information to grow as a writer; let it inspire you and motivate you to do better. There’s no need to bash authors. Stay focused on your story, not someone else’s. That may sound self-centered … but it’s more productive than useless envy.

So what do you think? Do you struggle with writer envy? What are the advantages and disadvantages of it? How can we discuss our less-than-favorite books without sounding envious?


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