Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Writer Making Nice. Not Always.

The other day, I posted my own personal “rules” about supporting other writers when they publish books. I got a lot of nice feedback about what a nice person I am and how nice it is that I support my fellow writers when something nice happens to them.

I’m not that nice. Oh, I do all of that stuff I said I do, but I also have my less-nice side. Witness: Yesterday I got an email from a friend who is a fledgling playwright. She had just received news that a fellow fledgling playwright was having her first work staged by a desirable company.

My friend wrote: "While I'm happy to report that I'm really thrilled for her, I just can't figure out why I'm now not so motivated to write."

To which I replied: Well, I know why. Here are just a few reasons, culled from my personal excuse library. Borrow at will. You are suddenly unmotivated to write, upon hearing of your writing friend’s success, because you are….jealous, envious, enraged, miffed, amazed (in a mean way), tired, tired of everything, suddenly tired of what you're writing, bored with everything, bored with the project, not confident, lazy, ambivalent, procrastinating, distracted, would rather watch TV or distract yourself online/cooking/eating/shopping, muse is on vacation, writing project seemed like a good idea at the time but now it seems stupid / lame / transparent / derivative, more fun to read what someone else wrote, can't escape thoughts that one will never be able ever again to write anything of value.

Listen, when I hear about a writer friend getting…an agent / a lovely book deal / a freelance job I wanted / a great teaching position / a new editing client with 600 pages and deep pockets / $3 a word for an article… I am simultaneously happy for my friend and also momentarily (occasionally not so momentarily) want to slash his or her tires. AND I also go into a non-writing-funk. I run through all the reasons in my mind why it should have been me. Why it will never be me. Why, even if it were me, it wouldn’t work out somehow.

Then, I eat some dark chocolate and get on with things. First thing: congratulate the friend. Nicely. Often, mean it.



Thanks for putting so aptly my very own feelings. I've been many times published, newspapers, a few mags, won a few awards. Even money prizes. I'm still after the prize. I've been trying to figure out exactly what it is I want.

I want to publish a novel. Even if it ends up selling on a table at BIG LOTS here in Ohio. I WANT A BOOK TO HOLD IN MY HANDS that has my name on the spine. Goes back to my library days as a kid when I was in awe of "writers." I wanted to be one. Now I am and I'm still wanting the prize. And yes dark chocolate helps. Thanks for writing this. Blessings, Barb

Leightongirl said...

Envy is inevitable. The thing I always tell myself, in the end, is that I'd rather spend my time happy for my friend than jealous of his or her success. That one always works. Thanks for writing about a tricky subject.

Susana Mai said...

Ha! I definitely relate. It's a natural response. It reminds me of when I read a great book, and just feel I'll never measure up.

Also, dark chocolate always helps. Unless...unless your writer friend who just got an agent or a book deal or a promotion or WHATEVER, and also happens to be annoyingly skinny and pretty ;)

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Thank you for saying so perfectly what I occasionally feel. And yes, chocolate helps. And if it's late enough in the day, so does wine.

Anonymous said...

The flip side is...

If my friend can do this, there's no reason I why I can't do it too.

I get overwhelmed by people who are waaaaay ahead of me in the writing world (and there are lots of them) but when someone in a similar phase of lift off gets a break, it can actually give me hope.

Jesaka Long said...

Thank you for so beautifully writing what I feel sometimes... okay, more times than I really want to admit.

Susan Bearman said...

The first book that I got published (only one so far) was a book I ghost wrote. The idea was someone else's, but 99% of the words were mine.

When I found out he got an agent, I was miffed. When I found out he got a contract, I was irritated. If I could get his book published, why can't I get my book published.

My brother read me the riot act and said I should be proud of the achievement. And I am. Sort of. My name is on page 3, in the acknowledgments. But it's not on the spine.

And dark chocolate is actually healthy and good for you. I prefer to wallow with milk chocolate.

Jenne' R. Andrews said...

This is terrific, so honest and helpful. I'll link to it in one of my posts if that's o.k. with you. all best-- Jenne' said...

"amazed (in a mean way),"


kate hopper said...

I love your honesty, Lisa.

I find that wine also helps. (I'm trying to cut back on my chocolate.)