Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Do You Suffer From Writer Envy?

It's only natural that writers have other writer friends on Facebook and Twitter (and any other social media that you may be keeping up with.) Out of necessity, writers use these tools for self-promotion to promote their books, latest successes, etc.,  but it can be downright painful to watch everyone else share their daily successes while yours are few and far between (if existing at all!). In "Writer Envy," in the March/April 2012 issue of Poets and Writers, Maura Kelly shares her struggles with the green-eyed monster:

A cultural shift seems to have occurred, so that Mark Zuckerberg's site is less a place for camaraderie than a platform for self-promotion. And a ton of people I'm connected to were getting a lot more successful, whereas it seemed I was only becoming increasingly resentful. . . That kind of information shrapnel tore through my small, petty heart. . . . If Sartre were around today, I imagine he'd say that hell isn't other people as much as it is Facebook. . . .

For the first time since I'd decided to become a writer, shortly after I graduated college, I seriously considered giving up. I'd indentured myself to a life of writing, initially, because I'd thought (innocently, cluelessly) that I could put down sentences that would outlast me. No longer. And without a beyond the grace goal to live for, there didn't seem much to recommend the monkish existence of a wannabe novelist. What made it especially painful (even more than the relative poverty) was the feeling of shame I had whenever I was reminded that so many other people were living the dream.

In the end, she discovered the cure was to immerse herself in her own work, to become the best she could be and try not to worry about what everyone else was doing. She took her cue from a Faulkner quote: "Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself."

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