Envy and the Writer

Envy and the WriterI’ll be honest. I’ve met the beast called envy. Have you? Envy can strike anywhere, any time, and a savvy writer will be prepared to do battle with it. Here are a few scenarios:

You and another blogger start your blogs at the same time with similar focus. Theirs takes off and thrives while yours languishes.

You and another author publish at the same time in the same genre. They are at 75 reviews a month later while you are still struggling for 10.

You’ve worked on a difficult passage all day, go to writer’s group, and read the amazing, polished prose of another member.

Envy can find us even when we are content. I think, for today’s writer, it is the footprint of the scarcity mindset, but even adherents to the abundance school of thought can find themselves face to face with envy.

Remind yourself that we all walk different paths and things will happen for each of us at different times.

Put blinders on. Commit to non-comparison. Set clear and attainable goals and don’t look up from them.

Remember that things are rarely equal. Genre, style, voice, and trends are all factors in gaining traction with books, blogs, or any other form of online life. It takes time to find your readers.

Learn from others who are doing well. Be happy for them and know that your turn will come.

Understand it’s a normal human reaction. Acknowledge it, deal with it, and move on.

One of the things I like best about the indie community is the high level of support for other authors, the willingness to collaborate or combine efforts, to recommend each other’s books, and the general belief that there are more than enough readers for all of us (and they read far faster than we can all write). In other words, we aren’t competing with each other.

That helps combat envy like nothing else.

We’re human. We’re going to experience it at some point. Be gentle with yourself but tough on envy. Then get back to work.


 

What is your most effective method for dealing with feelings of envy?

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Perfectionist Writer Problems: You May Be a Perfectionist If . . .

Perfectionist Writer Problems: You May Be a Perfectionist If . . .I was chatting with Chris last week about my novel issues. Yes, with my thesis looming over my head I’m having, of all things, novel issues. I am not a fire and forget kind of writer. I’m an agonize over every word even when I know I’ll probably burn the draft in a fiery pit of doom kind of writer. Perfectionists are an odd sort, and the longer I hang around the writer corner of the internet, the clearer it is to me that the writing world is full of them. *Waves at all fellow perfectionists*

The sarcastic muse has struck me this week, so below I’ve amassed a list of some perfectionist problems. At least the ones that are familiar to me.

Disclaimer: I can’t speak for all perfectionists. Also, some points may dually apply to self-proclaimed non-perfectionists, too. (Imperfectionists?)

You may be a perfectionist if . . .

1.) You get stuck on one word. Usually the first word you choose will be the word you ultimately go with (as that’s the one intuition will have chosen), but before you can relax and move on, you may do the following: Take the word out. Put it back five minutes later. Change it to a different word. Decide it sounds wrong and put the old one back. Wash, rinse, repeat.

2.) You follow in the footsteps of Oscar Wilde: put the comma in your draft in the morning, then take it out in the evening. You will do this fifteen times and will probably still go with your original choice.

3.) You are so afraid of writing the wrong words that you refuse to write any at all. In the meantime, you manage to clean the entire house until it sparkles, get a degree in physics, and learn twenty-two languages.

4.) You’ve read your current draft so many times that you can recite it from memory (even if it’s only the first chapter).

5.) In fact, you are ultimately much better at reading your draft than you are at writing it.

6.) You could give up any key on the keyboard except the “backspace” button.

7.) And your daily word counts tend to go into the negative. As in . . . you like to think of it as writing words off the page. That’s still writing, right?

8.) You’ll only let someone read your work after having stressed that it is “only a first draft” and that you fully intend to use it as firewood.

9.) And you’re sure to apologize profusely for having forced them to read something that’s not even fit for maggot consumption (even though they have been begging to read your work for close to six months now).

10.) You reread even your blog posts over twenty-four times before posting. And then at least twenty-four more times after posting. That’s why people only hear from you once a month. Case in point: I’m up to revision 8 9 10 and this blog post has only been live for five ten minutes.

11.) You manage to be on top of all the problems in your draft but can never meet a deadline for it.

12.) You look everywhere for the red ink on your paper. Red ink is your friend. Red ink makes you feel alive as it drips across the blank white of the page. Red ink . . . oh, I’m sorry. Amanda must have let the monsters out of the lab again. I digress . . .

13.) However, when someone says that your work doesn’t have to be perfect or that there is no such thing as perfection, you feel a strong inclination to start marking them with red ink.

With a pen, of course . . . which red ink were you thinking about?

14.) You’re not moving forward until you fix the thing in the draft that’s bothering you. “Hey, writer,” a well-meaning friend says. “The world is ending. We should head for the escape pods now.” “Of course, the world is ending,” you say. “This dash doesn’t fit between these two words, but I’m not sure where else to put it.”

15.) You found yourself nodding at the points on this list. Or grinning. When the world is ending, you think, it’ll be us perfectionists who write order into the chaos . . . perfectly.


Alright, fellow perfectionists. Your turn. Tell me: What are your perfectionist problems?

Writing Spaces

Writing SpacesChris is currently . . .ah . . . confined to Amanda’s experimentation lab. I haven’t asked and I’m not sure I’d want to know, but Amanda promised he would be free in a few days, so I’ll just slip in and take his posting day.

Let’s talk about writing spaces. If you like eye candy, I humbly offer some HERE for your pleasure. I am slightly obsessed with writing spaces and often drown out the sounds coming from Amanda’s section of the lair by daydreaming of my ideal environments.

Though a spare room turned office would be ideal, most of us don’t have that luxury. We carve our writing spaces from bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, spaces under stairs, closets, or whatever is available. The last place we lived, I took over the tiny dining area and made it my own. In this place, my current writing space is a corner of my bedroom. My dream writing space is a little shed in the back yard (power and air conditioning included). Though I often think about getting a real office, I like to write at oddball times and also have a little person to keep tabs on. How about you?

What’s important in a writing space?

Work/create spaces are as individual as the people who use them, but there are a few common elements to keep in mind.

  • Avoid high traffic areas if at all possible, though parents of young children may need to ignore this for a while.
  • If it bothers you to have your back to the room (lets face it, we can zone into our stories pretty deeply) and you can’t rearrange, hang a mirror over your desk or set one next to your monitor.
  • Keep everything you need for your current project(s) in your writing space. If you take something out, put it back when you’re done. Nothing’s worse than having to hunt down your notes at the beginning of a writing session.
  • If you have trouble staying put, stash a few healthy snacks nearby and fill a thermos with your favorite beverage. On the other hand, if you rarely leave your writing space, leave all that stuff in the kitchen. It’s good to get up and move around periodically.
  • Pay attention to ergonomics. Office chair, dining chair, or exercise ball is up to you but try to make the keyboard and monitor heights comfortable.
  • Ideally, a writing space is where you write. For most of us, it’s also where we access the internet, pay bills, and chat on social media. It’s important to define and separate writing from other activities. Do this the best you can. If you need help in this area, let me know and we’ll chat. It’s that important.

For some writers, work takes place at the library or coffee shop. In this case, your writing space is your laptop bag and perhaps a tote. Keep everything together and organized for a quick start when you reach your favorite table. At home, keep your bag(s) in a secure spot but accessible enough for you to grab and go when the opportunity presents itself.

Above all, the ideal writing space is what works best for you. Create a writing space that is comfortable and functional.

Happy writing!


Where do you write? What is your dream writing space like?