BY LIZ LAZZARA
Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
It’s true: If you want to become a writer, you have to read authors you admire—works that you feel are better than your own. This is how you grow.
When you read others’ work and follow them online, however, it’s easy to slide into jealousy—where reading and connecting stops being joyous and becomes an impediment to progress. Indeed, never-ending awards shortlists or humblebrag-ridden Facebook posts can arouse the green-eyed monster in the most grounded writers.
Fortunately, you can leverage envy to your advantage.
What Are You Jealous Of?
As a writer, I have plenty of jealousy: of talent, of network and of success. The trick to disarming it is to determine which of these applies to you:
- Do you long to be like writers who interact with people you admire? You’re hungering for their network.
- When perusing author websites, are you struck by their lists of publications? You want their success.
- While reading, do you feel like you could never write something on that level? You’re lusting for talent.
Knowledge is power, and understanding the source of such feelings will enable you to pursue your real desires.
How Can You conquer It?
When building your writing community, reach out to writers, editors, agents and publishers of all grades—above, below and at your level. You’ll get advice from the pros, camaraderie from your compatriots, and perhaps a little pick-me-up from the people just starting out where you once were. Some writers make the mistake of connecting only with writers they admire. Think broader. Before you know it, your own group will grow and thrive—and you’ll no longer be tempted to obsess over someone else’s.
When you read the works of others, get in the mindset of reading as if you’re studying. Pick out what you admire, examine what it is that makes the writing successful, and think of how you can transform and incorporate it into your own work. Jealousy, then, turns into learning, and learning turns into growth.
Remember that true success doesn’t come easy for anyone. It can be an elusive recipe of who you know and what you know. But if you continue to network and to hone your craft, you’ll be on the right course. After all, some of the most important qualities for a writer are persistence and resilience. Best of all, when you do triumph, it will be your success, based solely on your diligence and your writing. There will be no need to compare what you’ve done to anyone else.
Focus on what you have, what you want and why. Despite similarities in style, genre or career path, no two writers are the same, and it’s useless (even unhelpful) to compare. Make jealousy work for you instead of against you—and then get back to your keyboard.
Liz Lazzara is a freelance writer working for Ravishly, The Liberty Project and others.
This article appeared in the March/April 2016 issue of Writer’s Digest.
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