• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display.inc on line 1877.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_block.inc on line 193.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

Envy, Perfection, and the Work of Writing

http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/14258690882_fc8c48e1... 300w, http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/14258690882_fc8c48e1... 640w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" />Picture by Flickr user Cate Storymoon
When we were children, our every activity was guided by the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure. We felt fulfilled after a day spent colouring outside the lines, jumping over carpet-lava, and spinning in circles until we were dizzy and giggling. When we were forced to do something we didn’t like, we’d cry and scream as though putting on clean clothes was an internationally-condemned form of torture, then we’d go back to following our bliss—maybe by building elaborate space-ninja-pirate-castle-ships, or maybe by emptying the contents of the cutlery drawer all over the floor.
Then we grew up.
The first time we sat at a desk and complained that we didn’t want to do our homework, we were told that work isn’t supposed to be fun, but we have to do it anyway. The pursuit of happiness was relegated to weekends and vacations.
We heard it over and over. Work isn’t supposed to be fun. Fun is for children and hobbies.
But that was okay, because we had a hobby we loved: writing.
We slaved away at our unsatisfying jobs, content in the knowledge that when we’d finished, we could relax into the effervescent enjoyment of making up imaginary worlds. Writing was an escape and a pleasure—more akin to those early days of spinning in circles until we were dizzy than actual work.
Then everything changed.
At some point we realised that writing with the intention of publication was nothing short of W-O-R-K work. That old training reared its ugly head. Work isn’t supposed to be fun. Suddenly, it was much harder to approach writing with the same joie de vivre that we once had, because, as we all know, work is supposed to be brain-numbingly dull.
But we worked hard. We learned about voice and tension and the “evil” of adverbs. We joined writing groups, and reading groups, and devoted ourselves to reading books and blogs. We studied great works of literature, and modern breakthrough novels. Then we returned to our own writing and realised the unalienable truth:
Compared to our heroes, our writing is mediocre at best.
Perhaps we considered quitting. Perhaps we even did quit for a while. But eventually, we came back to writing. We couldn’t help it. We massaged our prose, trying to make it as perfect as it could possibly be. We reminded ourselves that work is supposed to be hard. Work isn’t supposed to be fun.
And then a celebrity got a six-figure book deal. Or someone in our writing group got published. Or that other writer—you know, the one who started writing after us, who we always measured ourselves against—signed with an agent. And we found ourselves thinking: It’s not fair. Why does everyone else get the good stuff? I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do. I’ve worked hard. I want what they’re having.
Befriending the Green-Eyed Monster
But no matter how much fun we’re having as we slave away over a hot keyboard, it’s hard not to feel envious about the success of our friends, colleagues, and random strangers on the internet. Time and time again we come across the advice that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others.
Let’s be honest here: We all do it. It’s part of being human.
But we have a choice. We can spend our energy trying not to make those comparisons, or we can spend our energy pretending (even to ourselves) that we don’t. Or, we can do something radically different.
We can embrace our envy.
When the green-eyed monster shows up in the back of your head, listen to what it has to say:
I wish I was as successful as J.K. Rowling. It’s not fair, I’ll never be able to write like Donna Tartt. I wish I had the effortless cool of Neil Gaiman.
Instead of trying to force those feelings away, realise that your envy isn’t trying to make you feel bad—it’s trying to give you a roadmap. It’s reminding you’re working for: Publishing success, a distinctive writing style, and a battered leather jacket.
The Perfectionist Trap
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t stop us feeling like we’re not good enough—that our writing is mediocre. But here’s the thing:
We know our failures and our inconsistencies and our struggles intimately. But we only see the successes of others. It’s hard for us to forgive ourselves for our bad writing, because we haven’t seen the bad writing of the authors we admire. We’re comparing our draft to their polished novel; the freshly-poured foundation of our story-mansion to their professionally landscaped and decorated castle.
When was the last time you read an article about a new author who’s been struggling with her first novel for ten years, and is pretty sure she sucks and should just give up, but she’s not going to because maybe one day in the future she’ll get her book published?
We only ever hear the stories of authors who have already succeeded. We hear about their trials and tribulations in the past tense, while we’re experiencing our own in painfully present tense. Of course we feel like we can’t measure up! When that amazing author we’re so in awe of was in our place, she felt exactly the same way about her hero.
In fact, if we keep working, one day we will be the author that other writers look up to, and consider us an overnight success.
The Work of Writing
In the meantime, it’s easy to think that if we learn all the rules and work really hard, we’ll publish a masterpiece. And maybe we will. But the main thing standing between our reality and our dream is ourselves.
The biggest difference, in any industry, between someone who does a great job and someone who achieves greatness through their work is not their understanding of the rules, or their work ethic, or their imagination. It’s their joy. Their excitement for their work. The fun they’re having.
You know, fun: that thing that work is not supposed to be.
I’ve read many articles and books, and listened to many inspirational talks, that say we need to find the fun in our writing. “Stop thinking about it as hard work, and go back to loving it!” they scream to the heavens.
But the thing is, writing is work. It is hard. I like to describe the process of writing a novel as follows:
The story in your head is perfect. It’s the most perfect thing that’s ever existed. Your job, as a writer, is to take that perfect story and translate it into imperfect words in such a way that when someone else reads them, your perfect story comes to life in their mind.
There is absolutely nothing about that process that sounds easy.
So, no, I don’t think we need to stop thinking about writing as being work. I think the most important mental change we can make involves going deeper than that. Right back to those early days, being forced to sit at a desk and do mind-numbingly boring activities when what we wanted to do was explore unknown lands and capture fairies.
We need to stop believing that work can’t be fun. We need to take those joy-killing voices in our heads and lock them in the deepest, darkest dungeons we can find.
Yes, writing is work. But our job is to build castles in the air, and invite all our friends to play in them; to scatter words in circles and encourage people to spin through them until they’re dizzy and giggling; to colour outside the lines of societal expectations and lead our readers over rivers of shark-infested carpet-lava.
Our work is all kinds of fun.
Share with us how much fun you have when you’re writing. What makes you feel dizzy and giggly? When do you feel like you’re colouring outside the lines?

Wish you could buy this author a cup of joe?

Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!

About Jo EberhardtJo Eberhardt is a writer of speculative fiction, mother to two adorable boys, and lover of words and stories. She lives in rural Queensland, Australia, and spends her non-writing time worrying that the neighbor's cows will one day succeed in sneaking into her yard and eating everything in her veggie garden.Web | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | More Posts

"Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good"
Samuel Johnson

Random picks

  • The most effective and cost cutting means of gaining more trade and customers to your business is through social networking. Sites such as the Face-book, My Space and Twitter are the most popular ones. Twitter, as a micro-blogging website is capable of affording people from all over the world such as celebrities and well-known personalities, the ability to post updates about almost everything that concerns them in only 1 to 2 sentences. It keeps things short, simple, and of course easy for others or “followers” to reply and comment on. Because of this innovative idea, Twitter has...
  • In the 20th in a series of posts on 2012 short story collections entered for The Story Prize, Michael Downs, author of The Greatest Show (Louisiana State University Press), discusses his reluctance to meet the real life survivors of a catastrophe he was writing about. “How many of you survived the fire?” I asked. I didn’t have to say what fire. We were all–more than 125 of us–there to talk about the same disaster. Sixty-eight years ago to the day, a circus big top, engulfed in flame, had collapsed on a crowd in the city where we now gathered. The fire had brought us together, that...
  • Many people have thought about writing a book, however, that is where it stops. They thought about it, even have an idea for a book, but just never get around to doing it. Writing a book is therapeutic in that you are writing down your thoughts into book form and either using your imagination as a fiction writer or dispensing information as a non-fiction writer.
  • Switzerland is looking at going back to controlling book prices. Should we? (Buchreport link for those Swiss-German speakers among you) According to buchreport, the law could be adopted as early as March 19th and the Schweizer Buchhändler- und Verlegerverband (SBVV – Swiss Booksellers and Publishers Association) sees only a couple of drawbacks in the draft currently under consideration. For one thing, the National Council of Switzerland has spoken out in favor of the  SBVV-supported plan allowing for book price increases of up to 20% over the price of a given book in its country of origin,...
  • Trivial is an adjective that means ordinary, common or of little value. It comes from the Latin word trivialis, which indicated the cross of public streets (i.e., something that can be found everywhere). Now that the Democrats are in power, dissent has suddenly and conveniently become unpatriotic. Attacks on disenchanted citizens who speak up at town-hall meetings have ranged from the trivial to the outrageous. (Denver Post)

Recommended sites

Most recent titles

01
18 hours ago
02
18 hours ago
03
21 hours ago

Fast fact about writing

By definition, the modern practice of history begins with written records; evidence of human culture without writing is the realm of prehistory.