Friday, July 2, 2010

Jealousy and Writing

By Diana Santelli

In life, we judge.

Consciously or unconsciously, we categorize people by the way they look or act or dress or speak. Or write.

Most often new writers are the guiltiest of this offence. We view everyone as a rival and decide our value as a writer based on whose works we’ve read recently or how many praises your work has received. After reading a new author, someone experiencing the Jealous-Writer Syndrome will often react in one of two ways. He will either:

A) Say “Wow, this is really good writing,” and then proceed to feel hopeless that he or she can one day too write at this level

Or B) Think, “Wow, I can write way better than that,” and allow themselves to experience a temporary ego boost.

If you too are guilty of ever harboring such thoughts—fret not. It’s ok. Sometimes jealousy happens, but from my own experience, it’s a whole lot healthier and a heck of a lot happier life when you’re not comparing yourself to everyone around you—and that includes your writing. Otherwise you’ll end up lonely and bi-polar.

Just don’t do it.

Because writing is such a hard business to break into, it is easy to see another writer’s win as your loss—but truth of the matter is, taste fluctuates. Many written works didn’t see the printer’s ink in their writer’s lifetime, but then lo and behold, many years later, are discovered to be rare and precious gems.

“Alright Diana, I see what you’re saying, but what if I don’t want to wait until I’m dead before someone will publish or read my work?”

That’s a fair question and to be honest, I’m not particularly fond of that idea either, but I will say, while there are few that make it to Elisabeth Gilbert or Dan Brown or Stephen King status, there are many, many more writers whose works gain fame or popularity on a smaller, localized scale.

There are so many outlets these days to “be a writer”. Either through entering competitions, or starting a blog, or writing for local or state anthologies or publications, or even joining a writers group (hint, hint). One has to start small. And not expect a big paycheck.

Instead, no matter how many stories you write or how many years you’ve officially dubbed yourself a “writer”, let yourself always be a beginner and allow yourself to learn from others. You’ll make more friends that way and you’ll give yourself more room to make mistakes and develop your art on your own terms.

Diana Santelli is a New Jersey expat living and working near Nürnberg, Germany. She has spent about three years abroad, working and living in places such as Slovenia, France, Switzerland, the UK, Belize and South Korea. She is co-founder of the Nuremberg Writers Group and recently won first place in her first short story competition for her story, Le Big Mac. She blogs about her American existence in Deutschland here at

Note: This piece originally appeared on the Nuremberg Writers Blog on 8.03.2010.


  1. I almost never feel envious of other writers anymore. I know there are people out there who want to read what I write just as there are people out there who don't. All I can do is work hard to make what I write as good as possible. And if I never manage to do this, there is always the church newsletter...

  2. Oh yeah, I'm guilty. But every time I feel jealous it's a reminder that I usually need to get back to work on my own projects.

  3. I know both those feelings! But I think the healthiest reaction (one that I've been able to use lately) is a combination of the two. Something like, "Wow, this is great writing! What can I learn from this? And what would I do differently?" When a colleague gets a book deal, it's a win for her and for other writers, because it shows that the publishing industry still has a place for new writers. And there's so much you can learn by watching a fellow writer go through the process.

  4. I am exceptionally guilty of "A". Whether I read something wonderful or something awful, the end feeling is always something like, "I will never make it as a writer." I like the idea of always dubbing oneself as a beginner-- no where to go but up.

  5. Thanks, Diana, for writing about this topic. I think all of us can relate on some level. I also feel glad to know that new writers are still being discovered even when it is sometimes hard to accept that it may not be me this time. It does show people are still publishing and most importantly, people are still reading.

  6. Diana, I hope it's okay, we referenced this blog and posted a link on our latest blog posting. Writers can be so hard on each other and so easily discouraged (self included). It's like the vulnerability that makes us good writers also makes us hyper-sensitive. I love your viewpoint and hope all is well your way.
    Jennie Dugan

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