Guest post by Zena Shapter
I don’t get writer envy. At least, I don’t get it anymore. I used to compare myself to other writers and wish I had their lives. It bugged me that their writery lives were so glamorous compared to mine and, although I knew envy was a waste of energy, I still felt sorry for myself.
Mark Bouris changed all that.
My hubbie is a successful business owner and entrepreneur (all thanks to his supportive wife of course!). So naturally when the opportunity came up, he wanted to go and see Mark Bouris talk about his success. When Hubbie came home, however, he wasn’t busting full of ideas as I expected him to be. He was mellow… almost content. And what he told me about Mark Bouris changed my life too (or at least the way I looked at success).
It’s funny really, because what Mark Bouris said I always knew deep down. I just hadn’t accepted it.
“You don’t want my life,” he said. “I’m divorced. My children have to schedule appointments just to see me, and they don’t even book those through me but my secretary. I work constantly.”
But that’s what it takes to succeed, he added, hard work, commitment, purpose, and sacrifice.
It made me think… I’m not divorced; I’m happily married. My kids adore me and I adore them. I’m healthy. We’re all healthy, and we have a really good life together. I should be content with that. I am content with that.
Of course the writer in me screamed out: what about me?? What about international bestseller lists and book tours across the country in first class hotels? I’ve always wanted to fly first class! Work harder!
But the writer in me was wrong.
Sure, there are writers out there with the type of success I can only dream about right now, who have novels on the shelves where I’d love mine – but that’s okay because I have what I have. Those other writers – they might not have the happy marriage, the adoring kids, or the health that I have. (Of course they might…. No, no Zena – stay focussed!) There’s absolutely no point in craving to have someone else’s success – be they a writer or a successful businessman – because that success is theirs and they earnt it with their own hard work, commitment, purpose and sacrifice.
It’s the same for you and I.
No, life isn’t a meritocracy – the hard work you put into your novel writing might never be recognised or rewarded the way it deserves to be. Yes, some things simply aren’t fair. But you and I – we’ll still get there if we believe we can. And I believe I can, so success will follow in its own time. What about you – do you really want someone else’s life? You never know what’s going to come with it!
So the next time you’re scowling at the computer screen or newsletter as you read about yet another novel writing achievement that’s not your own… the next time you think to yourself “I wish that were me”… stop and remember Mark Bouris. You don’t want that writer’s life, really you don’t… The struggles you already face are plenty enough. Why welcome anyone else’s?
Thanks for this Ian.
As for me, perhaps because I have not decided to develop my writing talent earlier, say in my twenties when I’m sure I would have been thinking of things high profile as equating to success or at least the natural recognition of my ability, I don’t envy any other writer’s life, because I’m quite content developing my own writerly life. I think that’s the real journey for any writer or artist – it’s about self-expression, so it’s no good trying to be someone else because that is just a waste of time and energy and missing the point. When topics such as writer or artist envy come up I tend to think what a mistake it would have been if say Charles Dickens had of decided William Shakespeare was better than him or Monet had of thought Da Vinci was so much cleverer so why bother? Everyone has their uniqueness to offer, and what a shame if they don’t, whether it leads to ‘big’ things or not.
Anyway, that’s what I think.
Timely reminder Zena. I’ve been sitting here worrying about finishing my novel draft but family, my delightful family, seems to find ways to disrupt my writing. I sometimes get quite antsy because of it. But you, and Mark Bouris, are right. I have a wonderful family, a life I wouldn’t change for anything and for me, writing is fun. I think I have to remember that is should be fun and be happy when I get the time to do it.
As for dreaming my books are on a shelf in a bookshop… well… everyone is allowed to dream.
…And with uniqueness in mind, whatever other aspects of your life are significant to you and in what way you include them, is really part of the same journey, each aspect reflecting who you are. Joanne
Thanks for stopping by Joanne and Cat! Juggling contentment against ambition is such a tricky balance to master.
And, yes, Cat – I know exactly what you mean. The other day I was trying to explain to my son what it’s like for us writing-parents… I told him it was like playing soccer: “…when you tackle a player and get the ball – that’s me finding something wrong with my story. Then you weave past players on the pitch and head towards the goal – that’s me staring at my screen thinking of solutions. You see an opening near the goal, you have to be fast, you go to strike – that’s me typing furiously at the keyboard with an idea. Your ball sails past the goalie, it’s going to be a goal… only a giant stomps on the goal, snatches up the ball, and asks if you’ve seen his ipod.” He smiled and nodded when I told him that, and I thought I might have had a breakthrough. He went to go look for his ipod in the usual places, found it himself and I settled back down to write.
Ten minutes later, he calls out “I’m hungry. When’s dinner?”
[…] Yes, so that’s a tease, and you can find out what helped Zena mellow out about how great other writers were at the article here: http://www.csfg.org.au/2014/04/15/the-secret-to-overcoming-writer-envy/ […]