Seven Writing Sins: Envy

Okay, this one doesn’t defy logic or knowledge.  We are all human and all humans judge themselves by other people’s success.  Or maybe that’s just me?

But the truth is, we turn a bit green when we hear that other people have done something to garner attention.  Especially if it is in an area where we, too, would like to succeed.

Who do we envy and why?

  1. The co-worker who lost 27 pounds and now looks HOT.  Because we are not comfortable with our own bodies. 
  2. The sister-in-law who just popped out her fourth baby and popped back into her maternity clothes.  Because we still can’t see our stretchmarks through the unlost baby weight from our first child–five years ago.
  3. The author who pumps out a runaway debut with “bad writing” and a “poor storyline.”  Because we fear we will never be good enough to do the same.
  4. The banker who takes off early from work every Wednesday to golf.  Because we do not have enough time for our hobbies, so why should anyone else?
  5. The Lake Home Owner.  Naturally Curly-Headed Girl.  SAHM with a Housekeeper.  The list is endless and limited only by our ability to feel inferior to others. 

Writers beware: Envy will kill our ability to write well.  It stifles our creativity and paralyzes our desires.  Our words will become bitter and our purpose will falter.  If we spend our time comparing ourselves to other writers, we will get nothing done. 


How do you deal with yourself when the green-eyed monster bats its long lashes?   What kinds of things kickstart your jealousy in the literary world?


21 responses to “Seven Writing Sins: Envy

  1. IMHO Envy does not equal bad. Now if you just sit and let it fester it can become bad but if we have a few moments of envy it can spur us on to do more and be better, so envy can be a tool for us to use in our quest to be better writers and people. It is just wallowing in envy that gets us into trouble. I don’t roll around in it, I feel it, recognize it and then do something about it.

    So let envy lead you to something better but don’t shut it out completely.



    • Good point, Ardee-ann.

      When I wrote this post, I was envisioning the all consuming envy. The kind that paralyzes us because we are so wrapped up in checking out what everyone else is doing and being jealous about their successes that we don’t use these feelings to spur us on.

      What you describe to me is one of those twinges I get every once in a while, not those nasty, nagging times when I can’t focus on other things.

      Thanks for this perspective.

  2. Interesting post! I’m not a jealous person. I have many flaws (selfishness is a big one!) but I’ve never suffered from envy. For instance, I’m having a very difficult time finding a job, and though some people I know found jobs quickly and easily it seemed, I was happy for them, and relieved, because I don’t want others to feel how I feel. It sucks being unemployed and undervalued! I wouldn’t wish it on anyone! And when I hear others found their dream agent or are published to rave reviews, I’m happy they’re passed the point I’m in.

    Not that I’ve been totally exempt from that quick pang of jealousy. Sure, I’ve felt it, but it usually just motivates me to work harder. I always feel happy for people when they achieve something great, something they’ve always wanted. I figure if they got it, I’ll eventually get what I want, too!

    • Laura,

      I’m like you. A quick pang and then I my excitement kicks in. Even if I don’t know the person, I get really thrilled about their good news.

      And we all have our time. It will show up on our doorsteps when it is right for us on our life journeys.

  3. I admit at times it feels as if I’ll never succeed getting across the bridge to getting published. Honestly…yes, my gut reaction is envy when I hear of someone else getting a book deal. However – it never last long. I turn it around and let it inspire me. Contemplating if they managed to cross that bridge, I’ll get there eventually as well. Hearing something like that makes me work harder and strive to reach for my dreams. Not just because someone else did…for me – because I can. (Hugs)Indigo

    • Indigo,

      Yes, success is motivating. It allows us to focus on what we can and should do to reach our dreams. If we settle for the green eyed monster, we will never get anywhere. Certainly, never across the bridges.


  4. I had to fight a bout of envy when a friend of mine got an agent, and I think I’ve transformed it into happiness for her. It helped that she’s one of the sweetest people ever.

    I reserve the right to be envious of your shoulders, Cat. ^_^

    • Barbara, you crack me up! I love that you transformed your envy into happiness. We all need a great friend to support us. Someday she’ll be there for you!

  5. There really aren’t very many people I envy. I have it really good! I guess I am slightly envious of those people who have agents, but mostly I’m just envious that they have a completed manuscript that is agent-worthy, since I’m still toiling away on mine!

    The cure for this envy, though, is to get back to work. After all, wishing isn’t going to get my book finished!

    • Michelle, you are far too sweet to be envious. Even toward those with agents. And, you are a great writer. Newly started, so to say, in the industry. “They” say it takes an average of 10 years practicing our writing before we get pubbed. You’ve got a long ways to go and I bet you can get it done sooner than that.

  6. With all the character flaws I do have, I am lucky that envy isn’t one of them – usually. Very occasionally I am envious of people who seem to have more time than me but usually that passes quickly. I just find wanting what others have a real waste of time and emotional energy.
    That said, envy can be a great catalyst for action in a plot because characters that envy others have instant motivation to do something.
    Can’t wait for the next installment in this series.

  7. I can’t help it. When someone gets an agent, however well deserved, I feel envy. I feel it but don’t wallow in it, as your first responder said. Feel it, move on, and work harder.

  8. I’m not the jealous type but I do find myself envying people from time to time, I am only human after all 🙂 I think the whole point is to be careful about where you draw the line, if you use that envy in a positive way, to motivate yourself it might be okay but if it hurts you and prevents you to write well than there is a problem there.

  9. Thank you for this post series–I’ll definitely be checking back for the rest of it.

    Envy is definitely what gets me most, because it turns into paranoia. I’m not writing as well as that person, getting published as often as that person, giving off a writerly aura like that person … It never motivates me. It always paralyzes me with fear: maybe I’m not supposed to be a writer.

    I remind myself that I got into an MFA program, so I must be good for something. It’s really tough though. I try to keep myself surrounded by smart, honest, and affirming people. (Because in order to believe the affirmation I have to believe they are smart and honest.) It usually works pretty well. 🙂

    • Octoberrose,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. We have all been right where you are. I, too, find that envy paralyzes me and isn’t motivating. I guess that’s why I try really hard to accept that my life is mine and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

      So what if someone else gets repped or pubbed. They don’t have all the wonderful things I get to experience every day. Something different, sure. But not mine.

      That helps ground me in being appreciative of what I have and the experiences that have brought me this far.

      To that end, we will all succeed–even if we never get published.


  10. I’ve read books that I long to write similar to that author’s style. Books where I walked away feeling changed and hoped that maybe my own writing grew in some small way. I guess I do envy those authors, but only to the extent that I want my writing to be as lovely.

  11. I do get suffer twinges when other writers moan about the revision process re: their soon-to-hit-the-shelves novels. If I were in that situation, I don’t think I’d be complaining. 🙂

    • I hear you. I know that revision is never over until the book is on the shelf. But it does seem that if someone is so close, they could be judicious in remembering what it is like for the rest of us peons!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s