Writing update: Envy

Bible’s full of great stuff. Look at this.

(Old Testament | Exodus 20:17 – 19)

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass [we’re talking animals, folks], nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God aspeak with us, lest we die.
20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

Dude, the “thick darkness where God was.” The thick darkness . . .

I love the images in that passage. Moses going to talk to God face to face. Talk about spectacle. As for the commandment, well, let me just say that I might be smite-worthy.

I do not covet many things. Certainly not any dude’s butt, but sometimes it’s so hard not to covet my neighbour’s writing success. And it’s not the big boys that kill me.

I read a Lee Child or Orson Card or whoever, and I can legitimately say, “Hey, those guys have been writing for years and have produced a lot of novels; it’s unrealistic to compare my skills to their current masterly levels.” I can legitimately say, “Hey, best-sellerdom takes craft and luck, and I just need to be ready the next time the opportunity train stops at my station.” I can even say of those who start off as best-sellers, “Dude, maybe they DID start out with more skillz than me. Doesn’t mean I can’t learn. Give me some more books, you’ll see the Brown dog rise.”

These are all true statements. I’ve got the big guys down. I can spot the Brain Nazi trying to hit me with them a mile away.

It’s the other folks that get me. The guys at my level.

I just had an email exchange with one of them. (No, I’m not going to tell you who it is. Author X might read this, get a fat head, and then be ridiculed and derided by small children. I’m not that heartless.) X comes up with great ideas. Has a ton of them. X is one of those other pro writers I meet who are always lamenting about how many ideas they have. Truckloads. Boatloads. They could employ all of  the peasants in a small country like Mozambique just writing the fab things that flow from their brains.

I don’t have boatloads of ideas. I don’t have a truckful. I’ve got maybe two or three riding around on a Yike Bike.

Covet, covet, covet.

Author X is also funny. X can take a pedestrian idea, twist it, maybe with a great character or situation, and suddenly I’m dying to know more. X watches a TV show I’ve been watching for years. Bim! Bam! Comes up with another great idea I want to steal. (I think I average about two ideas a week I want to steal from other authors.)

Covet, covet, covet.

Author X has great sales. Better than mine, at least.

Gol-leeeee, Mother of Hacks, please, put me out of my misery.

Or not.

I’ve got this freaking Brain Nazi’s number as well. The truth of the matter is that while Author X may have some minimal amount of writer-fu, X has also sold his/her soul to the lizard people of the hollow earth. I think they’re going to breed X. So I could have writer-fu too, but I don’t want to become anyone’s genetic experiment. I have standards.

And with that, I’ll sign out. Happiness!

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5 Responses to Writing update: Envy

  1. Ahhhh, writer envy. I think we all experience that, even when we try very hard not to. “Why is so-and-so having more sales and/or better publicity than I am? Why is so-and-so making more money?” It’s almost like it would be best if none of us ever were privy to what was happening to anyone else, that way we’d never compare and contrast, then feel bad because someone else always seems to be doing better — for reasons why cannot understand, or over which we might turn a little green.

    Hang in their, John. There are those of us who are quite covetous(sp?) of your three-book hardcover deal with TOR. Very. (wink)

  2. John Brown says:

    I know, I know–if I only had your problems. I think envy is the writer’s disease.

  3. bdayton says:

    Hey John,

    Don’t worry too much about it. From where I’m sitting, I’m covetous of everything that everyone else is doing. Granted, I don’t write a lot, but I’ve had a “novel” rolling around in my brain for over a year now. Total words written? 2000. Total number of awards won? 1 short story collection for a flash fiction piece, which still hasn’t been mailed to me.

    You just keep on rolling, because there are a great number of people who think you’re a truly great talent, including the people who judge the Whitney awards, if I’m not mistaken!

    • John Brown says:

      I know. I shouldn’t be complaning. But I think it’s illustrative of how it goes.

  4. bdayton says:

    I don’t even know that I’d categorize it as complaining. I think we all do this to one degree or another. It’s just human nature. I’m especially bad at it when it comes to my wife’s school success. She’s almost finished with her masters, while I’m still sitting here a sophomore at 26 years old! There are plenty of reasons that I’m 26 and a sophomore that make perfect logical sense (mission, worked to put her through school, etc.) But I still envy her situation.