Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

How to Handle Writer Jealousy

envyWe’ve all been there.

Your classmate’s story is praised in workshop, while yours is torn apart.

“Poorly written” romances dominate best-seller lists, while your science fiction novel languishes in Amazon’s 2,000,000 ranking spot.

The author you follow on Instagram posts their third cover reveal this year, while you struggle to finish your manuscript.

There’s a thousand ways that we writers experience jealousy of other authors. We constantly compare ourselves to our peers in writing groups, our Internet friends, or the hallowed greats like Stephen King. We long for the secret to their success. How do they write a first draft so quickly? How do they have so many Pinterest followers? Where do they find time to publish and write a daily blog?

We take other writers’ successes as inherent failures in ourselves as creatives. Newsflash: art isn’t a zero-sum game.

Let me get personal for a minute. Throughout high school and university, I longed to be a writer, but I hardly ever wrote. I seethed with self-loathing and jealousy in equal amounts. As I became more entwined in the literary community, I saw myself in competition with other aspiring writers. With each person’s success, I thought one more seat on the bus to authordom had been snatched from me. Around senior year of college, I finally wised up.

But others I know didn’t. I’ve lost friends over jealousy and unnecessary feelings of competition. I’ve had close friends flat-out ignore my writing career. I’ve had acquaintances insult or downplay my abilities in order to praise their own. It sucks. It hurts. And I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.

Why do we feel jealousy?

spillEasy: because other writers have what we want. Be it a publishing contract, a movie deal, or even just a finished manuscript, if you want it, some writer has already accomplished it. When I used to see a more successful writer, I would instantly translate that into: “Well, shit. I’m so far behind. I’m never going to amount to anything.” OR “They don’t deserve X. They just got lucky. Why can’t anyone see what a talentless hack they are?”

The good news? I don’t ride either of those thought trains anymore. In fact, the moment I feel a twinge of jealousy, I actually get really excited. Why?

Because when channeled properly, jealousy can be a force for good.

The positive side of jealousy

Jealousy and competition are natural human feelings. If you acknowledge them and channel their energy into something positive, it can be motivating for you. The next time you feel jealous, take a moment to deconstruct your emotions and get down to what’s really bothering you. But don’t stop there: make a plan to fix the real issue so that this doesn’t happen again.

Here is how my jealous moments play out now:

  1. Address the feeling: Okay, Kate. You’re feeling jealous.
  2. Forgive yourself: That’s okay! You’re human. It happens.
  3. Find the “what:” Let’s see. I’m jealous that this author started writing a book after me, but is publishing it before I publish mine.
  4. Find the “why:” I wish my book were ready to publish.
  5. Take responsibility and make a plan: Well, what can you do to make that happen? How about we turn off Netflix and do some revising? Let’s eat out one less night a week so we can afford an editor. Let’s stop being nervous and contact the cover designer.
  6. Ride the high: Awesome, I know exactly what to do! I just have to be patient and work hard. I’m going to write right now.

Ways to handle jealousy

accomplishmentNotice this section is not titled “ways to quit being jealous.” That’s probably never going to happen. There will always be someone more successful than you. There will always be something you want that someone else has already achieved. But, there are ways to handle your jealousy in a healthy manner.

Act in opposition to your feelings. A writer friend on Facebook posts that they’ve signed with an agent? Like the post or write a supportive comment. At first, you can console yourself with the smug satisfaction that you were “the bigger person” in the competition your mind constructed. Eventually, your gut reaction will change to genuine excitement for them. I promise.

Figure out how they did it. I want to be Joanna Penn so bad it hurts. She writes kick-ass fiction books, super-helpful nonfiction books, and is a beloved authority figure in the self-publishing community. But instead of hating her and avoiding her, I follow her progress. I read her books. I read the articles she posts. And you know what? I’m learning how to create a career like hers, one step at a time.

Do something about it. If you have a moment of jealousy, then you know what you want. It frustrates you that your writer friend has a finished book and you don’t? Go write your damn book. That Twitter author has better sales than you? Read up on book marketing and business strategy, arrange advertising or book reviews, or publish more books. Outside circumstances may prevent you from achieving 100% of your goals, but if you’re not putting 100% of possible effort in, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

Remember that someone out there is jealous of you. If there is someone ahead of you, then there must be someone behind you. Maybe you don’t make enough money to write full-time yet, but there is a writer out there who has only one book published who envies your five-book series. Moreover, the person of whom you are jealous was once in your position. Keep it all in perspective.

Be kind to yourself. Often, jealousy goes hand-in-hand with feelings of inadequacy. If you are nicer to yourself throughout the entire creative process (keeping your inner critic quiet during drafting, forgiving yourself for missing your word count goal on a busy day, etc.), your self-respect will grow. When it is healthy and happy, you are less likely to be dragged down by bitterness.

And if all else fails? Step away from the situation and eat some ice cream. It really does make everything better.


How do you deal with feelings of writer jealousy? What do your moments of jealousy reveal about your goals? Share your experiences in the comments.

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

5 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Hello, everyone. My name is Kate M. Colby, and I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. Some of you may have heard of it. Many of you may suffer from it yourselves, whether you know the name or not. It’s been called fear, writer’s block, artistic drought, and several other names — depending on the particular strain that affects you. What exactly is it?

Imposter Syndrome is that nagging feeling that you don’t have the necessary skills and/or authority to accomplish your goals. After all, you don’t have a creative writing degree! Who are you to write a novel? You don’t have a publishing contract! Who are you to give writing advice? You don’t have a successful podcast or social media platform! Why would anyone listen to you or read your work? There are already millions of books out there written by millions of talented, educated authors! Why does the world need your book?

imposter syndrome
Found here

My strain of Imposter Syndrome is the “I’m not _____ enough.” variety. Last year, it was “I’m not creative enough to write a novel. And I’m definitely not disciplined enough to write a novel.” This year, with the novel writing behind me, it has mutated to a strain of “I’m not smart enough to publish this novel. I’m not qualified enough to be a professional copywriter and author. I’m not prepared enough to tackle my business and artistic goals.” In short, I have zero right, zero authority, and absolutely no business being an “author,” “writer,” or “entrepreneur.”

Another variety that affects me is the general, “I’m not artistic enough.” My entire life, I have been one of the more creative people in my family and friendship circles. However, I don’t feel like an artist. Frida Kahlo, with her gorgeously painted expressions of loss, feminism, and Mexican pride, is an artist. Gerard Way, who penned “Oh how wrong we were to think that immortality meant never dying” and a thousand other lines I envy, is an artist. Stanley Kubrick, with his innovative filmography style whose messages I can hardly fathom, is an artist.

Now this guy "looks" like an artist
Now this guy “looks” like an artist

ME? No way. To be an artist, I’d have to die my hair a weird color (I did do a red streak once), post brilliantly obscure Instagram photos that get 1,000 likes (incense stick protruding from banana anyone?), cover my body in tattoos (I only have 3…and that’s debatable), and be able to spout poetry at the snap of a finger (um…roses are…crimson?). As much as I would love to have that overflowing vat of random, spontaneous, carefree, meaningful artistic juice dripping from my brain 24/7, the truth is…I just don’t.

So, how do you conquer the feelings of inadequacy and sense of “stepping-out-of-bounds” that Imposter Syndrome creates? And, if you have similar strain to mine, how do you overcome the idea that you’re not _____ enough? I don’t know. But here are my best guesses.

1. Savor the credentials you do have.

Okay, maybe you don’t have an MFA. Maybe you don’t even know what MFA stands for (Master of Fine Arts). But, maybe you already have a book self-published on Amazon. Maybe you have 15 (partially or entirely) finished drafts on your hard drive. Maybe you rock the local cafe’s open mic night. Hell, maybe you just make a bitchin’ grilled cheese sandwich (that’s right, I’m looking in you, mirror). Whatever you have on your side, use it for all it’s worth.

2. Acknowledge that you’re not alone.

Research some of your favorite best-selling authors. Several of them won’t have formal education in writing. Look into successful self-published authors — the same will be true. Then, take it a step closer to home. Do others in your critique group or your Twitter feed have a back catalog full of brilliant novels? Are any of them really more qualified than you? Even if they are, do they feel incredibly confident? When push comes to shove and the ugly truth comes out, we’re all insecure and terrified — to different degrees, of different things, in different ways.

3. Remember, no one else is 100% you.

My favorite quote comes from the aforementioned Mr. Way. “Talent can only take you so far. It’s your point of view on the world that makes a difference.” That’s right, folks. Natural ability and, I would argue, fancy credentials only get you so far. If you don’t put them to use, if you don’t combine them with your unique perspective and truth, then what are they really doing for you? No one in the known universe has the exact same personality, experiences, feelings, and perspective as you. Therefore, no one else in the world can write your novel. So get off your ass and write it.

4. Define and redefine what’s stopping you.

What is your “I’m not _____ enough?” Figure it out. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what it is. Got it? Good. Now go out and get it. Take an online writing course. Read that book on Amazon keywords. Dye that hair.

Can’t do whatever it is you need to do? No worries. Redefine it. I’m not “qualified” enough? I’m not “prepared” enough? Kurt Vonnegut didn’t have an English degree (In fact, he dropped out of college altogether to join the army). When J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, she was broke and scribbled the first inklings on a napkin. Surely you can figure out how to make-do, too.

Do you share my “I’m not artistic enough” hang up? Well, why does an artist have to be someone with an outwardly recognizable appearance and a knack for spontaneous bursts of random creativity? Maybe, an artist is someone who generates a consistent flow of creativity and productivity, who learns to marry craft and business, who doesn’t need legions of social media followers to constantly reaffirm his/her genius. You know, I think that definition could work for me.

5. Just do it.

No matter what variation of Imposter Syndrome you have, “you must do the thing you think you cannot do” (Eleanor Roosevelt). It’s as difficult and as simple as this: if you overcome or deny your internal objections and just do the damn thing, you will no longer be an imposter. You will, slowly but surely, become an authority.

And when, as an authority, you feel like an imposter, return to step one.


What is your brand of insecurity and Imposter Syndrome? How do you overcome it? Share your tips below!

 

The Desertera Series, Vlog/Video, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Updates

Vlog: My First Line Edit Experience

In this vlog, I discuss my first line edit experience with The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1), including: a brief overview of the process, the kinds of comments I received, and how I feel about the experience in retrospect.

For those who dislike vlogs or who are hearing impaired, here is a summary of this video. 

My line editor took approximately two weeks with my manuscript. When she was finished, she called me to discuss her notes and comments, her mindset being that A) if she just sent over the worksheet, I’d make my own assumptions about her comments and B) it would yield a more productive conversation than email. I really appreciated the phone call, and it was incredibly helpful for me to discuss everything with her. After we talked, she sent me her notes page as well as the comments within the manuscript. I spent about a month doing my revisions based on her comments, then she spent another two weeks doing more revisions, then I spent 10-12 days with my final revisions. She did one final search for a few grammar rules, then passed it along to the proofreader.

Thus far, line editing has been my favorite part of the editing process. It is not as extensive (nor does it feel as artistically painful) as content editing, and it is really fun as a writer to see your work go from just a story to a beautiful, fluid story. I learned so much from this experience, and I already know my writing craft has improved because of it.

Red Adept Editing

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How have your editing experiences been? What advice would you give to authors preparing for their first round of edits?

The Desertera Series, Vlog/Video, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Updates

Vlog: My First Content Edit Experience

In this vlog, I discuss my first content edit experience with The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1), including: a brief overview of the process, the kinds of comments I received, and how I feel about the experience in retrospect.

For those who dislike vlogs or who are hearing impaired, here is a summary of this video. 

First, Lynn, the owner of Red Adept Editing, called me to discuss the entire editing process, which was both informative and comforting. Next, Lynn passed my manuscript along to the first available content editor. I got my manuscript back within a week–a surprisingly short amount of time. The content editor went through my manuscript checking for plot holes, character development arcs, dialog issues, etc. The editor then provided me with several pages of notes as well as (hundreds of) comments within the manuscript itself.

On one hand, this process was terrifying, but on the other, I learned so much about myself as a writer, and I know my craft is significantly improved. A takeaway point? Listen to your editor. S/he is there to help you. The criticism will be tough to take, but it’s what you’re paying for and will help you learn. If you don’t want to hear it, just give your manuscript to your mom or spouse or friend and let them tell you how brilliant you are for free.

Red Adept Editing

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How have your editing experiences been? What advice would you give to authors preparing for their first round of edits?

Author Business & Publishing, Fiction Blog, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Updates

Introducing Boxthorn Press!

A few months ago, I explained why I will independently publish as well as that I would do so under a company I own. Today, I am excited to officially announce my publishing imprint, Boxthorn Press!

Boxthorn Press Logo - Full color
Image copyright © 2015 by Kate M. Colby. All rights reserved.

Boxthorn Press is the company under which I intend to publish all of my novels and books of which I am the sole author. I officially established the enterprise in April and right now, it operates solely as the publisher of my books. In the future, it will encompass other creative services and perhaps even operate to help other aspiring authors reach their publishing dreams.

Originally, Boxthorn Press was going to be a joint venture between Daniel (my husband) and me. When that was the case, Daniel chose the name “Boxthorn” to honor his Australian roots, as Boxthorn is the street on which he lived as a kid. However, even when Daniel decided not to publish independently, I kept the name. Why? Partly because I like the plant itself and the symbolism, partly because Daniel is the one who introduced me to the idea of independent publishing, and partly because I think it’s a punchy name.

The logo for my company depicts a boxthorn plant emerging from the outlines of a box. On a practical level, the logo shows what a boxthorn plant looks like. On a personal level, it symbolizes the fact that I am pushing boundaries and stretching my creative capacities with everything I do. On a reader-oriented level, the logo represents my fiction. The boxthorn plant is contradictory — it is alluring (juicy berries) with a serious/dangerous undercurrent (thorns). Likewise, as the plant extends from the box, so does my fiction extend across traditional genre borders. I don’t just write in one genre, and each of my books does not fit clearly into one genre box, either.

I hope that, as you read my fiction, you will see what I mean.

Now, I imagine some of my readers may be wondering — if you are self-publishing, why bother with creating a company? Isn’t the point that you are doing it by yourself? These are valid questions, and ones I thought myself when I first encountered author-entrepreneurs.

Here are my reasons for creating my own imprint:

  • This is my career, and I take it seriously.
  • Keeping my business and personal finances separate is important for my record-keeping and tax purposes.
  • One day, Boxthorn Press may expand into a larger company and/or small press.
  • Print-on-demand and online publishing services should not receive publisher credit for my hard work on online retailers. In other words, I want my work to show as published by my company and be easily connected to my brand.
  • It’s enriching, fulfilling, and just-plain-fun to be an entrepreneur.

Thank you to everyone joining me on this ride! I appreciate your support, and I cannot wait to see how Boxthorn Press and I evolve over the years.

NOTE: My logo was designed by the brilliant Brenda Tietze, and I am ever-grateful to her for bringing my ideas to life. And yes, she will design one for you, too! (Note on the note: The fuzziness is not her doing — merely WordPress being finicky with sizing and file types.)