Writers are, generally speaking, envious people. We have plenty reasons to be. Libraries, bookstores, and online shops are stacked full with NYT bestselling books from countless authors, stacked with amazing stories thousands of people will cherish and remember for decades or centuries. It's quite easy for a writer to ask the question: why not me? And to tell you not to do that would be going against human nature. Envy happens, it's part of being human, but the problem arises when we let it control us and our goals.
This past week, I finally caught up with the Harry Potter series (finally, I know). Beyond some shocking things I'm surprised I got this far in life not knowing (no spoilers to anyone late to the game like me), getting through that whole series in a short period taught me a very important lesson about jealousy in the writing world. J.K. Rowling is one of the easiest figures in writing today to be envious of. Millions (maybe billions) of books sold worldwide, an amazing and extremely profitable film series, and a cultural phenomenon which will undoubtedly last generations. What more could a lowly writing dream for? I considered all of this throughout my recent Harry Potter journey, and about halfway through the final installment, I came to my final realization. Although jealousy was impossible to avoid, there was something else waiting to fill my head if I just pushed the envy aside enough to let it in: Inspiration.
Instead of focusing on the crazy success that the Harry Potter series and J.K. Rowling has achieved, I focused on the actual story I was absorbing. It is, to avoid spending too much time on this point, quite good. Rather than get jealous at the quality of the story, I found my inner voice speaking quite positively. It was no longer about being upset over another writer's level of success, it was about being proud that writers like that exist and can find success. There's a reason (most) successful writers end up being successful: they write good stuff. Like any industry, there are politics, business, and other factors involved in overall success, but the solution to this is simple. All you have to do is writing something too good to be ignored, and all you have to do to do that is practice your craft.
We get jealous because it's easy. It's easier than admitting another writer's superiority, in either success or writing ability. It's easier to let your jealousy stand in front of you than to make inspiration push you from behind. But they both come from the same place, and it's your job to turn those feelings around. By the time I was done with the Harry Potter serious, I wasn't envious over its success, I was eager to write again. I wanted to write something I would enjoy as much as I did that story, something too good to be ignored. Maybe I won't be able to achieve anything close to Harry Potter-level of success, but who cares? If you work on your writing, and I mean harder than you think anyone has ever worked on it before, then something good is bound to come out of it. And, although the media will try to convince you this isn't true, great things are eventually uncovered by people who love it, and cherished for being great.
Harry Potter did not teach me than any writer can gain that kind of success, it just showed me that that kind of success is possible. And that's a good thought. Millions of people the world over remain passionate about books, and about great stories. Now all I have to do, and all you have to do, is write one. I don't know about you, but if one person out in this world loves my work as much as the masses adore the Harry Potter series, I'll be one happy writer. And the thing about people who love something is they talk about it, they make sure their favorite things are not ignored.
Don't get jealous. Get happy, get inspired. Get happy that there's an audience out there for you to reach, passionate fanboys and fangirls waiting to gobble up and obsess over the next great story. Get inspired to be the scribe behind that great story. Envy will not help any of this, but it's up to you to conquer that spite and turn it into a vehicle for you to think, write, and create.
You know what you shouldn't be envious about? My terrible self-promotion at the end of blog posts, but here it is: If you liked this post, check out my books on AMAZON (also available on B&N, Smashwords, iBooks, and Kobo).