Do you have author envy? Which author’s career would you most like to have as your own? What lessons can you take from their journey to apply to your own writing life?
When I decided to write a blog about author envy, I had in mind an exploration of which authors’ careers I am most admire. I meant the blog to be a kind of creative visualisation activity…you know, pick the best aspects of various authors’ careers and imagine myself reaching that kind of success. I had no idea that some writers were ferociously jealous of other authors. Don’t get me wrong, of course I wish I was a bestselling author, and of course I am not immune to jealousy’s green-eyed curse, but it never occurred to me to be genuinely jealous of another author.
Envy and jealousy are emotions perhaps as old as time, and many have cautioned against it. Voltaire wrote, “Even in those cities which seem to enjoy the blessings of peace, and where the arts flourish, the inhabitants are devoured by envy, cares and anxieties, which are greater plagues than any experienced in a town when it is under siege.” And Buddha said, “Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”
I look up to other successful authors as mentors of a kind. There are so many authors that I admire and aspire to be a little like (in a writerly sense). There are a vast number of lessons I can learn from other authors’ journeys. Perhaps it is this desire to learn from others that helps me act as nurturer and mentor in my roles as editor, proofreader and teacher – a desire to assist others along their own path. If I was hung up on being jealous, I would miss all of these fabulous opportunities to learn more about my craft and about myself as a writer.
So, with that in mind, here are 5 authors I admire:
• Jeanette Winterson – she is my all-time favourite author. Her writing is simply beautiful – poetic and rich. Her writing connects with readers emotionally. Her words are deeply, hauntingly powerful. I have read all of her books (more than once). Each reading brings me new joy, insight and inspiration. If I could be just one tenth of the author she is, I would be pretty fabulous!
• Angela Carter – her writing is lush and mystical. She was brave and her words are powerful. From her I learn strength and courage – tools that every writer needs!
• Neil Gaiman – he writes with such wonderful simplicity, naivety and clarity. His books are a joy to devour and they sweep you away in the world of story. He reminds me not to overcomplicate things, he reminds me to hold on to my childhood innocence and curiousity.
• Terry Pratchett – he is such an innovative, complex, wildly witty and humorous writer. I am in awe of his ideas. He is a storyteller on a grand scale and teaches me that writing is all about telling a great story.
• Michael Pryor – is an Australian YA author. He is a ‘real’ writer in the sense that those above (at least to me) have a kind of superstar status. From Michael I gain insight into how to be an author, how to become an author, what it takes to get there and the continual work that is required. His books are fabulous and he is passionate about his work, and dedicated to encouraging children and teens to read and write.
I don’t see myself as a writer in isolation, I see myself as the result of all of the fabulous words I have read in my lifetime…a little like my brain is made up of books. All of the words ever written and ever read are waiting there for me pull them out and create something of my own. All I need is the courage, persistence and inspiration to do so – and I get these things from the authors I admire.
So perhaps, rather than thinking about author envy, we should focus on admiration.
Which authors do you most admire? What lessons do you take from their journey?
Image from An Interior Journey