Creative nonfiction

On writer envy

writer envy

As I browse through the books at my local bookshop, I come across a new author. On reading the blurb, I’m intrigued by the story. ‘Damn, that’s a great idea! And sort of similar to what I had thought of all those months ago.‘ Then there’s another book by another debutante. ‘Why didn’t I think of this idea?

Some days I get lost reading articles online in journals or magazines. I experience several why-didn’t-I-think-of-this to why-didn’t-I-get-in-first in those moments. While perusing the rest of said article, I feel a sense of awe and a twinge of envy. Envy about the could-haves and should-haves.


There are other moments of writer envy too. When I read exquisitely written posts and stories. Or when I read an author who can describe something as prosaic as a chair in lyrical terms. Or a writer who can narrate a scene by saying very little and yet, tap into every emotional crevice of the reader.

During moments like these, I question my own writing abilities. Of course, I can’t write like them. Perhaps I shouldn’t bother. What’s the point of it all?

Writing, like most creative vocations, can be a minefield for envy and self-doubt. All I need to do is read someone better than me {which is a lot of people!} to kickstart the cycle of doubt. The problem with this cycle is once I’m stuck in this rut, everything I write after that seems awful. The way I perceive my writing is as though I can’t even string a decent sentence together. The self-fulfilling prophecy eventually kicks in and well, my writing does end up sucking. Or something like that.

In moments of clarity, I realise maybe I’m not that bad. Maybe I’m just different. More importantly, I tell myself I really shouldn’t compare my writing to others. After all, what good is it doing? I experience epiphanies that I should just compare my writing now to what it was a few years ago. Compare it to my own work than with that of others. I’m pretty certain my writing has grown and matured, just as I have.

With renewed confidence at my competence, I start to write again. The clickety-clack of the keyboard firing away fills me with joy. This is it. This is probably my big idea. My best work. Until half a page later, I stumble. To ease my writing brain, I decide to read something. Only to find that I’m struck by writer envy yet again. The ideas! The language! The prose!

Maybe some day I’ll stop envying and start writing.

(c) Sanch V @ Sanch Writes (12 September 2016)

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  • Melinda
    13 September 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Writing envy is a THING isn’t it? I get it all the time and go through the cycle! Not sure I ever actually overcome it- so many great writers out there!!
    Melinda recently posted…My Daughter’s Story.My Profile

  • Emily
    13 September 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I hear you! True in writing and so many other pursuits. Creative ones, in particular, I find. #teamIBOT

    • Sanch, the writer
      15 September 2016 at 7:23 am

      Definitely with creativity because I certainly don’t feel the envy in my day job as a psych! ?

  • Angie@TheLittleMumma
    13 September 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Oh, writer envy will stop even the most talented writer in their tracks – if they let it. Self-doubt is by far the hardest thing to overcome. The only thing to do is write through the bad feelings. And then write some more!

  • Deborah
    13 September 2016 at 1:27 pm

    I can very much relate. My blog posts always feel so pedestrian and occasionally – when I think they’re clever or well-written – there’s no additional comments or feedback!

    I tend to look with envy at others’ writing though less so when I’m reading books.
    Deborah recently posted…My Top Ten ThrillersMy Profile

  • Ankita
    13 September 2016 at 1:28 pm

    It takes immense courage to open up on a social platform. Your honesty shows that you have courage, and you are not afraid to speak the darkest of the truth. I believe these attributes will prove to be the stepping stones to your successful future.

    Lots of love and luck,
    Ankita recently posted…Wishing Fountain and the Perfect Wish! #FridayReflectionsMy Profile

  • Ness
    13 September 2016 at 4:31 pm

    My opinion is you write well. You’re able to dig deep and tackle sensitive topics. Meanwhile I can be flippant and light-hearted but I often wish I had more depth. Just keep writing I say. There’ll always be some one we think of as better. We can only do our own thing and keep going because not writing at all feels worse.

  • Amy @ Handbagmafia
    13 September 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Haha! You’re someone whose style I often envy. You have a knack for getting to the heart of things. So when you feel writer envy, remember that you inspire it in others as well 🙂
    Amy @ Handbagmafia recently posted…The Culture of OversharingMy Profile

  • Robyna | the mummy and the minx
    13 September 2016 at 8:25 pm

    I think most writers feel like this at one time or another. I like to reframe my thinking to “if they can do it, I’m sure I can too.”

  • Dashy
    14 September 2016 at 2:09 am

    This is something we can apply in our lives and not just in writing…to compete with our own past selves rather than the others. I’ve always been dreaming of one day writing like this person or that. It helps in pushing us to try harder though. And right, we do need to stop envying and start writing.
    Dashy recently posted…Phobia Folio #FridayReflectionsMy Profile

  • Shailaja Vishwanath
    14 September 2016 at 2:37 am

    We all go through it and trust me,it ebbs and flows over time. It took me a long time to admit that it’d okay the war I wrote. Someone would read it for sure. Plus if it keeps pushing us to write better that’s the good thing that comes from writer envy ?
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…The Mirror doesn’t LieMy Profile

    • Vishal Bheeroo
      14 September 2016 at 4:02 pm

      I couldn’t agree more with you. It’s not the place we are drawn in but which attracts us and gives a feeling there is something about us that keeps draws the soul in. For me, it’s Mumbai and Pune despite not being born there. Who says home should be the city we were born?
      Beautiful post, Parul.
      Vishal Bheeroo recently posted…Aesthetics sense and sensualityMy Profile

  • Sarah @sarahdipity
    14 September 2016 at 11:46 am

    Gosh I’m glad I’m not the only one who experiences this!

  • Parul Thakur
    14 September 2016 at 12:49 pm

    This is writer’s envy. Why didn’t I think of this? Written so well, the flow and the choice of words is perfect. We all go through this one. But what’s good is that it helps us to write better.
    Parul Thakur recently posted…Home is where the heart isMy Profile

  • Hugzilla
    14 September 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Oh mate, I hear you on this and it can be such an easy trap to fall into, because writers love reading other people’s work. I tend to mope around for a while and not write anything before pulling my bootstraps up and kicking myself in the bum (PS love the new look by the way – I have header-envy!)

    • Sanch, the writer
      14 September 2016 at 10:32 pm

      Yeah same here…I’ll wallow and then try again. But it’s hard! Oh…and this is my second blog. Still have the other one but this is my writing blog 🙂 As for header envy, I’m lucky to have a sister who designs these for me! 😛

  • Uma
    15 September 2016 at 2:58 am

    Totally get you here. I come across some excellent writing on blogs and wonder if I’ll ever get there. I guess the self-doubt comes with the territory. As long as the envy does wreak havoc with our self-esteem, it’s fine and even conducive to our growth, I think.
    Uma recently posted…The most difficult words to sayMy Profile

  • Twin Pickle
    15 September 2016 at 10:20 am

    Writing is definitely all about confidence. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to blog a few years ago but recently I thought ‘why the hell not?’. Writer envy is just natural competitive spirit with your piers though isn’t it? Just don’t let it get you down, let it push you on!

  • Anna Elizabeth
    15 September 2016 at 1:10 pm

    This is me in a nutshell – I am getting better at trying to not compare and envy, but it is difficult. Once I start writing though it is worth it! Beautifully said!

  • Melony
    15 September 2016 at 4:48 pm

    It really is soooo easy to do the compare game with other writers but it definitely doesn’t help you. I was struck with this very thigh recently and it took writing about it to make it turn the switch off in my head. You’re a damn good writer, and if you ever doubt it just ask me and I’ll gladly remind you. ❤

  • Mithila Menezes @fabulus1710
    15 September 2016 at 7:46 pm

    I don’t know if you’ve heard about this writing tip, but let me share it here:
    Set a timer for one minute (or two, whichever suits you, according to your typing speed). Write till the timer goes off. Reset the timer, close the page on which you’ve been writing, and switch to any other activity. It could be solving sudoku, or just reading a news article. While you take the break, do not think about what you’re writing at all. When the timer goes off again, go back to writing, and continue the same procedure, till you are done with the article.
    I hope it helps, as it won’t give you time to critique and think any self-doubty thoughts. Cheers and hugs, Sanch ?❤

  • Laura
    15 September 2016 at 8:30 pm

    At least now you are without a shadow of doubt that you are not suffering from this affliction alone! I sometimes wonder if our prehistoric relatives had the same envy when they were carving out their stories on the faces of rocks. With every story you write honestly, you contribute to the overall human story in some way, so keep writing! 🙂

  • Beeray
    15 September 2016 at 11:46 pm

    Oh gosh. I feel you some how peeped into my life and are writing about how I feel about my writings. This writer’s envy is really bad. I have so.many half written post because of it.

  • Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
    16 September 2016 at 12:08 am

    First up, I love the new look, so snazzy! I think writer envy is a most common affliction, I for one am often in the grip of it, like now as I’m reading your post 🙂 When it comes to writing, it’s important to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and like Nike, Just Do It!

  • Danielle D
    16 September 2016 at 12:51 am

    I’m guilty of this, too! But at the same time I know reading makes me a better writer, so I continue reading with envy 🙂

  • Patricia
    16 September 2016 at 2:27 am

    I think we are all guilty of this! I know I am. I just try not to let it keep me down. And rest assured, there are those out there who are envious of you!

  • LIsa
    16 September 2016 at 8:02 am

    I know I need to read more to be a better writer, but often when I do I get so paralyzed just like you describe. The struggle is certainly real.

  • Aditi Kaushiva
    16 September 2016 at 8:53 am

    I know the feeling, Sanch! I am actually in one of such phases now. Haven’t been able to complete a single piece of fiction because of self doubt. And yeah it is a vicious circle as you describe.

  • Kay Roof
    16 September 2016 at 9:51 am

    We all envy the words. We are slaves to them, right? At least I hope so, cause I find myself every week reading the Yeah Write grid and thinking…yep, that’ what I meant to say! Never mind all the books I read. Lord, Lord! You done good with this here post!

  • Nibha
    17 September 2016 at 8:38 pm

    oh it happens with me too much! The writers we love reading, we end up comparing ourselves with! But you said it right, we all are different and good at something at which others are not! 🙂

  • Meg Falconer-Robinson
    19 September 2016 at 3:32 pm

    YES!!! Ah crap, and see, here’s the rub… I end up READING blog posts about amazing women who think they should be better, and how they wish they had thought of writing X,Y,Z then I become said blogger, who is now lower down on the hierarchy wishing I’d written a post about this very thing also.
    Maybe we should just give ourselves a high five for at least putting something down on paper (wordpress draft, what-have-you) and toast to the fact that we ARE writing. Even if it’s a bit shit. (which yours is not.)