Writing Academy, Memoirs, Novels, Short Stories, Book Proposals

New York City Writing Coach

Gay Walley

Competitive feelings among friends who write

This is a topic most people don’t talk about but I have noticed that we writers have an enormous “will to power, ” no matter what we tell ourselves or others. And so, when our sister in law or best friend decides to take it up after you’ve been toiling at it for a long time, there is a certain wrestling that happens.

First of all, all writers think that they are unique (and we are) and that it is like Las Vegas, anyone can win at the wheel. That part is not true. It takes enormous work to be a good writer and, usually, a lot of rejection. It takes enormous perseverance and a sense of where you are in the writing river. Good writers make good writing look easy when it is far from it.

But that said, secretly, most people think they can write and they KNOW they have a story. How does the toiling writer deal with this?
Gracefully and kindly.
And who knows? Any horse can come in. But, after lots of hours of training.
We can only wish each other well and try to control whatever shadenfreunde they have for us and we might feel for them, because of it. People envy writers. The writing life looks attractive. No boss. Your own psyche. Making up stories that interest you and therefore others.
Of course, so many people think…I’ll retire and write a book. God bless them. But real writers know it is difficult, a craft, and has certain responsibilities.
As to our own competitive feelings, we live with them all the time. When people get million dollar deals for books that we think aren’t as good as ours. When some people come out of the gate faster or seemingly easier. When someone can afford a ritzy MFA program and we can’t. When they have a rich spouse and don’t have to worry about working.
As to your friend’s competitive feelings, we live with those all the time, too. When they don’t quite like our work and they don’t know why. When they recommend other books to book clubs and not yours. When they make a face when you say you’re writing.

I guess all we can do on both sides is love each other as we are and do our work. Wish each other well and help where we can, out of duty to the goodness in the universe and because we love our friends. The answer, as with all uncomfortable feelings, is
to just do what we have to do, which is our own work and keep our minds focused there. There is room for all of us and some people last through time without success in their own life (ie Kafka to some extent), some people are best sellers and no one ever hears about them years later, some people find fame at 80 and others do at 20 and not again. It’s not in anyone’s control and that is part of its attraction. The pleasure resides in doing the work.