Friday, April 13, 2007

Feeling Green

I've been reading a book by a wonderful writer. The pace is excellent, drawing me through each chapter delicately but persistently, never letting go. The characters are deep, rounded, and passionate, as vivid as my husband sitting next to me. I can see each of them and understand them, without being able to predict what they'll do next. The word choice is clear but original, with metaphors that make me alternately nod my head with the perfection of the image and laugh along with the narrator. It's fabulous.

And it's given me a horrible case of Writer's Envy.

You know the saying about imitation? I think envy is really the sincerest form of flattery--if you can call something you never admit to sincere.

Because you don't want to admit to it, even to yourself, do you? You know, as a writer, that comparison is the quickest blood-sucker of confidence. Once you start envying, the shine comes off your own work and your own ideas. You start the whirlpool thought process: I can never write like that. Why even bother? I should just hang it up now, start a fan club, and be done with the whole farce. Down and down, around and around, until every word of your own writing sounds like crap and you're sucked down to the bottom, wallowing in self-pity and envy.

So you have to not do that--but I think every writer does, unless they have an ego the size of Alaska. Even the ones you idealize, and the ones I idealize, have felt just exactly that way when reading someone else's work. It's really that way with every endeavor. When I was dancing I used to feel the same kind of envious awe watching a great pirouette, or grand jete. So instead of avoiding it altogether you have to be able to recognize the whirlpool for what it is and drag yourself out in time, or get your friends to throw you a lifeline.

Me, I emailed the writer directly, told her I was going to fly down and kick her ass myself if she ever told me again that she was "lucky" to be published, because she was just That Good. And then I whined a little. But I don't recommend that in most cases. {s}

I do recommend that the next time you find yourself in the throes of Writer's Envy you read, and contemplate, her response to my whiny email: "That's bullshit. About you not being able to write like whatever. You'll write like you, which is great. So there."

So there.

And of course, the writer is Vicki Pettersson. And the book is TASTE OF NIGHT.

Who are the authors who make you feel green?


Carol said...

Hi Susan,
For me, it's Jennifer Hendren. She has the ability to make every scene clear. Her characters are wonderful people that you easily get behind and cheer for. And to top it off, she writes so fast with little revisions. Grrr, makes you want to sabotage her computer long enough to catch up. I should stop now, my shade of green is becoming disturbingly dark. *She's my friend. She's my friend. She's my...*

Jen said...

First of all, THANKS, Carol! I'm overwhelmed. That is too sweet. (g)

Secondly -- I admire just about every writer I read -- for one reason or another. I think every writer has their particular strengths and I'm always left thinking I should be able to do better in at least one area. (g) Carol, for one, has great descriptions -- and I think hers was the first book to actually make me cry... or dang close to it, anyway. Not even DG gets tears out of me. (g) (For some reason Bridges of Madison County did, too....go figure. Hated the book for the most part. LOL)

And Diana Gabaldon -- goodness, don't get me started. (g) When I read her books, I just want to burn every one of my manuscripts -- I'm lacking so much by comparison.

Vicki also has some wonderful descriptions...

See, I can't narrow it down. I admire anyone who chooses this whacked out profession. (g)


Cindy said...

Dear Susan:

Oh, I smiled and nodded when I read this. Indeed! Vicki's books put me off writing for at least a week. And I didn't blog about it because I was a little ashamed of the way I was feeling, so thank you for owning up to it. {S} There's the envy, and then there's the uneasy feeling of inadequacy. I had that exact thought: I can't write like this. Even though you know it's wrong and self-defeating, it's there.

{Doesn't she have the most original descriptions? So sensory!)

I think said so on Sara's blog, but thankfully, shortly after that slow slide down comes inspiration. Wanting to do better, wanting to achieve something like that for myself. As myself.

Diana Gabaldon, of course. Barbara Erskine, Philippa Gregory, and lately, Kim Harrison. Tracy Chevalier, Sarah Dunant.

And you've got talent, too. I have proof! It's just a matter of time, the right story, the right agent. {S}