The Jarring Js — Jealousy and Judgment
Fear of what others will think — and say — is a major force that holds a lot of writers back. But jealousy can be just as big a problem, though often an unexpected one. Some authors, as they start to produce copy, compare their work to others' and find themselves and their own work lacking. This can be not only a terrible blow to the ego, but can encourage feelings of anger toward people who appear to be doing better work or having greater success.
But guess what? It's okay to be angry. It's okay to be jealous. (Even therapists say this is true.) Instead of letting those feelings take over your psyche and stop you from writing, you need to channel them into a positive stream that will serve as fuel to improve your skills.
“Many wonderful writers … have been plagued by insecurity throughout their professional lives. How could it be otherwise? By its nature, art involves risk. It's not easy, but sometimes one has to invent one's confidence…. My own advice to writers is: follow your curiosity and your passion.”
— Diane Ackerman, author of A Natural History of the Senses
A positive attitude is one of the writer's greatest tools — jealousy may sidetrack you, but believing in yourself and not comparing your writing to anyone else's will take you a long way. Like the Little Engine That Could, you've got to keep saying, “I think I can, I think I can.”
Prepare for Criticism
While most of the time you should be able to control your own green-eyed monster, it will often be impossible to control the judgmental or critical words of others. Having others review what you write can be incredibly useful and supportive, in fact, you'll probably seek out certain people — other writers, teachers, writing group colleagues — to give you feedback and to discuss problems or concepts (see Chapter 21, for more on this).
If you make the decision to let friends, family members, or colleagues read your work, you have to realize that you are opening yourself to both positive and negative critiques.
Sometimes you'll hear more — or less — than you were hoping for. To prepare yourself for this, try to remember that it's your work — not you — that's being judged. And keep in mind that no matter how forceful the person's words or how right they may seem when you hear them, you are the final judge of what you create. It is your work, and while you may choose to listen to all who are willing to comment on what you write, you can accept their ideas if they make sense to you and use them to improve your skills, or you can reject them and carry on as you have been. It's a fact of life that you can never please everyone, but it's critical that in your writing you please yourself. In the end, you are your own best judge.