I don’t like to think of myself as a jealous person, but unfortunately there is a not insignificant amount of evidence to the contrary.
To conjure a little mental image for you, three and a half years ago I was interrailling in Europe with two friends. We were reaching the end of our trip and duly knackered – so the three of us were lounging around in our hostel, scrolling through our phones. I came across an article about a young writer – who shall remain nameless for the sake of my own embarrassment as much as anything else – who had just signed something like a seven-book contract with a major publisher. She was maybe a year or so older than I was at the time, still in university, and the first book of her fantasy series was being published. These are all quite innocent facts, and yet – and I’m sure my friends can attest to this – I was a little bit:
Now, in my defence, this article was truly sickly – it could have been written by the writer’s mum, it was so fawning. (I actually just read it again to see if my memory had blown it out of proportion. I hadn’t.) The story itself – if I’m honest – would probably have sounded interesting to me under different circumstances, but as it was I was all, “What kind of a stupid character name is that?! What does that even mean?! That is so unoriginal…” I’m sure you can imagine the pettiness for yourself.
I’d like to say this was an isolated incident, brought on by tiredness, lack of self-confidence or the sickening tone of the article. However…
There does seem to be specific criteria for this horrible streak of jealousy. A writer of my own age, typically another woman, writing in a genre I’m very familiar with – fantasy, dystopia, sci-fi – but using characters or plot devices I find hackneyed and cliché (i.e. a love triangle that for some reason eclipses the literal fate of the world, a troubled female protagonist claiming altruism but always behaving selfishly, a roguish love interest with green eyes and a lopsided smile…the list, I’m afraid, goes on). Even typing that has made me feel snobbish and judgemental, but I can’t pretend that it isn’t exactly the truth.
But then I wonder if the content of these books actually matters at all. I really like Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series – which you could argue contains several of the elements I’ve just complained about. Would I hate it if Scott Westerfeld was a woman in her mid-twenties? I hope not. But maybe?
I’ve tried to figure out a logical explanation for these ugly feelings, but what I’ve realised is that you can’t really apply logic to feelings this irrational. I think my subconscious is under the impression that there are only so many spots available for young, female fantasy writers – so every time I found out about another one, that’s somehow damaging my already-stunted chances of success. This – clearly – is not the case. But that does seem to be how it feels. And I’m not rightly sure whether this is down to overconfidence – am I conceited enough to really think I had a chance at this writer’s success? – or…erm, under-confidence? Certainly the end result of one of these spiralling rages tends to be:
My hope in sharing this strange ramble on The Rejection Box is that I’m not alone in this. If you are also a writer who experiences similar bouts of irrational fury at perfectly innocent writers you’ve never met – at least by reading this you can know you’re not alone. If there are enough of us, maybe we can even claim that this is just some weird, unfortunate side effect of wanting to be a writer?
At the end of the day, though, this is a horribly unproductive attitude. I don’t want to be the sort of person who actually seeks out things I know will bother me just to be angry about them. I’m not going to pretend I’ll stop doing it after this outpouring of a blog post, but I do wish I would. There are many more useful things I could be doing with that time – writing, for a start.
So after all of that, this is the closest I can get to some ‘advice’ for this week:
Don’t do that. It ain’t healthy.
Next Week’s Post: Having received some good news from my many submissions, I’m going to mediate the post I would like to write (‘GUYS GUYS IT’S HAPPENING I’M GOING TO BE JK ROWLING) with some actual realism. How is a person supposed to cope with taking a step closer to their dream, knowing full well that the rug could very well be about to be ripped from under you? This is not a rhetorical question.
Submissions Last Week
Only two actually – for reasons that will be explained in next week’s post!
Current Rejection Tally: 1