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Every writer is familiar with Writer’s Block.

We know what it’s like to have Writer’s Block pull up a chair beside us, or lean over our shoulder and peer at our blank Word document, stifling our efforts as his presence hangs there, lingering like dust particles in a sunbeam.

Oh yes, we’re familiar with Writer’s Block. Even non-writers know his name.

Of course, Writer’s Block never travels alone. In fact, few have ever seen Writer’s Block without at least one of his compatriots: Procrastination, Facebook, Twitter, Email, Sudoku, and Solitaire.

They’re a vile bunch, all of them.

Just as devious is Writer’s Block second cousin, a lesser known but equally perfidious fellow: Writer’s Envy.

Where Writer’s Block stomps into a room, Writer’s Envy slithers. While Writer’s Block sits next to you or leans on your shoulder, Writer’s Envy lurks underfoot.

No one knows exactly what prompts Writer’s Envy to strike, but there are 4 common signs that you are in fact suffering from an attack of Writer’s Envy.

1) You find yourself thinking, “Wow, they got paid to write this? I could have done this so much better.” (for example, this is how I felt about all the dialogue in the most recent season of 24)

2) You say something like, “I can’t believe a book like this got published. My idea is so much better than this!”

3) You think, “I wish I could write like (Insert Name Here).” (Feel free to insert “Tyler Charles,” if you want.)

4) Perhaps the most common thought that results from Writer’s Envy: “Wow, this is so good! I wish I had thought of this first!”

The fourth example is the one that most often gets me. And today is one of those days. But today the sensation was stronger than usual. The writer’s words were so in touch with how I feel that I not only wished I had written them, I think that part of me still believes that I did. As if the writer siphoned my thoughts and claimed them as his own.

Of course, even if they were my thoughts, he wrote them more beautifully than I ever could (which is Writer’s Envy Warning Sign #3).

But I think my feelings of inferiority are quite justified today. After all, the writer to which I’m referring is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon.

His essay is titled “Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood,” and it’s superb.

I encourage you to read it for yourself:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22891

But keep your eyes peeled for Writer’s Envy. There’s a good chance he might show up.

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4 Comments

  1. It’s so funny (ironic funny) that you wrote about this. I suffer from intense writer’s block regularly and was just thinking about it again today, as I struggled this afternoon. But it’s even more ironic that you wrote about writer’s envy, because I am guilty of envying your writing; from the first peer edit in Creative Writing with Mrs. Schaurer. I’m so glad you have been able to write for a living! (and that you’re no longer climbing ladders for the Mob! 😉 )

    • Megan,

      Thanks for the comment, and for saying you envy my writing. That was very nice of you.

      Good luck dealing with the writer’s block. At least you know you’re not the only one.

  2. I like the way you put this, Tyler.. “writer’s envy.” So true – ha! Although I guess in this case, I also have intense “writer’s appreciation”… because MC nails it!

    Ann Handley
    @marketingprofs
    http://www.annhandley.com

    • Ann,

      Thanks for the comment. And for indirectly directing me to the link. I am a Chabon fan. I just picked up a copy of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union last week and I’m looking forward to reading it.


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