5 Ways to Deal with Writer Envy

“OMG – just landed an assignment with my dream magazine!” “Can’t believe I just signed a book deal!” “Guess what? I’m appearing on CNN tomorrow to discuss my latest article!” Those are the kinds of announcements, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or a writer’s forum, that stop a writer cold, making an otherwise confident scribe question why everyone else seems to have better luck. I’m no stranger to the occasional pang of writer envy, but I’ve learned to keep those feelings in check by remembering these five mantras.

1. There’s always more work to go around. Competition is stiff for freelance assignments at top publication but there are plenty of other opportunities to go around. I make most of my money writing for trade publications or websites none of my friends have heard of, and I’m happy to have a steady flow of assignments. Just because someone snagged an assignment with your favorite women’s magazine doesn’t mean you’ll never break in. It’s not like there a finite number of assignments out there. If publishers are giving new authors a shot or magazines are still buying freelance content, that’s a good sign for all of us.

2. If she can do it, so can I. A few years ago, my writer friends and I were thrilled to get an assignment from a regional magazine or trade publication. Now a lot of them are contributing to major consumer magazines and websites read by millions of people. When I think about how far our careers have progressed and how I knew them way back when we were struggling together, it reminds me that they’re not these superhuman, untouchable deities. They’re regular people, and if a regular person can work her way up to writing for The New York Times, then gosh darn it, so can I!

3. Now I have a contact who’s even better connected. Yes, this attitude is a tad opportunistic, so I wouldn’t act on it right away. But remember, well-connected writer friends sometimes offer referrals or market insights. Wait until they’ve gotten settled in and understand the dynamics of that publication or publishing house. Only ask if you’d be willing to reciprocate a favor in the future, and never name drop with an editor or agent unless a colleague gives you permission.

4. Somebody’s probably jealous of you. Just as you’re jealous of someone’s cover story or TV appearance, there’s probably another struggling writer wishing she were in your shoes. When a colleague gets all excited about a new assignment, please don’t deflate her enthusiasm with a snide comment. Give a virtual high five. Of course, if you’re on the other side and your excited announcement is met with sarcasm, you’ll understand why and (hopefully) shrug it off.

5. Publishing ain’t always pretty. Having broken into a few of my dream publications, I can tell you the reality is rarely as sweet as you’d expect. Articles get killed or edited to death by committee. Sources flake or fact-checking issues blow up in your face. And I have it on good authority from author friends that publishing a book is not a glamorous affair, either. So while you’re green with envy over your friend’s book deal, she’s probably scrambling to meet her deadline and line up marketing opportunities on her own dime.

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About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer whose work appears in Bankrate.com, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, MediaBistro.com, Parade Magazine, and SELF, among other places. She is the author of The Urban Muse Guide to Online Writing Markets and blogs at The Urban Muse.