Monday, July 15, 2013

Vance Briceland on the Ugly Side of Writer's Envy

Orange Peel Candle

Early on in this writing adventure a friend on LiveJournal posted about another friend of his who was taking questions on writing/publishing from anyone who cared to ask.  Since said friend was a published author I figured it was worth checking out.  I read through some of his blog posts and liked his writing and sense of humor, so I asked questions.

The questions were your typical beginning writer questions.  You know the type: questions filled with unnecessary second-guessings and vague self-loathing.  Instead of dismissing them, Vance answered them with kindness and wisdom, telling me I'd need to find my own path as a writer, just as I'd need to find my own voice as a writer.  He handled my follow-up questions with equal patience and support as well.

One of the things I inherently knew from my earliest days of writing was this simple idea that Vance includes in his latest blog entry:
"Your success as a writer is entirely independent from anyone else’s."
As writers, we each have our own sense of what makes a good story and what we want/need to include in our own writing.  That my take on this is different than yours is something to be celebrated and respected, not seen as something to be lashed out at.  That's why Vance's follow-up sentence was surprising:
"Belittling someone’s accomplishment does not accelerate or enhance your own success."
Vance has encountered the ugly side of writer's envy in ways that, frankly, just astound me.  The (former) friend who, after reading Vance's first book, sent him ten pages of notes pointing out the book's flaws and Vance's inability to write is an act that I have a hard time wrapping my head around. What kind of people do that?

In short, people who make themselves feel better by depreciating others.  Being envious of someone else's success is one thing, but actively working to tear them down because of that success is just plain wrong.  Worse, it's evil.

I'm going to give this type of pretentious slap a name: A Debourgh.  Remember Lady Catherine DeBourgh from Austen's Pride and Prejudice?  In attempting to smack Lizzie back in her place after learning that Lizzie plays the piano quite well and has opinions about music, Lady Catherine Debourgs Lizzie with the following:
"Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient."
It's the quintessential, I acknowledge your accomplishment but only to let you know how much better I would have done it, if I did such things.

So, have you ever been Debourghed?  Do you know someone who has?

-- Tom