I’ll never forget the first time I was at a convention sitting in the audience listening to a panel of authors answering questions. As this was during the height of the Twilight craze, one of the panelists mentioned Stephenie Meyer, almost in passing. I kid you not, when I claim that I heard no less than ten other aspiring writers around me sneer or snicker at her very mention. Jealous comments about her “luck”, her “lack of talent”, and how she “didn’t deserve” to be as successful as she were the standard.
It was a little disheartening. Instead of looking at the success of the Twilight series and trying to learn from it, a room full of aspiring writers complained about it.
Go back a decade and I can more than one of my college creative writing professors tell us how Stephen King “can’t write anything serious” or “uses the same formula in every novel, just changing the names.” He is, after all, simply “lucky” and not talented. You know, right place and right time?
There was actually a grad student in the class who said something along the lines of “I could write like Stephen King just to sell books, but I’m not going to cheapen my writing just to make money.”
Hey, genius, if you could write like Stephen King, you would. You wouldn’t have been paying out-of-state tuition to sit in a classroom and complain about him.
Both of these flawed views of success come from a scarce mentality that tells us only a few can succeed and the ones who do do it at the expense of everyone else. It’s not like that at all. And people who think it is either need to grow up and stop thinking that way, or just give up and accept the unhappy life that comes with choosing to be a victim.
Stephen King’s success didn’t prevent Dean Koontz from selling millions of books and Stephenie Meyer’s success didn’t get in the way of The Hunger Games.
Feeling threatened by another author’s success makes about as much sense as big publishers feeling threatened by the self-publishing boom.
Successful authors (whether you consider them “good” or not) don’t take away other authors’ readers. They create new readers and all writers benefit from that.
So seriously, when you see another writer “make it,” either compliment them or shut up about it. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re better or more talented or bigger or stronger or whatever. If you waste even one second envying someone else’s success, that’s one second that isn’t being spent working on yours.