If you are being completely honest with yourself, you have probably experienced a moment where the success of another writer has caused you to feel this way. At least, I know I have. I would see the success of someone else and be eaten up inside by it.
I watched other writers I knew achieve things I had been aching to accomplish and I would spiral into feelings of envy and worry that things would never happen for me. Like many of us, I have spent a large part of my life grappling with the burning desire to write and to be known as a writer. I am ashamed to say that I have spent a tremendous amount of that time feeling chagrined at the success of others. I’ve wasted years harboring feelings of competitiveness towards others, comparing my own capability to them and their writing accomplishments. I spent years missing important opportunities because of this.
I first noticed the miserable condition that I had been operating in when I returned from my first time at BRMCWC. All of the love and eagerness I saw exhibited at the conference between my peers gnawed at me. I spent a lot of time thinking about the way the established professionals had seemed so driven to help the newer, inexperienced attendees. I wondered why none of them grappled with the twinge of competitiveness that had risen up in me, like clockwork, when someone would tell me “Oh! I’m writing something too!”
The envy that lay in my own heart reared up at me, ugly and insatiable, when a friend of mine back home that would often edit for me mentioned that they were working on something of their own. The idea made my stomach churn. It made me feel weak with worry. What if they wrote something better than what I was working on? What if I was just the perpetual amateur and they were this rare hidden talent that was destined to be found and heard
It made my skin prickle with shame all over to think that I was feeling anything other than happiness that they had found the confidence to put words to paper. I despised my own reaction and I went to the Lord, feeling the acidic taste of pride rising in my throat like bile. This was a person I loved dearly, that had done so much for me. What a terrible, terrible Christian I was, I thought.
With God’s forgiveness, I humbled my heart and the Lord spoke to me. He reminded me again of the examples I had seen in the conference staff and attendees and how they had loved and encouraged each other. He opened my eyes to a revolutionary truth. One that I had often paid lip service to, but hadn’t actually taken into my heart: We are not meant to compete against each other in this calling.
As the weeks went by, close contacts I had made at the conference continually reached out to me and encouraged me in my work. Cards were sent to me with words that made me weep and rebuilt some of my shaky confidence in my own ability to craft words and stories. Emails and texts were exchanged and mentoring took place as I grappled with an idea that I had been given at the conference that felt terrifying to explore. I lived off of these words and gestures of encouragements. They were my oxygen, in my writing life.
My writing motivation and confidence survived because of these divinely appointed, lovely people who had placed my writing career and its success above their own and invested in me. No doubt they sacrificed precious time to work and write, to be there for me in the way that they were. It was no coincidence that the Lord timed this flow of help from my peers. It was to show me: “Look! See how they invest in you? See how they love you. This is the way.”
As I realized the immense blessing this encouragement had been to me, God began to provide opportunities for me to encourage and help others around me who loved writing. He showed me people who had long given up on their ability to do anything creative, who felt it was a part of their past and were living life missing a very important piece of the puzzle that made up who they are.
The more I encouraged others the more I felt my own drive strengthening and the more I found joy in what I was writing. The electric feeling of hearing that someone who had told me they could never write had been jotting down ideas in between juggling babies and housework was incomparable. My heart would sing at the news and I would feel fresh inspiration in my own work.
Encouragement is a powerful thing. Encouraging another writer instead of allowing yourself to feel envy and comparison, is one of the most powerful things you can do as a writer. There is a reason our Heavenly Father designed even the most introverted of us to long for human connection at times. There is a purpose to the moment when someone is gushing to you about their own writing accomplishment, and when someone else is weeping to you about the absence of creativity in their lives.
Like seasons, God designates these opportunities that we are given with reasons we can not fathom. He orchestrates the web of life spinning around us. He knows that we are human and our hearts can be filled with envy. What He wants us to do is reach out to one another, comfort and encourage each other. Competitiveness and envy are unfortunate human emotions but feeling them does not mean we don’t love the person that these feelings are inspired by. It does not mean we are not happy for them. What it means is that we are missing vital, divine opportunities to participate in the powerful act of encouraging someone in their journey and to receive encouragement ourselves.
If you have the chance in your life, reach out to someone you know who may have written in the past and no longer does. Speak to them about the possibility of reigniting their own creative ability and that even if they are just writing for themselves, it is pleasing to God for us to use our talents. Reach out to the person you know who is inexperienced and yearns to be heard in writing. Read something for them, give them feedback and praise them when they do well.