Have you ever read a book, article, or poem, written so beautifully, so magical, that you want to turn in your keyboard and quit? I know I have—more than once. I envy Jan Karon's skill with dialogue, Richard Paul Evan's skill with sense of place, Sue Monk Kid's skill with characterization. I could go on, but I need to finish this article. Thankfully, writer envy is a passing emotion, but it has never benefitted me until now.
Jane Friedman shared an article by Jennifer Loudon titled 5 Ways to Develop Your Writing Voice. All five points were excellent but point number 4 caught and held my attention. Loudon gives writers something to do with the discouraging emotion of envy. She suggests:
- Write the passage you love in long hand because it takes longer and you learn more.
- Ask yourself, "Why do I love this so much?" I especially liked this point. I've never taken the time to deconstruct beautiful prose to discover all the touch points it had on my writerly soul.
- Discuss these passages with writer friends. I love this idea! Especially over a glass of wine!
- Be prepared to struggle to understand why. Of course this struggle can be eased with said glass of wine.
Loudon also suggests this exercise with passages you hate. Unfortunately, I easily recognize the weakness in those passages I hate because I'm often guilty of the same thing. But seeing it from another writer helps me understand how insipid they are for the reader.
I've always been taught that envy isn't good, and it isn't. However, it can be the kick we need in the rear to do something about it and write prose that makes others sigh and throw their pencils across the room!