Do we really hate other writers?

Along with reading a novel from an aspiring writer as a favor, I’ve been watching one of my favorite movies a lot lately. Midnight in Paris, one of Woody Allen’s best in my opinion, has some great dialogue and a beautiful plot line. I love the characters, and the dream-like romp in 1920s Paris, complete with Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and of course, Hemingway.

One scene in particular stands out for me. The main character, strangely transported to Paris in the 1920s, has a chance to meet Hemingway in a bar. After a little small talk, he asked Papa if he’ll take a look at his novel and give him his opinion. Hemingway’s response?

“My opinion is I hate it,” he says.

“But you haven’t even read it yet,” Gil says.

“If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing,” Hemingway explains. “If it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.”

This quote really made me think. Is this true? As writers, we always seek feedback from other writers, we want insights, criticism and tips, right? I’ve had great feedback from friends who were writers, but we were also good friends way before the reading began. I admit I do feel a little apprehensive about sending my work out there for writers to comment if I don’t know them well.

Now, as I read the novel of a newly acquainted writer, I’m thinking how great his book is, and how jealous I am. Yes, I admit it, I’m jealous because it is pretty good. But, I don’t think I hate it because it’s good. I just wish I’d written something this good, although it’s not my genre so there’s no way I would have.

Confusing enough? My question is this…do we hate other writers who are successful? Do we secretly envy their success? Or does it make us just that much more determined to go out and do the same thing? I’ve heard other writers say, “If Stephanie Meyer can do it with that, I can certainly do better.” Well, what are you waiting for? Sometimes the difference between the published writer and the unpublished writer is not the quality of their writing but their determination to get it out there.


9 thoughts on “Do we really hate other writers?

  1. Valerie, this is an interest question. One, I think, that is applicable across many aspects of life. For you, the fact that the aspiring writer writes in a completely different genre might make it easier for you. In addition, you are a professional editor so you can take that step back and be objective. It’s a skill you have honed, unlike the majority of writers.

    It’s unfortunate that the writing isn’t very supportive, but that seems to be the case now-a-days for many. The important thing to remember is that there are people willing to help, we may just need to look a little longer.

    • Thanks Sara. I think you’re right, that there are many supportive writers out there. Probably just as many as are envious and hateful. Some of the best writers out there are willing to help fledgling authors (myself included), which is very encouraging. Once my book is published, I hope to be one of those writers. Till then, I’m happy to have found the few who are supportive.

  2. Pingback: Last Will and Testament « Wanton Acts of Writing

  3. There are times when I read a line and wish I had a time machine or voodoo doll of the author. SOMETHING to allow me to be the one to have written that line. But is it hate? Envy, certainly, but not hate. For me, good writing spurs me on to be a better writer and bad writing allows me to ask more questions of my own writing so that one day, I may be the one with the line causing other writers to envy me.

    • Very true, Heather. I don’t know that it’s hate, but definitely envy sometimes. But it can make you a better writer, wanting to do better or as well. If the envy or anger are too much, those writers never proceed. What a shame.

  4. I believe it can certainly be envy that compels me to hate others writers, but when I think of the sappy, completely overdone work I have read/heard, I honestly just wonder what the hell they’re thinking. Yeah, Poe is great, but you don’t have to copy his writing style! Writing is about creating your own picture of an event through your words, but when those words are heavily influenced by another writer I like to think of it as a “dreamy” set of words that is too dreamy for its own good.

    • That’s an interesting point. I do think there is room out there for all kinds of writers. There is a reader for everything and at times I don’t understand what the attraction is, but it’s there. Many writers have said that they were influenced by other writers and even mimicked the other writer’s style before settling on their own. I am always afraid of not finding my own if I try to write in another’s style.

  5. Thank you for this.

    As a fairly new writer on the scene, I have encountered both extremes; the love and the hate.

    To be honest, I find that the jealousy and competition between female writers is the worst I’ve seen. Men don’t necessarily take female writers seriously but if another woman criticizes my writing, it feels hostile and bitter. There just doesn’t seem to be enough room for all of us.

    It frustrates me and my writing suffers, because I’m constantly paranoid about my female peers judging my work.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this! A little healthy competition never hurt anyone but I do wish we supported and encouraged each other more.

    • Thanks for stopping in. I hear what you’re saying and there is a lot of competition out there. It has taken me a long time to realize that I don’t care what others say. If they are criticizing you, that’s their way of showing a bit of low self-confidence. The best writers out there encourage and help other writers, and are even good friends with other writers. That’s the kind of writer I want to be. I do wish, as you say, that we all encouraged and supported each other more. We could start a trend!

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