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 Sometimes the difference between the published writer and the unpublished writer is not the quality of their writing but their determination to get it out there.