The Psychology of Peer Envy by Mary Deal

The Psychology of Peer Envy


Mary Deal

How many times have you read a book and wished you could write like that author?

How many times have you heard about an author’s success and thought it could never happen to you?

How many times have you wondered why the spectacular success that happened to J.K. Rowling hasn’t happened to you?

Truth is, the more you see other people having success and the more you wonder why it isn’t happening to you is what’s making it NOT happen. Your thoughts of it not happening to you is driving the point home that it will not happen for you.

This whole process is known as peer envy. Actually the general process of peer envy applies to all in life. However, we will concentrate on writers and authors in this article.

When you envy someone, you’re simply tell yourself you don’t have what they have. You are driving the point home in your psych that they have and you have not.

For writers who wish to always improve their craft, they should read the authors that appeal to them. They should not read with the attitude that those authors are so much better, or some much more accomplished. Read and enjoy, but at the same time, pick out the strong points in their prose.

Why do their stories sound more exciting?

How do they find such remote settings for their plots?

How did they learn to use such sophisticated words and still have them understood to the average reader?

And on and on. Pick apart your favorite author’s work to learn from them.

When you read your favorite authors to learn their secrets, that is not peer envy. It is peer education.

One of my favorites is Mary Higgins Clark. I can pinpoint exactly where I made the switch from envy to learning. I was reading her novel, Two Little Girls in Blue. She has so much vivid detail in her stories, without being overbearing. I was thinking how good she was at putting in just the right amount of detail. I was also able to glean what she was leaving out. When I realized I was placing her so high above my own writing ability, it was a jolt to my nervous system. At that point was when I decided not to envy but to learn from her writing style. My thrillers do not fall into the same genre as her stories, but I did learn a lot about her descriptive techniques, scene changes, style, and so forth.

How many of you have envied J.K. Rowling for her incredibly unique stories? Truth is, it takes a certain mind and mental set to create her stories. She has an ability not commonly found. We envy her because we do not have her success. Not too many people are able to emulate her prose and come close to her capabilities. She, especially should never be your focus of envy because her abilities are uncommon. To even try to emulate her is to falsely think ourselves belonging in the same category as Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien and like others. We are not there till we develop our own abilities to have that kind of success.

We get there by developing our own skills.

We can admire these people for their writing ability; maybe even their marketing ability to attract people important in the industry to take their stories and run straight to the silver screen. But peer envy is simply a no-no.

When you read your favorite authors with the intention to learn from them, peer envy disappears.

When you learn from your peers and then improve your own writing ability, the more you read and study, the better your own abilities; the better chance you have of creating your own signature in the world of books, and it will be influenced by those you read.

Yes, read J.K. Rowling. Read J. R.R. Tolkien. Read Isaac Asimov. Focus on any authors and genres that interest you. Read with the intention to learn their secrets. You will develop your own stories and style. You will build your own reputation according to your own talents. Drop the peer envy because it reminds you that you are not there yet and stunts your progress.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.

About Mike Angley

Mike Angley is the award-winning author of the Child Finder Trilogy. He retired as a Colonel from the Air Force in 2007 following a 25-year career as a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). He held 13 different assignments throughout the world, among which were five tours as a Commander of various units, to include two Air Force Squadrons and a Wing. He is a seasoned criminal investigator and a counterintelligence and counterterrorism specialist. In his last assignment, he was Commander of OSI Region 8 with responsibility for all of Air Force Space Command. He’s fond of saying, “If it entered or exited Earth’s atmosphere, I had a dog in the fight!”
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