And then I watched the whole movie on Netflix.
If you watched the movie trailer, you’ve probably figured out the plot goes something like this:
Unpublished writers get together to talk about writing and to critique each others’ work. When one author gets an agent, publishing contract, and movie deal, the others become jealous. The writers group begins to unravel.
This is the kind of movie that only authors will really “get.” The situations are unique to the writing world. I very much enjoyed it, but I did find aspects of it depressing: the buxom young writer who barely reads (she thinks Jane Austen is still alive), but lands the big publishing deal; the egotistical writer who gets suckered by a vanity press; the talented writer who is so traumatized by his past rejections, he can’t finish his latest manuscript.
Jealousy is a huge theme in this movie, and from what I’ve seen on blog posts and in Facebook groups, jealousy sometimes rears its ugly head in the “real” publishing world.
In the movie, Hannah, the attractive young writer with the six-figure movie deal, is hardworking, yet the viewer has the impression that she might not be “deserving” of her success. Indeed, the members of her writers group suspect she slept with her agent. As writers, our biggest fear is that the world of agents and publishers has become too “Hollywood.” We fear agents are looking for marketability over talent. Is this true? I don’t know. I’m not a publishing insider. I don’t have an agent or movie deal. I would certainly never look down upon someone who was fortunate or talented enough to land a super-fantastic publishing contract. No one has the right to say one author deserves success over another. Sometimes publishing seems unfair, but life is unfair. It’s just the way it is.
That’s not to say I’ve never struggled with feelings of envy. I think we all feel jealous from time to time, especially when we read about a nineteen-year-old author who signed a six-figure, three book publishing contract. As illustrated in the movie, jealousy is a problem in the writing community. When we’ve been rejected a billion times, it’s easy to feel resentment toward those who seem to have it easy.
Envy is a very dangerous thing. It can lead to bitterness. It can lead to giving up altogether. It can even make us view each other as competition, when in fact, we should be helping each other.
Let’s face it: Writers are a weird bunch. No one else cries over the demise of an imaginary friend. No one else talks to their characters while they’re driving down the highway. (Okay, I might be the only person who does this.) My writer friends have seen me through situations non-writers cannot possibly understand. I don’t know where I’d be without them.
Don’t give in to envy. Don’t worry that one author’s success will somehow diminish your own. We all deserve success. Work hard for it. Enjoy the process. I believe it will happen for all of us.