Envy, Narcissism, Depression and Creativity

Two weeks ago Facebook celebrated 10 years of making us depressed and envious by creating for each user a personalized video not unlike what you see in an Oscars “in memoriam” telecast. It was a wise move by Facebook’s corporate brass to create a video starring ourselves, because academic studies show Facebook encourages narcissism; feeding the pleasure center of our brains will keep us coming back. Did I mention how academics have also demonstrated that Facebook makes us depressed and envious?

An AWP Bookfair. I will not be attending that writer's conference this year in Seattle--and thus will miss out on connecting in person with many friends--in part because I don't need to be around thousands of writers who could provoke envy in me.
An AWP Bookfair. I will not be attending that writer’s conference this year in Seattle–and thus will miss out on connecting in person with many friends–in part because I don’t need to be around thousands of writers who could provoke envy in me.

When you don’t like the message, attack the messenger. That’s what I am doing by faulting a popular social-media platform instead of myself.

In 2012, when I was enthusiastically cranking out personal essays in an MFA program and submitting them to journals, I enjoyed a narcissistic rush every time I posted on my personal Facebook page the news of another publication. In 2013, when I stopped submitting to literary journals because my shift to a book-length work had led me to stop writing essays, I instead was sure to “like” the posts by my creative-writer friends when they had something published. And I did “like” the posts; I was genuinely happy for their deserved success.

And yet.

As time passed, and I began experiencing rejections of my book-length work, those victory posts by my peers became harder to stomach. My experience echoed what researchers have found re: Facebook and depression, that repeated viewings of others’ good news–exotic vacations, great meals, happy children–can make our lives appear less accomplished and pleasurable. Depression sets in, and then envy.

A would-be author I knew used a very interesting motivational strategy when seeking to break into the world of publishing. She took a photo of the most successful author of her fiction genre, put the woman’s face on the wall, and superimposed target rings over her face. Now I’m sure this would-be author’s goal was not to actually shoot her more successful rival in the head (although she may have contemplated it). The target, the would-be author told me, was her way of motivating herself to reach the same level of success.

The thing about any creative pursuit, however, is that more often than not success is not a zero-sum game. That would-be author could reach the same level of success as the established author without harming the other author’s sales. Readers can buy more than one book. There is always more than one publisher. When I see one of my Facebook friends received an acceptance letter from a literary journal, my rational mind knows my odds of future publication in that journal are in no way diminished.

And yet.

This was my haul from an AWP I attended two years ago. So many literary journals, so many places that hadn't published me.
This was my haul from an AWP I attended two years ago. So many literary journals, so many places that hadn’t published me.

That bullseye target worked for the would-be author I mentioned, because she is now a bestseller herself. I, however, have never found motivating myself by focusing on others’ success to be at all useful. I consider myself highly motivated, but I compete against my past self, so much so that it can be difficult for me to savor a victory because I am already looking ahead to the next accomplishment. But the real challenge comes for me when the barometer of success is external. Was I a better writer in 2012, when I was having essays published, than I was in 2013, when I was not?

I want to celebrate the success of others. I know that it is irrational to believe that their success in some way suggests that I am in fact a failure. But our minds are not always rational. So as I struggle emotionally through a dark, snow-blanketed winter, I’m limiting my exposure to my Facebook news feed, which unfortunately means I’m limiting my exposure to my friends. I tell myself a personal success–some small external indicator of accomplishment–will empower me to return and brave the celebratory posts of my peers. So I focus on determining what that small success will be and how to achieve it.

How do you motivate yourself to succeed in your creative endeavors? Are the successes of peers motivating to you or inhibiting?

61 thoughts on “Envy, Narcissism, Depression and Creativity

  1. I stopped using Facebook a couple of years ago, not because of others’ good fortune, but because of the inanities. Really, as a writer, it becomes an issue of time. I, too, compete against myself because I know that to compare my life or work to that of anyone else is bound to feed my insecurities and they get fed well enough as it is!


    1. Hi Michelle, yes it’s true that social media can be a time sink for creatives (well, for anyone). It can also be inane, but much of life is inane, so perhaps social media is simply a mirror, or an extension of our own inanities.

      Glad you have that understanding of what can add to your insecurity (competing against others) so that you can avoid it!


  2. Patrick, so many raw and real expressions of the writing life here. Thank you. I just posted about depression & writing and my need to step away from social media (which really comes down to Facebook for me) because the din of voices makes it impossible for me to hear my own.

    My essay/short story publishing screeched to a halt for a year just as yours did when I plunged into writing a novel. When I got into the revision stage last summer, I spent a few weeks working on some short pieces that gave me a publishing boost for a few months-acceptance in the autumn for winter and spring publication-so I think I might pursue the same tactic in a couple of months when I hit revision stage of current novel. It felt good to step back from long-form writing and loosen up with a few intense sprints. The ulterior motive–a few more publication nods–was a sweet payoff.

    Ain’t got good words for overcoming envy. It’s there. I know I’ve got such a long row to hoe to see these novels to publication. I fight a daily battle with patience and focus. I’m working hard on letting envy roll off-acknowledging it and believing that my stories will find their way.

    Peace to you. Julie


    1. Julie,

      Thank you for this encouraging note. No need to provide good words for overcoming envy; you’ve given me inspiration in your story re: return to short writing as benefiting your muse with the added benefit of publication. That is really helpful.


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  5. nancyarnypisunyer.blogspot.com

    Sounds like a lot folks need to get out into whatever sunshine they can find or go buy broad spectrum light bulbs and kick back against SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Let’s all stop posting and FaceBooking for the rest of today and get to work on our writing and/or illustrating. That’s what I”m going to do. Maybe I’ll see you all tomorrow.


  6. Thanks for such an honest post, Patrick. Maybe I’m a Star Wars geek, but I definitely think of the writing life as having a dark side that constantly beckons and taunts and pulls us to envy, narcissism and jealousy, and even greed when we get even the smallest a taste of success. It’s so easy to forget that the real power of the writing life, the force if you will, lies within us. I’m by no means perfect, and I fall prey to all those nasty emotions.What helps me move past it is by reminding myself of what I’ve accomplished, even if it was a year ago, or ten years ago. It’s about the journey, and every one of us has had success along the way. My time will come again. And so will yours.

    Admittedly, it’s easier for me to keep a sunny outlook in Arizona, with blue skies outside my window and temps in the mid-80s today. Dark winter days do have a strong and real impact on our overall outlook. Maybe you need to head to the Southwest for a few days of R&R. 🙂


    1. Hi Jessica! Thank you for this encouraging comment. Yes, a run to the sun (Key West) helped over Christmas, but the effect wasn’t lasting. You should know we’re considering starting the next New Year in Arizona. (I’m hoping Tempe still does that amazing block party.)

      Your advice on the power of the writing life is spot-on; I know because I at times have been able to tap into that as well. It’s been a few years since I was winning journalism awards–because it’s been a few years since I was a full-time journalist–but I have the awards on a wall at my day job, and sometimes I look at them to remind me that I’ve been doing this writing thing for awhile now with some occasional success.

      “It’s about the journey.” That’s what this blog is about, right? 🙂


      1. Yes, the artist’s road, the journey… that’s what it’s all about. It never ends, unless we give up.

        Exciting news that you may be in Arizona (for a visit or to live?). Either way, let me know if/when you’re in the area. I’d love to buy you and your wife a cup of coffee and chit-chat. And yes, Tempe still knows how to throw a New Year’s party, though I’m usually fast asleep at home by then. LOL


        1. Just a vacation. As I just said in response to Melissa, I’ll be in the DC area for at least three more years. But we’ll be in the Valley of the Sun over New Year’s (weather-wise far better than my two Vermont winter breaks with the MFA!). Not sure exactly where we’ll stay, but I want to see Scottsdale (I haven’t seen it since they created a “waterfront,” what a concept) and the Tempe celebration. If it happens we’ll let you know!


  7. My considered opinion is that Facebook is something of a waste of my writing time. Not that it causes me angst, because I rarely have time to look at it, simply that it doesn’t fit with what I need it to do. On the other hand, I used to consider Twitter was for twits until I started using it! I like its immediacy, though once again, I never bother to read tweets which are blatant advertising of books/courses/lifestyle trainers/blah.
    Your post has certainly given me a neat new business idea: dartboards onto which it’s easy to pin a pic of whichever face you most want to pitch a dart into at any particular moment. I’d say that probably beats punching a cushion (business idea no 2: cross-stitch kits – what a lovely use of the word CROSS – to make your own personalised punch-cushion). Hmmmmmm.


    1. Nancy, what a shrewd entrepreneur you are! If your comment here leads to some venture capital seed money coming in I’d like a taste. 🙂

      As to Facebook, it is the largest social media platform because it does actually bring a lot of value. It helps if you know how you want to make use of it. A car is no good to you if you’re happy walking to the store or riding your bike to work, but it can be a quick and easy substitute for both, for example.


  8. Patrick, Your honesty and openness here is wonderful. I would be surprised to meet an artist who has been working towards something they care a lot about who HASN’T had the same feelings you express here! I do hope we can do a better job of supporting each other in our passions instead of feeling like there is only “room for 1.” We all should take more digital hiatuses to help us regain focus and positive momentum. Can’t wait to hear more as the sun starts shining again over your way and those doors start opening, as they will.


    1. Thank you, Carrie. I drove my son to school yesterday morning and realized, for the first time this winter, that the sun had risen before we got to his school. I pointed it out to him, and then noted that very soon they’ll implement daylight savings time, which for an early riser like me means they’ll be taking away an hour of sun and he’ll be heading to school in the dark again. So be it.

      As to the thrust of your comments, it’s helpful to hear the universality of what I’m experiencing, particularly because by separating myself somewhat from Facebook I’m a bit disengaged from other creatives right now. I actually had a very encouraging email chain over the weekend with one of my VCFA advisors, and after I shared with her what I was dealing with she echoed you on this and shared some struggles she’s had, and she’s phenomenally successful.


  9. Seth Godin has taught us the folly of expecting blockbuster success. Success within a niche is enough to make a career, I try to keep in mind that the niche I’m serving is unlike the niche of all my successful friends. I’m not competing against them. So, that’s how I keep all those @#$%! friends of mine out of mind.


  10. Michele


    So sorry to see the pain that self-doubt is inflicting on you. I haven’t posted for quite a while but I have been lurking and reading your posts pretty regularly. There is a line I love from a song from the musical Evita: “It’s hard to keep momentum when it’s you that you are following.” I have always found this to be true and when I start to get too caught up in what others think of me or my work (beyond a realistic assessment of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay in order to keep the lights on) I bring this thought back out and it reassures me.

    One thing that creatives have to manage is keeping momentum and focus on their own path, or to use your own metaphor, to be their own barometer. If you are following someone else’s idea of success, you are not being true to the reasons why you willingly took on the sometimes difficult path you have chosen. Keeping momentum on your own path keeps you from seeing your fellow writers etc. as your rivals or competitors and allows you to truly rejoice in their successes, learn from their methods, but still follow the path that belongs only to you.

    The other thing that can get in our way sometimes is managing the difference between process and goal. Of course we all need to have goals, otherwise we would never get anything done, but we have to remind ourselves that traveling the path is the experience, the goal is really just a point to aim at. Often the best experiences occur when life or art misses the target. And as verb aspect will remind you, process is imperfect!

    Speaking of targets, the “target” picture of the “rival” author is an interesting concept, but such competitiveness seems a bit over the top to me. As you note, there really is no zero sum here. Unlike the Olympics, where there are only three medals every four years for each event, there is always room for success in the creative world (ephemeral as it may be) and while, as John Donne noted, every man’s death may indeed diminish us all, every man’s success most certainly does not.


    1. First of all, kudos on the Donne quote and the Olympics analogy. Well said.

      More broadly, Michele, good to hear from you again! Thank you for this thoughtful and helpful comment. My key takeaway from it will be the “process vs. goal.” I was talking about the broader themes of this post with someone last night, and I was finally able to separate the goal of getting my memoir published from the process of doing so. I think part of my problem has been–and this sounds silly even as I type it–that I viewed the process sequentially, i.e., I had to get the publishing contract before I could fully move on to other projects. I have in fact been pursuing other writing projects and tasks, but not with much investment of either time or creative juice. My process should have those separate goals–the publication of the memoir and all of my other writing project ambitions–as separate tracks. If the memoir finds a publisher this month, great. If it takes a year, so be it. Just keep on with other things. So simple, yet I haven’t really “seen” it.


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  12. This is such an important topic for all artists to think about and be aware of. Who doesn’t feel the bite of envy or resentment at some point while struggling to reach their own goals? Two things have helped me immensely with that over the years. 1) I have a mantra: “The success of others is not my failure.” 2) I’ve learned to genuinely celebrate the successes of others. It sounds strange, but this takes something akin to practice. But the more I do it, the happier I feel, and the easier it becomes to celebrate others without diminishing myself. I’ve never taken a Facebook break, but I know many people who have, and some who do on a regular basis and swear by it. It’s good to do what feels right to you!


    1. Thank you, Annie. Your mantra echoes the Donne quote Michelle shared above. And it’s a good philosophy. It’s also one that I’d like to think I’ve practiced for the most part. That’s why it’s been particularly troubling to me that it’s been harder for me to do so recently. But if you’re out of work for a year, and a newly unemployed friend gets a job right away, even if it’s a job in which you have no interest it’s natural to feel some envy even as you’re excited for her. So your “practice” in some way has you going against what I suspect are natural human tendencies.


  13. Ah! Patrick, the winter of our discontent. You write with great clarity on a subject that I’m sure all creative types struggle with. When I commented on you one other time I mentioned that “I have a rejection clause built into every painting, poem and piece of writing”, and this I believe in. In no way does this mean my work is less adequate than others’ work. What it does mean is that I now have to work harder, not for the reader and not for the viewer but for myself. I find that when I work for the sheer pleasure of myself, my best work comes. I wish you great success with your work but you and I both understand that the public will find another love next week and that is just fine. The work remains your(our) own forever and signifies a time of life. Try writing for you.B


    1. “I find that when I work for the sheer pleasure of myself, my best work comes.” This line really resonates with me. When I look back on the process of writing the memoir during my MFA program, it’s clear now–as I’m pitching it–that some of the decisions I made perhaps reduced the work’s commercial potential. Yet those decisions did in fact lead to my best writing. So I can’t regret those decisions. I have to know that those decisions helped me grow as a writer and produce work I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to produce, and I can move forward with those lessons learned, all the while still making an effort to find that product a home.

      Thank you for the reminder on the rejection clause! I recall that comment and was quite struck by it.


  14. I sympathize with the points you’re making and appreciate your honesty in saying what often goes unsaid. It IS hard not to get envious and depressed when others around us are succeeding. But I think you’re on the right track when you say it’s best to compete only against yourself.

    At first I was surprised to hear someone as accomplished as you say struggle with the twin demons of envy and depression. But upon further reflection, it’s not surprising at all–I think most writers have these struggles.

    Also interesting to see how many commenters think FB is unhelpful. I’ve been wondering about it for a while now.


    1. Thank you, Ellen. I “led” with Facebook because I thought it would be a provocative opening, but I then acknowledged that the problem really was with myself. And I believe that. But Facebook is almost too much a reflection of ourselves, the good and the bad; reflection perhaps isn’t right, maybe more empowerment and amplification of same. So ego, id, all of that gets boosted, for good or ill.

      Thank you for thinking whatever success I’ve achieved has made me immune to envy and depression! 🙂 I love the thought. But all you have to do is read Joan Didion to see that such thoughts are in fact universal.


  15. What was that movie with the quote ” Build it and they will come”. May have been Field of Dreams. If it’s good and if it’s needed and maybe if it’s trendy; they will buy.Good luck Patrick. B


  16. Wow, Patrick. What a gutsy post – to admit what so many of us have felt at some point in our creative careers. You know, I used to derive a great deal of positive inspiration and motivation from watching the success of others who are also chasing the fiction dream. But, as the years go by and I’m still working toward the big goal, those announcements of others’ successes DO start to sour a little. While I AM genuinely happy for the success of others, it’s hard not to wonder, ‘When will it be my time?’ And somehow, going back to the awards I won for “other” writing years ago, just don’t motivate me much. So what do I do to beat the blues? Keep writing, keep pushing forward, keep improving, keep entering contests, keep believing. (Like you, though, I’ve cut back considerably on social media).

    PS What’s this is see in your comment to Jessica about moving back to sunny AZ? Wouldn’t blame you ONE bit.


    1. “Keep writing, keep pushing forward, keep improving, keep entering contests, keep believing.” That seems to be the key. I’ve just started to look into various writing contests and calls for submissions to see what would work either for pieces I’ve written or have close to completion, or works I might want to write for a particular call or contest. The very possibility is starting to help with my mood.

      No to moving back to AZ, at least for the next three years (how much longer I have in my current job and how long my son will still be in high school). We are looking to do a run-to-the-sun winter vacation in Phoenix next year, however!


  17. Hi, Patrick!
    I’ve been thinking about your post since yesterday, and see that quite a few people have joined this discussion. Obviously, this is not a problem you (or I) suffer alone, which in itself does bring solace. Lately, when faced with the envies, as many here have said, I concentrate on my focus. In fact, this is my “working meditation” for the year. It probably doesn’t sound very profound, but for me, recognizing that it was one thing to say the word, and another to live within its fullest meaning, was another. In fact, when I need to remind myself to focus, I generally add the tag-line, “direction of your gaze.” I remind myself that focus is not just a matter of will and intention, but of where I look. And I find that the closer I bring that gaze to home, the more satisfied I am. Finally, one other thing I have undertaken this year is a lifelong project that I never expect to publish or finish. I have begun copying by hand the text of my favorite novel. I know! What?! I have heard this recommended for years and never had any interest in it, but began the task and find it extremely powerful. I have tweaked this practice by also engaging in a critical relationship with the work as I write it out. In other words, I copied the first sentence of the text and then spent many, many pages writing about what makes that sentence work, and also a bit of rambling discourse, cause why not? No one is ever going to read it, and I will never finish it. It has been a lovely thing to return to my primary relationship with story and language, and I have found it to be quite settling against that wandering gaze.


    1. “I remind myself that focus is not just a matter of will and intention, but of where I look.” I’ve done a fair amount of reading and study over the years on self-actualization and don’t believe I’ve come across that exact perspective, at least not articulated that way, but I like it.

      I think your hand-copy of your favorite novel is brilliant. I learned in my MFA program how important it is to micro-analyze a great writer’s craft; I can’t think of a better way. The essay I won a CNF award for, “September 12th,” started with me taking a great James Baldwin essay and diagramming on my white board wall his structure, down to the paragraph. That was the template in which I began telling my story. It evolved from there into its own structure and flow, but I still owe a lot to Baldwin for getting me started; uncertainty about how to structure the piece is what had held me back from starting it.


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  19. Facebook is poison, Patrick. There, I’ve been gone and said it! I ran screaming in the direction of away from Facebook several years ago, and it’s probably the best thing I ever did. Haven’t missed it for a single second. If I want to hang out with authors and other people I admire I prefer to do it via forums and blogs – like this one – where I’m guaranteed a better quality of social exchange. 🙂

    I think the trouble with using other people as ‘targets’ (in the sense of wanting to ‘match’ their greatness) is that they’re always moving; by the time you’ve reached their milestone for yourself, they’ve moved on to even bigger things and you’re left feeling like you have to play catch-up all over again. For the type-A people that’s invigorating and what keeps them running after that ball – but for the rest of us it’s just plain exhausting and, yes, depressing. There’s room for everyone to be fantastic in their own, special way, and while admiring how much fantastic other people have is a wonderful thing, measuring it in a jar and then fretting over getting your jar filled up to the same amount of fantastic is just sucking the pleasure out of what should be a learning journey for all of us. Life is about climbing the mountains, not winning the beauty contests. (The views are a lot more awesome, for a start. 🙂 )

    Keep using that SAD light, Patrick – spring will be here soon. And be kind to yourself. Your blog is always a source of inspiration and honesty that we all value here, and no-one can take that away from you. Not even that ego-crushing Facebook. 🙂


    1. Re: Facebook, please tell us how you really feel!

      I love your observation about moving targets re: chasing others. It’s like when someone plays fetch with a dog and fake-throws the ball, so the dog takes off with no ability to achieve its mission.

      Thank you so much for saying this blog is a source of inspiration and honesty. It took me quite awhile with this blog to realize that by chronicling with complete honesty my pursuit of an art-committed life–its ups and its downs–I could connect with amazing creatives such as you and others who visit here. It’s quite a delight, and as good as any SAD light.


  20. I am SO glad you wrote this, and boy can I relate — I was just lamenting to another writer this morning about feeling this exact same way after seeing one (more) Facebook announcement about one more book (of many). Part of the problem for me is that people are SO. OVER. THE. TOP. (and the Facebook movies drove that home, I agree) I always wonder if I’d be the same… I truly hope not and not (only) because I might make someone feel bad. It’s also because I hate that performative show-offy side of social networking — not just about books but about kids and everything — as you say, it leads to true depression and narcicissm and envy. We only ever see the good stuff and it’s hard to constantly feel like you don’t have as much good stuff (or more bad stuff) than all those perfectly perfect people. As for the target idea, I’m with you: it would never work for me. Focusing my anger on one person rather than on the writing would be counterproductive in the long run.

    To me, the only thing that ever truly makes me feel better or motivated is to write. And that I’ve found is the only antidote to my self doubt, my envy, as well as my only path to my hopes and dreams.

    Thanks a million for writing this, Patrick. You truly made my day by making me feel less alone in my feelings.


    1. Wow, Julia, I couldn’t get a more satisfying comment than that. I’m so glad this post spoke to you and was of use to you. You share with others the recognition that the act of writing can get you through these emotions; of course the emotions can be paralyzing and thus retard the ability to start writing. So hang in there and keep doing what you’re doing!


  21. Such an honest post. It’s so natural to want to announce the good news and when times are rough we go quiet. Maybe we will write about those hard times one day – when things are better! But to write honestly in the middle of the struggle is brave, and the realness of it will move people more than a hundred happy posts.


    1. Thank you, Joanna. Like with Julia’s comment, you’ve helped me feel good about posting this, which as you can suspect wasn’t easy to do. I would have preferred to write the “I’m a big shot now, but rest assured I had my struggles!” post; I suppose one way of looking at it is that I should keep moving forward with the intention of someday writing that post!


  22. Writing is often seen as a sedate, peaceful process that leads to adulation, almost limitless success and a general sense of well being. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like acting it has a high failure rate, assuming failure is judged by the all-too-common rejections of editors. Rejection happens. Actually, rejection happens a lot. But that is no reason to avoid writing, just as being rejected at an audition for being to tall, too short, too bald, too hairy, to ethnic, not ethnic enough, and any number of other reasons is no reason to give up on acting. If you love it, do it. You will improve. You will still gather rejections, but you will know why you write with greater clarity with each passing year.

    Ultimately the only acceptance a writer needs is his or her own. The embrace of a reader or two is wonderful, too. But if we like the work we produce, we’ve done our job. If others like it, we’re may earn a dollar – which would be nice. But income is not the measure of any art form, passion is. So be passionate, accept the bumps in the road, and hope for the best while you do your work. That’s got to be enough, or the prospective writer should find something else to do with their time.


    1. Hi Jamie, thank you for this. You’re spot-on in your characterization of writing, and what a writer ultimately needs in terms of acceptance. I will say, however, that I treat writing differently from some other hobbies or passions I have that I may take pride in. Someone can be an excellent gardener and no one can ever see their garden, but they can claim satisfaction from their output regardless. Writing, however, needs to be read. So I think it’s different from some other passions in that sense. This isn’t about money or fame, but it’s about the needs of the words themselves, if that makes any sense.


  23. I tend to view the writer’s I know and respect as a community. We’re scattered all over the country, but still, I think of us as a community of similarly skilled craftsmen (and craftswomen) who produce a startlingly diverse body of work when viewed collectively. As counter-intuitive as it may appear, I get a great deal of satisfaction from promoting the work of those writers, some of whom I have never met in person. But Kevin Garrison, Sam Torode, John Blumenthal, Robert Matzen and others have been great friends to me, sharing insights, experiences, frustrations and hopes. Those are the personal and emotional bits of life that cause a disparate group to form into a true community. Or at least that’s how I see it. So I continue to promote their work even as I produce and promote my own. It gives me a sense of satisfaction. Maybe it’s a celebration of friendship. I can’t say for sure. But I believe in it just the same. Oh, if only we were all so willing to help those we care for. What a wonderful thing that would be.


    1. I love this second comment of yours, Jamie. Your vision of community is exactly right. Of course communities can have envy within them, but in a true community, the success of one lifts the entire community, and when you hold that mindset everyone benefits.


  24. Ditto. I “feel” your pain. It even hits me when reading other blogs and see the successes that still linger just out of my reach. But honestly I have to always go back to where I began and what the source is. I create becuse I NEED to. It is, ultimately for me, the reason I write. And if others find beauty in it or someday would pay me for something I have done, it would be glorious. I thought I could write a wonderful novel and I feel my writing is very good; and yet I haven’t gotten the positive feedback I had hoped for. Still, I keep plugging along, knowing there are factors beyond our control as well, such as public interest and demand. You are a terrific writer. Have you looked around? There are SO many people out there writing books about everything. No argument about Facebook from me. I can’t do it. All my best to you.


    1. I am very grateful for this comment, for your honesty and your kindness. I also admire that you just keep plugging along. With every word you write you will improve, and the feedback will improve as well.

      And yes, there are a lot of people out there writing books about everything! No reason we can’t be among them.


  25. Thanks for this, Patrick. I’ll be thinking of it as I make my way to AWP tomorrow… I too have made a leap from writing with relatively immediate publishing reward to slogging forward in new genres. It’s a lonely biz and trying on the psyche. But there’s a lot to love about the process itself, and I feel lucky to be able to devote so much life to stories (and stories to life)! Cheers ~


    1. Thank you, Kristin. Enjoy AWP; I’m taking a break from it this year but will miss seeing old friends and making new ones. I have to agree there’s a lot to love about the process; this blog tells that story, and there are many positive posts here as well. Have a great conference!


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  27. Thanks for writing this – indeed, you’re not alone. If you or others need a dose of “it could be worse” comparison, please empathize with those of us living in Minnesota where Worst Winter Ever records have been broken several times over. (I think we’d give even Laura Ingalls Wilder a run for her money.) Though I’ve managed to limit my TV-viewing (and in doing so have not one but TWO novel drafts in edit mode now), I am still a sucker for following tweets and Facebook posts detailing vacations of friends and strangers. With no vacation planned (stupid, I know), I have to think maybe by April, it will get better. And when it does, I’ll be that much more grateful and happier than I ever thought I could be. And by then, I may have lost the desire to share my Outdoor Happy Selfies with others.


    1. For now you can just imagine how great it will feel to take that Outdoor Happy Selfie, even if you don’t share it. I just taught an online class with The Loft Literary Center, and many of the students live in Minnesota (not surprisingly). I’ve learned a bit about how rough things have been there for you this year.

      I’m writing this in my bathrobe in my basement, looking out at what will eventually be about 12 inches of snow here in the DC suburbs. My employer is closed today, which I suppose is nice (yet another day off), but I’m done with it. Yesterday I told my wife “Let’s just start driving south and we’ll stop when it’s warm.” I was serious, but then reality returned. Would we bring our teenage son or would he prefer to stay behind? When would we come back? We’d both have to return, of course, because we have jobs and lives. And we’d return to a house and driveway buried in snow. So we’re here, counting the days until spring.

      Hang in there!


  28. Dennis

    I’m afraid the problem that Facebook creates goes even deeper than eliciting envy. The psychologist Leon Festinger proposed that we evaluate our beliefs and abilities by comparing ourselves to others. These others tend to be people we perceive as similar. This is how we come to define the self and how we find our place in the social order. On Facebook we are confronted with curated images of our friends and acquaintances. We cannot help but to compare ourselves to these online personas and the comparison usually does not do us any favors. We don’t have as much fun as our friends seem to have in their vacation pictures. We struggle at work and read online about a friend’s promotion. These comparisons do not simply makes a envious. They can create fundamental insecurities about who we are and where we belong. Can I really call myself a writer if my writer friends publish left and right while I’m struggling with my manuscript? Am I failing as a parent or partner if my friends post family pictures that are dripping with joy and harmony?


    1. Well, now I’m even more depressed!

      Dennis, you’ve hit on something that I’ve reflected on related to my blog. Many of my recent posts have focused on frustrations I’m having as a writer. The conceit of this blog is the challenges and rewards of an art-committed life, and lately it’s been more challenge than reward. I would also like, however, to share rewards with my readers when they occur, and I have done so in the past. But your comment suggests that doing so could elicit the same reaction in my blog readers that you outline here related to the curated Facebook posts. Taken as a whole, this blog would not be considered self-gratulatory, but that individual post would. It’s a delicate thing.

      I like your “curated” comment, however. I do believe that on Facebook we are more inclined to filter out the not-so-good. It’s only natural that we would want to present the best of us, after all. You and I are looking at it from the perspective of the person viewing that stream. Perhaps the person posting that stream improves his or her own self image, and thus is more equipped to handle the inevitable feelings of falling short when viewing those other images of his or her peers. And perhaps my problem with Facebook is that I don’t really post a whole lot, so there is a disproportionate number of posts I’m viewing vs. my own.

      I’m going to look up Leon Festinger to learn more.


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