During one of my rare wanders into my mum’s room she happened to switch the TV over to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. My mum has never seen the films and never read the books but she gets the gist of it – it’s about magic. She said, in true Scottish flare, “Tell you what, she’s got some imagination, eh?” Obviously referring to J. K. Rowling (who is somewhat responsible for a flood in annoying notifications on my twitter, but I won’t hold it against her).

Then I remembered something I felt when reading Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Writer’s envy.

That’s when you read a book and wish you had been talented enough to write something as amazing as what you’ve just put down. I pretty much get that with every book/fic I read (almost) because there are so many talented people out there but with writer’s like J. K. Rowling I don’t think I can be blamed. While there had been other books about magic, Rowling and Harry Potter changed children’s books forever. Harry Potter became almost an household name, at least in Britain.

This is where you might expect me to talk about how jealous I am of the amount of money Rowling made, the recognition she got (and still gets) for it and the quirks, like the theme park. But when I think of the books, you might not believe me but, I don’t care how much money she made or Warner Bros for that matter, I don’t. I think about the sheer talent of creating a story like that, a story with so many layers and possibilities, a story with the power to infiltrate a generation and stay in their hearts, a story that so many people know, relate to and love.

A story like none other before.

I won’t apologise for being envious of J. K. Rowling’s talent, just like I won’t apologise for being envious of Ian Rankin, Carole E. Barrowman, Kevin Bridges, Jacqueline Wilson or any other of the author’s that I have read and thought wow, that is the perfect way to word it or jeez that’s a brilliant scene. Or any other little thought over the years. I won’t make excuses for it, some people may say that being envious of a writer is pathetic, it’s childish and like pouting.

To that I’ll tell you something Phillip Pullman said, (not a quote because I can’t find the exact wording), but he said that he had stolen something from every book he had ever read. Reading that you might think I’m discussing plagiarism but I’m not, he’s talking about inspiration and learning, about recognising something in a piece of work and using it as a lesson on how to improve or just change up the way you write.

When I feel envious of an author for a story it’s not in a snap the book shut and snarl way, it’s in a ugh, I wish I could write like this way.

When I first read Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago I didn’t like it, the ending to me felt like a let down. I’ve read it since and liked it a bit more but it still felt like an anticlimax. Even though I wasn’t a fan of it I took particular notice of his writing style; the book read like a statement after some kind of tragedy and investigation into it’s handling; the wording was matter of fact and without emotion until he zoomed right in to the various people’s lives the story touched on; the sentences were too long, for my liking anyway; then add to that that there were no speech marks in any of it, just a lot of commas and guessing where speech began and ended, but I have to admit that doing so was easier that it should been in theory. The only time it felt less like a chore to read was when it was from the perspective of death herself, (the ‘d’ is not capitalised for a reason which is discussed in the book).

My point in diverging like this is that, in both books I love and books I’m not fond of I find reasons to be envious and, like Phillip Pullman, whether it be what I could try or what not to do, I use those objects of my jealousy to learn and improve.

So, in the way that Bruce Banner eventually learns to live with The Hulk or the other guy, I guess I’ve found a way to live with my own green-eyed monster.


3 thoughts on “Envy

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I often feel like that too, and I like to call it “amicably envious.” A couple years ago I was at the Harry Potter park at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. As I was sitting on the on the main ride, waiting for it to begin, I thought, “I bet JK Rowling had no idea what her story would become when she wrote the first line.” It’s amazing to think about all the things her story and characters have evolved into. More power to her, I say. What a wonderful story world.

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