I hate your book because it’s too good

Gil: I would like you to read my novel and get your opinion.

Ernest Hemingway: I hate it.

Gil: You haven’t even read it yet.

Ernest Hemingway: If it’s bad, I’ll hate it. If it’s good, then I’ll be envious and hate it even more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.

 215px-Midnight_in_Paris_PosterThat’s from a scene out of Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen. I was watching it the other day because I’m researching Paris for my next book and this little exchange interested me.

I’m wondering if other people (specifically, other writers) feel like that. I can’t say I’ve ever had that feeling when reading something sensational.

I’ve certainly felt an overwhelming sense of my own failure and depression when thinking I could never, ever, possibly, in a hundred years write anything that wonderful. My work is crap, I’ll think. Why should I bother when it has to compete with something like this? (Voice in my head rising to hysterical notes, flapping the book in my face.)

But of course we know that all art is subjective and our own inner critics are our worst enemies. One of my favourite life and spiritual gurus out there is Julia Cameron, author of the worldwide bestseller, The Artist’s Way. (A book that changed my life, by the way. I’ll definitely add it to my cupcake list.)

“You pick up a magazine… and somebody, somebody you know, has gone further, faster, toward your dream. Instead of saying, “That proves it can be done,” your fear will say, “He or she will succeed instead of me.””

All envy is fear. Simple. Fear that we’re not good enough, which is the challenge of every artist.

So I say, be fearful. Be angry. Be resentful. Be envious. Be depressed. Be whatever it is you feel when reading something fantastic. But only for a day.

Then get excited. Because your story is still waiting to be told and only you can tell it, your way.

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