That sense of entitlement: an enemy of joy-writing


What blocks you from really enjoying the act of writing? I can think of at least a dozen things that stop the joy in its tracks, and one is a sense of entitlement. It’s a killer.

I encountered this phenomenon very early in my writing life. Barely had my first book of poetry been published than I was befriended by a bunch of poets, nice people, some brilliant, all kindly disposed and helpful to this newbie writer.

But there was an under-current to our friendship that deeply puzzled me. Whenever literary awards and prizes were discussed, a grumbling and a mumbling surged up. And I found that some of these nice people were making themselves sick with envy and resentment.

After forty years of observing the processes and culture around book prizes and fellowships and scholarships and what-nots, I understand something. So hear me, all ye unhappy writers.

  • Prizes are awarded by judges. Judges have strong personal opinions. Judges may not agree. That’s the norm.
  • No prize is yours by right.
  • You slave away year after year over your books. Don’t do it in the hope of prizes. Prizes may come your way. Or not.
  • If you assume that you deserve a literary award and therefore you ought to get one, you will make yourself miserable, and nobody else will care.

There. Go forth and have a good time with your marvellous gift!



20 thoughts on “That sense of entitlement: an enemy of joy-writing

  1. Very sensible words.
    I used to write, Rachel, til I decided that it and I weren’t suited to each other. But prizes never came into my head… I think that would have frightened me, the idea that I might ‘have’ to achieve something that would be judged by people supposedly above me…

  2. Thanks Rachel. We all need to be reminded of this. When accolades in the form of writing prizes didn’t come my way I thought about why I chose to write. I was surprised to discover it’s something I do regardless of any outside reinforcement. I think I may have killed that green beast! Or at least put it on a leash.

  3. I always say, some of us have audiences of tens and others of millions. The impact is not necessarily in our hands, right? We just show up and do the work:).

  4. Such true and rational words, Rachel. Fortunately, a wise friend shared the same ideas with me when I first started writing; and I paid attention. So when envy starts to well up in me, I battle it back and get on with doing what I enjoy: writing.

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.