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. M. L. Kappa says:

    Too true!🌺

  2. Bernadette says:

    Wise words that can be applied to many aspects of life.

    1. They could, true.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    Easy to understand, but sad. I try to just write because I want to write. Then again, I haven’t slaved over anything for more than a couple of days.

    1. Hey its true: slaving is not the happiest mindset!

  4. Val says:

    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…

    1. We’re winning when we write for the joy of writing. But I am delighted to see Bob Dylan win the Nobel Prize for Literature …

  5. So very well put, Rachel. There are many ways writers can be rewarded —having someone read your book is one of them. Prizes would be last on my list!

    1. That is lucky! Yes, it is fabulous when someone reads and loves your work.

  6. Robyn Haynes says:

    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.

    1. Good work! And what a sensible policy. To feel entitled is almost like a gambling problem.

      1. Robyn Haynes says:

        Half the population suffers

      2. And it all begins with Monopoly.

  7. Gail Rehbein says:

    Now that’s the perfect post for me to finish my blog reading on for this morning and get writing!
    Thanks Rachel 🙂

    1. That’s funny– go for it

  8. candidkay says:

    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:).

    1. We do and we have our moments in the sun

      1. candidkay says:

        Those are golden!

  9. Aunt Beulah says:

    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.

  10. Perfect! Writing is so close to our hearts, so tangled up with our identities, it’s not surprising that a sense of entitlement is an occupational hazard.

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