The open book: what writers don’t tell writers about writing (part 2)

Caren Gussoff Sumption
6 min readDec 14, 2020
Photo by Ángel López on Unsplash

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) on professional envy.

I made two embarrassing errors:
~ I called it jealousy, when I should have called it envy. Jealousy is when you fear someone covets what you already have. Envy is when you covet what others have.
~ I was trying, still, to be a bit cutesy about the whole thing. I’d never had a straight conversation with anyone about envy, and I was, frankly, nervous. I held back a bit.

Revisiting it, though, the gist of it holds true. Envy is a big, ugly secret. But it’s a normal part of a writing career. I encourage you to take a look at where I started the conversation, then come back to these addenda — the subtext and the even bigger, uglier, normal bits I’m going to blab.

Bleed? Blab.

Anyway, here’s the original post:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Publishing is a zero sum game, sorta.

Writing is infinite. But the business is…mostly…not.

I know. I’m contradicting what I said in Part Two of my SFWA post. But I am positing that both sentiments are true. There is no single saucepan of success AND there are only so many eyeballs, so many publishers and magazines, so many awards and grants and fellowships. Sure, new ones pop up all the time, and the gates around publishing have crumbled, making way for a kind of amazing, chaotic democracy. When I say there are finite resources, I’m still talking those which are, as they say, “career-making.” The “pedigree” stuff.

I’m not a snob. I’m a big believer in getting work out, even to bitty places, because your work does you no good on your hard drive where no one can see it*. We write to be read. However, when it comes to…reality, and making a living, it’s hard to argue with a story in The New Yorker, a Nebula, or NEA — which are finite resources (see what I mean?). So, in a sense, it is zero sum: someone else winning means I have not won.

Envy is a mindfuck.

Caren Gussoff Sumption

Writer, dabbler, bon vivant. Nerdy words for nerdy people.