Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Battlefield Casualties, Hair, and Books

Leisha here.

Okay, so I was supposed to post last week. Ahem. Yes, I'm just a tad behind, but my week blew up.


What was left? Only all my good intentions strewn from Monday to Saturday like battlefield casualties. It was messy. Gory even. I tried to do triage, but a few good intentions died a tragic death. Sob.

So, here I am trying to make up for eviscerated intentions. In doing so I will talk about hair. Yes, hair.

I have hair. Pretty decent hair, even. But here's the thing, I'm kind of a competitive person. Not beat-you-up-if-you-win-at-Pictionary kind of competitive, mind you, just the I-want-to-win kind. Normally this isn't a problem unless I play Risk with my hubby. (That has only happened twice in twenty years for a VERY good reason. It was not pretty. Either time.) But I digress. Hair.

The other day my cousin and I were talking about her daughter's hair. Apparently it is thick and luxurious. I'm ashamed to admit I had hair envy. Mine is long and thick-ish, but, strangely and quite suddenly, I wanted my hair to be more thick and more luxurious and take bigger elastics to hold it back in a pony tail than my cousin's daughter's. See? Hair envy and competitiveness galore. And, yes, I may need therapy. Sigh.

Anywho, I, being a grown-up person, took a deep breath and admitted--out loud--that my hair wasn't as thick as my cousin's daughter's.

My cousin, who probably didn't know that I had been struck by competitive hair envy, went on with the conversation like nothing astounding had happened. BUT something astounding had happened.

"What?" I hear you say as you lean closer to your computer screen in eager anticipation.

This happened: My admission set me free.


From hair envy.

Go figure.

I,  strangely and quite suddenly, no longer needed to have better hair. I remembered I was very fond of my hair. I liked how it grew out of my head. I liked the color. I liked the thickness. I liked how long it was. I even liked to twirl it around my finger looking for dead ends in church when the speaker was boring.

I liked it just how it was.

Then an even more astounding thing happened, which my cousin probably didn't know about either. I realized I had book envy.

I wanted my book(s) to be better and thicker and yummier than every other book in the whole freaking world. I wanted it to appeal to everyone. In every genre. I wanted it to be loved by every age group. I wanted every agent to weep when they read it. I wanted editors to hear angelic trumpets when it landed in their in box. I wanted it to be the best book ever. And I even wanted all those other books to know it.

Competitive book envy.

Now, hair envy is dangerous. It can lead to all kinds of craziness, like wigs and baldness, but book envy is worse.  It can lead to dead ends, unfinished drafts, and traumatized critique groups. It can lead right to battlefield casualties of the literary kind. It can paralyze you, the writer, and keep you from writing your truth. It can keep you from seeing your book for what it is.

My book will never be the Great American Novel. It will never be Leo Tolstoy or Shakespeare. It won't ever be Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, or Megan Whalen Turner. It will never be so many things because it was never meant to be those things. It was meant to be mine. My own. And I like it for what it is, even with all its flaws, and especially for all its potential.

Admitting that somehow set me free.

How about you? Have you been emancipated? Do you ever suffer from competitive book envy? Or hair envy? Or battlefield casualties?

How do you cope? What sets you free?


  1. That was great Leisha! Thanks. Now I have blog post envy...
    Seriously, I have a serious problem with this. I'm still deeply ashamed of the negative review I posted on one of Shannon Hale's books on Amazon. I'M SOOOO SORRY! I LOVE YOU, SHANNON! I WAS ONLY JEALOUS! Don't bother going to look for this review, people, I took it down once I came to my senses.
    We're all a bunch of book critics at my house. We read stuff and sit around and talk about what's wrong with it, as if the authors could have written a perfect book if they really tried. That makes me wonder, if I'm so smart, then how come I haven't sold a manuscript yet?
    Lately I've been doing a lot of wondering why I thought I knew how to do this. What made me think I could write a book? A really great book? The kind of book I've hunted for all my life? If no one else can seem to do it, then what's so special about me to make me think I can?
    But I can write the right book for me. No other author has my storytelling priorities. It is up to me to craft the book that has all the traits I love best. Now as to whether those are the traits the population at large will love best, or even the literary agents I'm submitting to... that remains to be seen. Maybe I'll write a book specially just for them later. First, I got to write this one for me.

    1. Rebecca, I've done that, too. I am, and always will be, ashamed as well. I was younger(ish) and jealous and stupid. How I wish I could take back my words. I hate hindsight.

      But, like you said, it is up to each of us to write the book that is right for us. Here's to freedom!

  2. Ah yes, guilty. Both for hair and book envy. Harry Potter sent me reeling (and it doesn't hurt that J.K. Rowling has wonderful straight hair that always behaves). Then Hunger Games came out and after being completely impressed, the green-eyed monster came out. Yup, I wish I could write books like that. And yes, you are right - I need to be stop being envious (doubt it will work) and just write the best book I'm capable of. Wise words. Great post!

    1. It's so hard to not compare. Sigh. But I know awesome books live in each of us. :)

  3. I haven't had full-on book envy, but I have had style envy. I like flowery English prose like Rowling, Gaiman and Wynne-Jones, but my natural style is more sparse like Scott Card. I've even tried to change my style, but I realize you can only change so much before you kill it. So instead of committing prose-i-cide I've just tried to be more honest in how I write. To let the best me fall onto the page.

    I think envy can inspire you to improve, to a point, but it is dangerous to play with. O_o

    1. I LOVE the term prose-i-cide. I'm still grinning. And good point that admiring something can inspire too. :)

  4. I do love this post Leisha - very well said! Your hair is pretty dang great as it is my friend...and your book(s) too!

    1. Awww, you are the best! Thanks so much. :)

  5. Funny and provocative read. Yes, I've had hair envy (even though at past times in my life people envied my hair). I've certainly had book-envy. I even have phrase or sentence-envy when I'm reading and think "DAMN, that was good, wish I'd written that!" HOpefully it just inspires me to write something nearly as good, as opposed to turning me into a bitter old crab. Time will tell. :)

    1. Oh, sentence envy! Yup, had that, too. Sigh, so much to inspire us, isn't there?


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