I lurk on a writers board where a few of the posters are subtly competitive with the other writers. Every time I read their posts, I can't help but feel bummed out. A) Because they're quite successful writers and b) because it makes me think that this is a dog-eat-dog industry, and that writers work against each other to get to the top. So...there is a question in here somewhere...have you found this to be true? And if so, how have you dealt with it?
Okay, well, first of all, there are a few things to address here. The fact that their posts bum you out is the first issue. I've said this before and I'll just reiterate: in order to thrive in the publishing industry, you need to develop a thick skin. So what if these a-holes are posting snarky, holier-than-thou advice and posts? So what if they're successful writers? Whether or not they're rude OR successful has absolutely no bearing on whether or not YOU could be successful. I can't reiterate this enough. Don't get me wrong, I loathe competitive writers (more on that below), but what I might loathe even more than competitive writers are jealous writers...and yes, you do see plenty of them in our industry. But here's the thing that both sets of groups need to learn: there is more than enough work to go around, and if you're armed with either chip on your shoulder - the ridiculously competitive one or the ridiculously envious one - you're likely to sink yourself, not your competition. Rather than salivating over another writer's portfolio or workload, why not send him or her a note and ask her how she does it? Or ask her if she's willing to mentor you? Or ask her if she can refer you to a good book on writing.
(Actually, let me amend that. I get plenty of random notes from friends of friends of friends who want to pick my brain. And most of the time, I don't mind. However, there are correct ways to go about this and incorrect ways to go about it, and...you know what? This is another blog entry entirely. I'm going to save this for later in the week, and will offer up pointers on how to approach successful writers. Because I'm going off on a huge tangent right now and not answering the original question.)
Anyhoo, to get back to writers competing with other writers. Yes, some folks do this. And yes, it's unfortunate. And yes, I think they're assholes. Why do they do it? Well, I'm not a Ph.D, but I'd guess that it's similar to the reason that underendowed men drive overly-fancy sports cars: in other words, compensation, my friends, compensation. Not compensation for the fact that they're unsuccessful. In fact many of these writers are in the top professional tier. Rather compensation for their poor self-esteem. They're not really different than the bully who taunted people on the playground back in grade school. Only these writers are savvier and more subtle in how they attempt to degrade you and in doing so, make themselves feel better. So...the point of this above paragraph? Their competitiveness has everything to do with themselves and nothing to do with you. Period.
The good news is that there are PLENTY of writers out there who, while competitive, are primarily competitive with themselves, not with others. What does this mean? It means that as a writer, I'm constantly pushing myself to be the best writer that I can be, and I fully understand that this is the only thing that I can control. In fact, many of my writer friends are more than happy to refer me to editors, to help me flesh out an idea, to offer assistance in promoting my book. And you can bet your butt that I do the same for them all the time. Because, seriously, if they come up with a kick-ass idea for, say, Glamour, it's not as if they're pushing out my idea or my slot in the magazine. Their kick-ass idea is their kick-ass idea, and if an editor loves it, then she loves it. See how this has nothing to do with me? And only with the success of my friend? What lands me a story is when I come up with a kick-ass idea: her good fortune isn't tied to my bad fortune at all. And in fact, I'm always thrilled for my friends and colleagues when they do well because it's a sign that a) they're awesome (hee!) and b) I can learn something from them.
Why not all writers feel this way is beyond me, but some don't. That said, I don't know how different this is from any other field: my husband knows plenty of jealous, competitive people in his industry, and we've all surely encountered plenty of petty folks in all walks of life. So my advice? Bunker down and be a great writer. You're the one who will have the last laugh. (Not that you should be laughing since you're not competitive! Ahem.)
So how do you deal with snarky, competitive people?