It's the elephant in the room, the thing that all writer's feel, but most don't own up to: writer jealousy. Some other writer is ahead of you on the path to publication, to perfecting voice or craft, to the New York Times Best Seller list and it eats at you--especially if in the moment that you hear about their good fortune, you're nursing your own wounds after a particularly awful rejection. You can be jealous of someone you don't even know or of your critique partner of many years and it can be hard to rise above it.
I feel your pain.
I've been there.
I still go there.
Sometimes I pick up a book that's so well written that I want to simultaneously hug and slap the author. I love them for creating something so beautiful, unique, and wonderful, but I also wish that I could've come up with it myself. Inside at times I'm still three, fighting the urge to run up to the unsuspecting toddler beside me and take the toy that's practically glowing in her chubby little hands and yell: MINE!--nevermind that I never saw or was interested in that toy before he got his paws on it. It's not right, it's not mature, but it's the truth.
(If about now you are reading this open-mouthed, one hand touching your lips like you can't believe how nasty I am...stop reading...this post is not for you. But if you are smiling and nodding and giggling to yourself...you are family, stay, have some tea with me and we'll compare our very large green-eyed monsters.)
The truth is no matter what stage of writing you're in there is someone who's doing better than you and it's hard not to let their success take away from where you are. If you're just getting started writing, you may envy the person three years into the process or someone who started earlier in life than you. If you're agented, it may be the author who's already out on submission while you spend months doing revisions. If you're out on submission, it might be the friend who gets an offer the very week they go out on submission--for six figures--and it's their very first manuscript. If you're published it may be the person who pubbed when you did who has a better cover and marketing plan and who's book is climbing every single list out there. Or the person who wrote a book that is just so well written that it wins the prize you secretly covet-- as well as many more.There is someone to be jealous of at every single stage of this process. You will never be so successful that someone doesn't do something that you wish you'd done or could do.
I used to think that when I got an agent and a publishing deal I wouldn't experience it anymore, but unfortunately getting these things hasn't suddenly made me impervious. If anything I have moments of sheer and utter terror that I won't be able to maintain what I've managed to get--I'll flub my next book or never have another marketable/unique idea. And this insecurity leaves the door wide open for my green-eyed beastie. Every other writer around me seems to be more talented, more creative and better at this whole profession than me and more deserving of what I have. I don't feel this sudden confidence and it sometimes leads to me thinking that those other writers I mentioned must be more confident, nmore talendted, more blessed than me and how nice it must feel to be them. Jealousy rears it's ugly head. And if I let it, it would undo me, paralyze me until my worst fears actually come true.
I start thinking: If everyone else's grass is greener, why try?
Then I tell myself this:
Because every single other writer feels this way (okay, I don't know this for sure, but I like to think that it's the case). They may not feel it to the same intensity or at the same time, but they do experience it. What makes a writer (or any person for that matter) successful in the end is her ability to throw a lasso around the jealousy monster and strangle it into submission, to use it's power to push her to do her best while never believing it's whispers of her unworthiness. I know that when I manage to do this, that monster morphs into a mini version of itself and my happiness for other writers and their successes overshadows it. I can be happy for them and use their success to inspire my own. It may not be the same success, but it will be mine. And somewhere out there someone will look at what's happen to me, sigh loudly and wish it was happening to them. That's the truly odd thing about jealousy. You can have it and be the object of it all at the same time.
So how about you? How do you combat your writerly jealousy?