June 19, 2012

Writer Jealousy-Dang But That Grass Is Greener

First listen to this. It pretty much sums this feeling up:





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 do.

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?

21 comments:

  1. I totally get this. I sit on twitter an watch all of these amazing people doing amazing things and a part of me wants to scream. But at the same time, I am also so glad that I get to share in their successes (and occasional failures). It gives me hope that someday, I too can be there and that I am not alone in this. The struggles I haven, someone else is having too. And that someone else could be a NYT bestseller.

    Thank you for being honest. We all get jealous. Anyone who says differently is lying.

    p.s. Loved that video. :D

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    1. I love that song! Thanks for reading:)

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  2. I definitely feel like this sometimes and all I can try to do is turn the negative emotions into something positive. Thank you for this post.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it!

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  3. Ahh, so true!! I hate to admit it, but sometimes envy does seep in. It happens to all people at some point; it's a reflex reaction to insecurity. The key is not letting it consume you. Focus on your own life. Or just craft intricate plots to take down everyone who's doing better than you :) Whatever's easier...

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  4. "I can be happy for them and use their success to inspire my own." This is a very important but difficult thing to accomplish. Wonderful post! As an indie published author yearning for that trad agent and publishing deal, I can totally relate to this type of envy.

    Thank you for your candour.

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  5. Thank you for this post. I'm going through an agented-requested R&R and I read all the time how people got their agents off their R&R. Then I read about people who get agents on their first week, etc. I think I struggle also when I read about people my age (22/23 yrs old) on the NYT Bestseller list, and here I am revising and revising and revising just hoping for an agent. Like - why isn't that MY life you know? I try to take a deep breath and recognize that everyone has their own journey. I combat my writerly jealousy by re-reading e-mails where a CP told me they loved this novel or that another couldn't put it down or that the agent who req'd these revisions read my novel in one sitting and that she thought it reminded her of Before I Fall. I just remind myself of the GOOD things in my writerly journey and then I feel okay again. :)

    Again thanks for this post, Amy.

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    1. Congratulations for the R&R--you sound like you're getting very close to clearing the first big hurdle! I do the email rereads myself! So far I've kept all the good ones from crit partners,my agent, and editor! I also kept all my editor rejections for my novel because they remind me of just how subjective the business really is...I might have to do a post on this soon!

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  6. I love the honesty here, Amy. I'm out on submission right now and it's so hard not to be jealous of all the deals everyone else seems to be getting. But like you said, strangle the monster. I'm diving into my next WIP and concentrating on doing MY best.

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    1. Yay for being out on submission!! I will cross my fingers for you. It is a very exhilarating, cool, nerve-wracking place to be. Hope you nab the perfect editor. I got so lucky with mine:)

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  7. Oh, it;s so true, Amy! What a great post. It's great to know I'm not just an ungrateful cow (to steal Ruth's term :D )

    Great advice.

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    1. Ha! I love that I'm spreading my Britisms all over Canada and the US!

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  8. I don't mind, I steal ALL of Ruth's terms:D

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  9. I really appreciate your honesty. It's nice to know that I'm not the only selfish, insecure, paranoid writer out there! I've got my trusty lasso ready to harness the power of the Jealousy Monster should he dare to raise his ugly green head again.

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    1. I like to think that none of us are immune to the jealousy thing. Glad that you liked the post:)

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  10. Jealousy rears it's ugly head a lot, especially in our biz and especially for emerging artists but you get over it. It comes down to: should I spend energy worrying about others success or about perfecting my work so I can meet it. Embrace successes small and big and respect those who've helped you get there whether they're doing better than you or not industry-wise.

    It's all understandable and pangs of jealousy and envy hit us all. You take a deep breath, indulge in some sweets, and get back to work making your book, art, etc. the best it can be and something you're proud to have your name on.

    Besides, Silo is awesome! So it'll find the audience that recognizes that. :-)

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    1. Well put, Jenn! I agree with this, that the longer you're in the business the less it gets to you. And thanks for the SILO love:)

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