Over coffee recently, another writer – I’ll call her Mandy – admitted a bit shamefacedly, that a cousin of hers had had his first book accepted and she was having trouble dealing with his success.
Pressed a little more, she said she was frankly jealous. She’d been attending conferences and workshops, learning her craft, writing several manuscripts which had all been rejected. He’d written one book, and been accepted.
Did this admission make her a bad person, she wanted to know.
Of course it didn’t. Jealousy is one of the most basic of human emotions. In writers it covers everything from feeling inferior after reading someone else’s dazzling words, to Mandy’s bitterness that her hard work wasn’t being rewarded as swiftly as her late-blooming cousin.
Social media doesn’t help, either. Not only do we hear about others’ successes more quickly, we’re faced with many more unwelcome comparisons.
Adding insult to injury, we’re expected to “like,” “favourite” and “share” our friends’ achievements around the net. Anything else looks mean and petty.
I’ve published many books, won awards and been on best-seller lists. Yet when a friend IMed me to say she’d won a major book award, I felt the green-eyed monster stirring, even as I told her how happy I was for her. “That’s so nice,” she wrote back. “Some of my writing group are having trouble with this.”
At the heart of many of these bad feelings is fear – are we as good as we’d hoped? Will we ever achieve our dreams? Even when you have a substantial body of work behind you, the monster lurks. You did it before, but can you do it again?
These feelings trigger the age-old scripts of “the child within” of being excluded, not good enough, thinking everyone else has the answers to life’s mysteries except us.
There are only two things you can do with feelings of jealousy:
1. accept them as normal, because they are.
2. use them as material for your writing, as you use other universal truths
Expressing your support for the other person also serves as an antidote to giving the green-eyed monster too much importance. This is not to say you should bury or ignore the monster.
Holding your feelings up to the light lets you examine what may be hiding behind them. Disliking another’s success can be linked to the fear that others may resent your success – therefore, you’d better not succeed, hardly a thought you want to encourage.
While writing this, I came across a fun website called “I Write Like” https://iwl.me created in 2010 by Russian software programmer, Dmitry Chestnykh. You cut and paste a passage of your writing onto the site and the program compares keywords, vocabulary and style, returning the name of a popular author the sample resembles. I got Dan Brown, not too shabby in my opinion.
While comparisons can be odious, if you’re going through a jealous patch, this site may lift your spirits. They’ll remind you that jealousy and other feelings are neither good nor bad. They just are.
Then you can use the feelings, not the actual circumstances, to create characters who are as believable, as fallible and as human as the rest of us.
Now over to you. How do you deal with jealousy of other writers or their work? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your post appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
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