Having already blogged a bit about one of my creative vanities, I now hope to tackle another, namely: writing jealousy. It’s something that I rarely ‘fess up to, but it’s a deep-down emotion that’s been haunting me for years. Whenever, I hear the good news about someone else’s book release, or someone winning a literary award, or making some kind of best seller list, I do feel happy for the person, but the happiness is inevitably coupled with a visit from the companion emotion of jealousy. Why am I this way? I’m not entirely sure, but at least part of it stems from a simple childlike feeling of “Why not me? Why am I not on a bestseller list?” Or, even more simply and realistically, “Why can’t I make a living from selling my books?”
Partly to blame here is the modern Media which is constantly feeding us success stories. Everywhere I look, I see them: Clever college students creating million dollar internet startups, Self-published writers making millions, An unemployed mom writing the most popular YA title ever. In the wake of all this exposure to an endless stream of success, it’s hard to not feel like there’s something wrong with me, that I’m just not clever enough, or that I might be cursed with bad luck.
I’m working on it, though. In fact, I think most of my friends would be surprised to know that I harbor such jealousy at all; that’s because I generally don’t let it affect my speech or actions. I don’t complain or whine (except occasionally to my very patient wife), and lately I’ve taken it a step further. I am making a conscious effort to see other’s success as a good thing. If a book (any book!) or author (any author!) does well, that’s a good sign; it means that there are readers out there willing to spend money on more books. It’s a sign of health in the publishing industry, and this new philosophy of seeing any single writer’s victory as a victory for all writers has seriously toned down the jealousy level I feel when it comes to others’ creative triumphs.
But part of me also wonders if the jealousy isn’t a secret necessary. Because from time to time, that feeling of envy gives me a slow, angry burn, and it’s that burn sometimes keeps me awake until 2 am, finishing a chapter. It’s that anger that gives me the “guts” to send out yet another submission letter that I know- with painful certainty- will be rejected. So maybe it’s a core, key ingredient in writing success?
Finally, I’m curious as to whether such jealousy is common across all creative fields (and maybe athletics as well). Writers, of course, are notorious for being cranky. One of the most popular blogs by and about writing is Literary Rejections on Display, a cantankerousness and addictive blog (their motto is: Join the Revolution, Join the Pity Party) that chronicles rejections of writing across all literary strata. I don’t know if there is the such a blog for actors (Audition Rejected?) or academia (No Tenure For Me!) and maybe even college hockey (AAA Ice- All the Way).