#37 You become so jealous of your writer friends that you can’t see straight
The Writer’s Guide to Agony and Defeat
By Jennie Nash
The Writer’s Guide to Agony and Defeat
43 of the Worst Moments in the Writing Life and How to Get Over Them
The Agonies of Bad Timing
37. You become so jealous of your writer friends that you can’t see straight
You have a writer pal who has been working on her book for approximately the same number of years that you have been working on your book. When you are having a bad day, or can’t see your way out of a thorny story problem, you call her and she gets it, as much as anyone is likely to get it. She makes you laugh, urges you on, and you love her for this. You try to offer her the same support on her bad days. You treasure this working relationship. You consider this friend your writing North Star. One fine day, your friend calls in a burst of joy. She has sold her book for a fat chunk of change. You scream with delight, rush over with roses and champagne and savor the goodness of a good person getting a bit of good luck. Not long afterwards, you sell your book and she returns the favor of the flowers and the champagne, and you laugh at the fact that it is, indeed, an abundant universe. There is room for both your books. There are enough readers for every story.
Soon, however, your paths begin to diverge. Your friend’s book gets picked for the Barnes & Noble Discovery New Voices program — and yours does not. Your friend’s book gets selected to appear in a summer promotion for Target — and yours does not. Your friend is invited to speak at Book Expo America — and you are not. Her book hits the bestseller list — and yours does not.
You try to remember how abundant the universe is and you try to be happy for her, but it becomes more and more difficult. You have to stop going on Facebook, where her readers gush. You have to stop reading your favorite blogs, where her book is being featured in reviews and advertisements. You can’t even go into your favorite local bookstore, because her book is stacked on the front table with a lovely handwritten shelf talker note from a staff member beside it, and yours sits alone on a shelf somewhere in the back of the store, near the floorboards, hidden by a spinning rack of greeting cards.
She sells another book — and you don’t. You want to be happy for her, but your happiness is clearly strained. She knows it. You know it. And so you stop calling her — the one person who could most help you get over your jealousy, the one person whose good fortune you could most truly understand.
The way forward:
Writing a book is a long, hard, difficult, lonely undertaking. Why do if if you don’t care about it with a fiery passion? It would be far easier and more pleasant to grow heirloom tomatoes or take up paddle boarding. Jealousy proves that you’re nowhere near ready to throw in the towel. Oh sure, you may go through weeks or months of claiming that you are going to quit writing, of claiming that it is just too painful, of claiming that you are done with this fickle business where you can pour out your heart and soul and get nothing but silence in return. But you aren’t fooling anyone, least of all yourself. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Ruben says that failure is “part of being ambitious; it’s part of being creative.” Jealous, too. So if you’re feeling jealousy of another writer, consider it a good thing. It means you’ve found something that matters to you. Feel it, and then forget it and go back to doing that thing.
“You know what I do when I feel jealous? I tell myself to not feel jealous. I shut down the why not me? voice and replace it with one that says don’t be silly instead. It really is that easy. You actually do stop being an awful jealous person by stopping being an awful jealous person. When you feel like crap because someone has gotten something you want you force yourself to remember how very much you have been given. You remember that there is plenty for all of us. You remember that someone else’s success has absolutely no bearing on your own. You remember that a wonderful thing has happened to one of your literary peers and maybe, if you keep working and if you get lucky, something wonderful may also someday happen to you.”
― Cheryl Strayed, writing as Dear Sugar.
Stay tuned on Medium for all 43 of the worst moments. If you can’t wait to read all 43, check out The Writer’s Guide to Agony and Defeat.
There are cool contests and giveaways there, too.Jennie Nash is a writer and book coach who offers her tough love approach to the writing life in a weekly blog atjennienash.com. Follow her on Twitter @JennieNash. Medium readers can try out her Author Accelerator accountability and feedback program for free.