Monday, January 24, 2011

Slaying the green-eyed monster

You will hear it time and time again: jealousy among writers is bad; being jealous of other writers only proves that you are really insecure; being jealous of other writers' successes only wastes your energy. Those things are probably all true. But that doesn't mean I haven't spent the last several months boiling in a Hot Writing Jealousy Stew. When you're inside that stew, everyone you know seems to be succeeding while you spin your wheels in this business.

The thing about jealousy--or at least my jealousy--is that it's not actually jealousy.

I know, it didn't make sense to me, either. But wait, I'll explain. When my friends had great stuff happen, did I resent those happy moments and want to take them away from my wonderful pals? No. When my fellow ToC-mates got great reviews and my stories languished unmentioned, did I want to tear apart the reviewers and make fun of my fellow book-mates? No.

No, what I said was: Why don't you write anything good enough to get a glowing review? Why didn't you write anything good enough to get in Year's Best Fantasy? Why didn't you get into Anthology X? Are you falling down on the job? Aren't you working hard enough? You stupid loser! Get to work! I hate you!

I hate you. Whoah. Is that really something you should tell yourself every day?

Not that I realized I was saying it. But when I sat around feeling glum that I had no agent when my friends were hanging out with industry hot shots, or gloomy because I didn't meet X standard, I was actually telling myself all kinds of awful stuff. Jealousy was a symptom of some greater dissatisfaction with my life. Once I realized that, then I could do something about it.

You see, what I want most in this world is to write. And in my head, my day job & ordinary reality hold me back from writing. Every time I have a writing achievement, I feel more like a "real writer." The more achievements, the more I feel like I'm growing up and taking up my role as a full-time writer.

Here's the earth-shaking revelation: I spend more time writing than I do cleaning, taking care of my family or going to work. Combined. And that's not because I am winning things or publishing things or getting amazing reviews. But because I love writing and I've re-arranged my life to do it.

If somebody spends 40+ hours a week working as an accountant, wouldn't you call her a real accountant?

So why aren't I are real writer?

If my life dream is to be a writer, then congratulations! I've succeeded! I'm a writer and then some! I'm making overtime at this business.

And as much as I don't want to hear it, maybe what I'm unhappy about is that the rest of my life is calling to me, reminding me to live a little. Maybe knock off a day a week to catch up with reality. Even Stephen King takes the day off now and then.

I guess what I've learned about jealousy is that it's not a waste of time and energy. It's not a feeling your body has stirred up to sabotage your creativity. It's a message from within you. If you don't listen to it, you'll regret it. But once you let it speak its piece, it will leave you alone.

Which is a pretty good thing. Because if there's a second thing I've learned about the green-eyed monster, it's that I look pretty creepy with green eyes.


Anonymous said...

To clarify: you're thinking that the real problem is a lack of balance in your life?

'Jealousy' confession: I would LOVE to be producing as much wordage as you are. So, for every you looking at other writers, there's a me, looking at you.



Christie said...

This is why you're my go-to for just about everything related to this crazy writing life.

I do the same thing when I'm celebrating your novel sale and poetry sale and novel queries and nonfiction articles. So happy for you and asking myself WHY AM I NOT AS AWESOME AS WENDY?


Wendy Wagner; said...

Yep, Sheik, I think balance is the key to this business. Right now, I'd say that I talk about writing, talk to writers, read slush, edit and actually WRITE at least 14 hours a day. I don't *think* this is an exaggeration. The writing business can get so overblown in my brain that it drives out everything that makes me unique and me-ish.

And Christie, you are only about a thousand times MORE AWESOME than me. Duh.

lynda said...

I've heard jealousy and envy distinguished before as "jealousy" being that you want the thing and don't want the other person to have it whereas with envy, you don't want to take it away from the other person--you just want it too.

Or, you know, maybe it was the other way around.

My point being, I am envious (meaning I want it too, I don't want you not to have it) of your discipline and productivity, both weak points for me.

Miriam S. Forster said...

Yeesh, you do look creepy with green eyes. (har)

I know what you mean though. I get super happy when someone has success, and then I think. "I want that!"

Back to the whole results issue, I guess. :)

Erin Stocks said...

I like this post. Thanks for writing it.