Hapless Penpusher and the Green-Eyed Monster

FairyGreenHairIt’ll happen. Doesn’t matter how centered and zen you think you are, or how much you pride yourself on keeping everything about the work and not your ego. Doesn’t matter how proud you are of your accomplishments, or how much time and energy you’ve given to your work. Also doesn’t matter how good you know you are, deep down. Sooner or later, it will happen. Some writer you’ve barely heard of will win a major award in the field and the “best thing I’ve ever written” didn’t even get nominated. The “buzz” will be about someone else. Someone you perceive to be not even at your level will get a movie or TV option, a foreign sale, an interview, a starred review, or whatever, and there it is. Maybe it’s there just for a second, maybe for days, but it’ll be there. “It” being, and say it with me now–jealousy.

Congratulations or condolences, depending on your point of view—you’re human.

So what now? Sulking over the reminder yet again that “life isn’t fair”? Suit yourself, but you do realize that’s a waste of an epic sulk. Would you sulk at the idea that rain is wet? Makes just about as much sense, and is at least as useless.

If you think this is going to be a pep talk about channeling that negative emotion into something positive, nah. There are entire books for that, so go find one if you think you need it. Likely you’ll find motivation to work even harder, to channel your negative feelings into art. To completely miss the point. Jealousy is about your perceived relationship with other writers in your chosen field. If you’re reacting to that, then you’ve made it into a competition. Once that happens you’ll think you’ve transcended your jealousy when all you’ve really done is put it in charge. Jealousy is calling the shots now, informing both your development and outlook. It’s not gone, it’s just gotten so big and ubiquitous that you can’t even see it. If you get to that point, then there will always be someone doing a little better, someone getting a little more attention, and however well you’re doing or whatever wonderful things are happening for you, it’ll never be enough.

So I’m not that big a believer in self-help. I believe in self-awareness. Jealousy is natural. Envy is natural. You’re going to feel those emotions at some point, however mildly or intensely. What matters is what you do about it. For what it’s worth, I’ve only found one thing that always works—you look straight into the eyes of that green-eyed monster, and understand who is looking back at you. Here’s a hint—it’s not someone else. So it’s not really about them, is it? Someone else getting nominated for an award didn’t take that honor from you. Someone having more readers than you do isn’t taking readers away from you. Stare the monster down, and it goes away. For a while. It’ll be back, and so what? There’s nothing it can do to you, unless you let it. Until then, just keep doing your work the best way you know how. Learn from others when you can, but then make what you learn your own. Because, at least where your own work is concerned, it really is all about you.

Jealousy has no place there.