Bitter Stew

Jealousy. I’ve never met a single person who hasn’t experienced it in some form or fashion.  Even if we don’t want to admit it to ourselves we have ALL been jealous at one point in our lives. Sugar/Ginger here to talk about professional jealousy and how it affects us all as writers.

I belong to a couple of loops that are for published writers.  Most of the time we talk about contracts, covers  and deadlines. Sometimes we go there to vent to people who understand us, to seek advice. But most of the time we go there for support. There’s a code on these loops. WHAT HAPPENS ON THE LOOP STAYS ON THE LOOP.

But recently I read a few messages that stuck with me.  And they were all about professional jealousy. There’s a writer who has only been in the game for six or seven years who has had much success with her books. Not only is this person a damn good writer, but has been so kind and generous with her advice and support.  She reported that she was being iced out by a group of writer friends that she has had for a long time. One of them saying to her that she got lucky that she hit the NYT and  was nominated for a major award. And she hadn’t paid enough dues, gone through enough hardships to be where she is now.  That she should enjoy the ride because it might end soon.

I’m a sassy girl so I might have told her to shove it where the sun don’t shine, but this writer, this hugely successful writer was really bothered by this. She was hurt by it.

I see this a lot. Maybe most people aren’t as bold as that lady. But a lot of times we aren’t always as happy for others success as we should be.  Especially in writers group where some are getting contracted and others are constantly looked over.

We call it luck, or make excuses or diminish their achievements. We’ve claimed that they changed. That they exclude themselves. That they are divas. But are they really? Maybe some of them are, but I think most find a kind of isolation when they’ve gained success.

I’m a debut author who is just finding an audience and am grateful, infinitely grateful when somebody-anybody buys my book.  But from personal experience I know that people do treat you differently when you’ve been published.Some act like you’ve got a magic secret and automatically know more than mere unpublished mortals. Or they become a little distant. And you can almost read their minds. “I write just a good as she does. Why aren’t I published yet?” People who aren’t writers assume that just because you have a book in a bookstore that you are making loads of money.

I wish I could say that getting that contract doesn’t change you. It does.  Three years ago writing was just something I did. Now it’s become part of who I am. I’m a writer. I get paid to be a writer. But I’m still a teacher too. I’m a teacher first five days of the week. And I’m still a daughter, a sister, and a friend too. My point is that nobody can be inside of anybody else’s career and no one can know each of our individual hardships. Yes, there is luck involved for some of us, but a lot of the time it’s our hard work that got us to where we are.

So next time you think a negative thought about someone’s success imagine how you would feel if you were where they are.

PS. Jealousy isn’t always a bad thing. In my case seeing a friend get offered multiple contracts made me put my ass in the chair and work to become a better writer.

So what do you think? Ever find yourself being all green with envy?


12 thoughts on “Bitter Stew”

  1. Know what Sugar, you are a great lady. Good for you, your post was terrific. Thanks. It’s true, seeing someone you know and respect being successful is motivating, and that is a good thing. I hope your success continues . . .

  2. Teddy Roosevelt said it best: Comparison is the thief of joy. And why would you let someone steal your joy? Great post, Sugar. A subject not many would touch on, so good for you!

  3. Great post, Sugar. Like you, I find the success of others to be motivation for me. I’m always happy for my fellow author’s successes and thank them for leading the way. I look forward to the day that I make it to that rung on the ladder.

  4. Excellent topic! The green-eyed monster lurks inside all of us at times, but hopefully maturity wins out in the end. I, too, find the success of others to be more motivating than envy-provoking. I look at someone who achieves something I want and I think…If they can do it, so can I. I may not do it as quickly and I might not even do it as well, but if I want it badly enough, I know there is a way to make it happen because I’ve seen others do it. On the flip side of the sour grapes of envy, I have found authors and writers in general to be a very generous lot in terms of sharing their knowledge and experience to help others to achieve the next level. I’m so grateful to have my writing community and wouldn’t be published without them. Paying it forward is a great way to keep that jealousy at bay. Thanks for a great post, Sugar!

  5. There’s an old saying: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” In the last couple of years I’ve come to learn that if somebody seems lucky, it’s far more likely that that person did her work, had courage, and was able to recognize the signs that bring a dream together. Far, far less likely? That some Power-That-Be touched her golden finger on that person’s head and imbued her with some magical powers of success. As for professional jealousy, oh yeah, I’ve had some of it directed at me (and not all by other writers, btw) and it can be ugly. And I’ve felt little twinges of jealousy of people who are a bit farther along on the journey than I am–but I recognize that that’s really me berating myself for letting so many years go by before I worked up enough courage to try and it truly has nothing to do with the other person. Right now, I have exactly three professional goals for the rest of my life–they are absolutely attainable, and nobody but me can make them happen. And I’ll bet you’re not jealous of your friend’s multiple contracts. You are motivated by them. Two completely different animals. Now back to work for me!

  6. I think the green-eyed monster and the doubt monster are kissing cousins. Feelings of doubt can provoke jealousy. And just like doubt, better to nip jealousy in the bud and not let either “monster” feed on your emotions, ruining your own self-worth. We all have to walk our own path to success during our writing journey and I’d much rather travel it with happiness for my friends’ success than be bothered with jealousy.

    Awesome post!

  7. Jealousy is something everyone deals with in their personal and professional lives. Whether it is about someone else’s looks, money, professional success, or happy marriage, I doubt anyone can honestly say they’ve never thought “why not me?”

    In the writing world, I think it is especially difficult because (a) in many ways, the journey is very solitary, and (b) there is no linear, clear cut path to success (unlike, say, law school, where studying hard = good grades = good job, etc.). That combination of isolation and no formula makes it very easy to lapse into the “they got lucky” mindset.

    Anytime I start to feel that way, I remind myself that writers, like musicians, can all be successful in some way, and find a fan base. People who like pop music won’t always like singer-songwriter stuff, but both have merit. Same goes for books and any other artistic endeavor. The way I conquer professional jealousy is to remind myself that my genuine goal is really just to publish stories I like and hope some other people like them too. Honestly, that’s all I want. That will be enough, and I won’t need to compare myself with anyone in order to eventually reach that goal.

    Thanks for the great post!

  8. I try to be more inspired than jealous. I think there’s an element of luck in most things but also that we make most of our own luck. I spent years writing but never finishing anything. Then I joined CTRWA and met a ton of published authors, and that was the motivation I needed to put my ass in the chair too and start finishing things. Funny how actually finishing manuscripts has changed my luck 🙂 I’m spending this snow day making all the line edits my agent sent yesterday (or at least until the “Mom, I’m bored” starts).

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