Let’s be honest, the writer’s world is rife with jealousy. Maybe we’re jealous of our critique partner for landing an agent before us. Perhaps we’re envious of another blogger for getting a book contract after only a couple months when our agent has been shopping our manuscript for a couple of years. It could be we’re jealous of another author whose Amazon ranking is consistently better than ours.
Wherever we’re at in the writing journey, we all experience envious twinges from time to time. In fact, often our jealous fits turn into full-fledged body cramps. Yet, we rarely talk about our envy. We usually bear our twinges and cramps privately.
Last week, author Michelle Davidson Argyle had an honest post in which she expressed her battles with jealousy. I appreciated her candor, and it got me thinking. If so many of us struggle with jealousy, why don’t we talk about it more often? Why do we feel the need to keep those envious feelings secretive?
Is it because we’re embarrassed to admit (maybe even to ourselves) that we wish the success had come to us instead? Maybe we’re truly happy for our friend, but her good news leaves us with hollow fear that we aren’t good enough and won’t ever make it. Or what if we think we’re more skilled than the other author and that we deserve the accolades more than her?
Whatever the reason, most of us don’t talk about our jealousy. After all, isn’t jealousy one of those vices we try hard NOT to exhibit? To admit we struggle with it, is to admit we’re less than perfect.
In the spirit of all honesty, I confess I battle the green-eyed jealousy monster too. Yes, I’ve checked out other author rankings, drooled over someone else’s good news, or even wondered how I could be more clever like certain twitter friends.
I don’t think it’s coincidence that a writer coined the phrase “green-eyed monster.” Shakespeare first used the saying in Othello. Over 400 years ago he wrote, “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”
Yes, jealousy can grow into a monster, especially because we face such a tough market today. Agents don’t accept many new clients. Publishers have limited slots for debut authors. Many books get limited shelf space. With all the obstacles, we may often feel like we’re in a competition against one another. But . . . is it a competition? Is our jealousy really justified?
Here are just a few of my thoughts on how we can battle the green-eyed monster:
Agents and publishers DO still want to find great writers and excellent books.
Industry professionals are looking for talented writers. They want to find well-crafted stories that grip them and won’t let them go. In other words, there’s hope for every single writer seeking publication. It may take time (after I queried The Preacher’s Bride, it sat in my agent’s slush pile for nearly nine months before she got to it). If our skills and stories are top-notch, we’ll rise to the top of the pile eventually.
There are enough readers for all of us.
I’ll never forget something my agent once told me. She said, “You don’t need to look at other authors as competition. The great thing is that readers of your genre can enjoy your book and others like yours.” In other words, readers usually aren’t just looking for ONE perfect book to buy or read. They’re looking for a variety of new great stories that they can devour.
And readers don’t usually have just one favorite author. Their hearts and reading capacity are big enough to have many favorites. We don’t have to worry that there won’t be enough space for us when it’s our turn.
We can reach our dreams if we stretch high enough.
Fortunately, we live in a time in history when our dreams can become reality—with enough work and perseverance. No one is stopping us from putting our whole hearts and souls into becoming the best writers we can possibly be—nobody, except perhaps ourselves. Usually, we’re our own worst enemy when we give way to apathy, laziness, or discouragement.
The truth is, the opportunity of publication is equally available to all of us. We don’t need inside connections or special privileges or outstanding talent. But we do need to want to reach our dreams badly enough that we’re willing to keep on stretching and working until it’s firmly in our grasp.
It won’t be easy. But it is possible.
Now it’s your turn—be honest! Have you ever battled the green-eyed jealousy monster? In such a tough market, what are some ways you work to keep jealousy monster locked away?
P.S. I'm giving away two autographed copies of The Preacher's Bride as Christmas Presents (signed and sent to the person of your choice). For contest rules and to enter the drawing, click here.