Fighting The Green-Eyed Jealousy Monster

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.


  1. Um, yes! For sure. Not just in writing either. It's a nasty little thing, isn't it? This post is excellent.

    While reading it, I thought of a poem I just read by Billy Collins. It made me laugh out loud. It's about his rival poet and jealousy. It's called The Rival Poet. I'm going to email it to you.

  2. Definitely. In my work as well as in my writing, but mostly it's when I get down about myself and wish I was as .......... (fill in the blank) as someone else. When I remember my own strengths and weaknesses, what I'm good at, it's easier for me to just admire the other person and wish them well.

  3. Are yous talkin’ to me? Well of course you are. I’ve struggled with ridding my eyes of that jaundiced tinge for most of my life. I know this well. But that’s why I think I can speak to it. I’ve squashed a lot of these feelings too. Remembering that I’m here only for a brief time and that I have a specific role to play helps. Also remembering that so much of my life here isn’t even about me helps.

    Excellent post, Jody.

    Glad you put it out there because as we both know it’s out there trying to wreak havoc anyway.

    Might as well out it.

  4. I think a teaspoon, or even a tablespoon! :-D, of envy can spur us on, but yeah, that deeper envy or jealousy digs in and claws a bit. And it does make us feel as if it is "wrong" - dang.

    Heck - I'm envious of your wonderful informational blog posts - danged if I just plop out crap three times a week - ergh!

  5. Such a great post Jody! I struggle with this myself. I'm still in the pre-agent search, but it's so hard to see friends getting ms requests and getting agents themselves! (Even though I'm thrilled for them).

    I think the points you make will really help me deal with that in the future - I really love your point that there *are* enough readers for all of us. Something I really need to remember when I start getting down :)

  6. I started reading your blog recently, and found it useful, encouraging and entertaining at the same time. Not a easy task to achieve in blog sphere. I hope your book has a kindle version as I do quite a bit of reading there though sometimes I do go for the tree smell and get an actual copy.

    I am glad you addressed the green eyed jealousy monster as gosh who doesn't get hit by it once a while! So well said that there is a book and a topic for everyone and as a hungry reader I can attest that when I find a good book it only opens the appetite for lots more - from different authors usually.

  7. I loved this! What a terrific way to address this situation.

    I must confess, I too face this demon. But once I harbor it, I usually think I need to change me to fit the mold the other has set in order to achieve their success.

    Then I need to rethink it. I can do anything as long as I am me.
    Great post!

  8. All. The. Time. I think I was born jealous! Hehe. But as far as the writerly world is concerned, I love your point that readers are looking for MANY good reads. I know that I am building my own personal library. If I love it, I buy it and save it to re-read later. I've never reached "max capacity" and I don't believe I ever will. I think that goes for most of us.

    Awesome points! Thanks!

  9. Jody, that pesky green-eyed critter is more likely gain a foothold when I fall prey to comparison. Agent extraordinaire Rachelle Gardner had a great post on that topic last week:

    My best remedy for keeping the claws of the monster from sinking in is to keep my focus on my journey, my story, my process and do the best job I can. Rachelle ended her post with wonderful words of wisdom: "Don’t try to be someone else. Just be you. Because after all, you’re the only you there is."

    Jealousy is less likely to plague me if I remember that I do best when I'm myself. Trying to write like someone else stifles my creativity. I do best when I let Keli do her thing and don't force her to be as funny as Mary Connealy, write narrative as evocative as Laura Frantz's, or create tension with the skill of Jody Hedlund. You're all excellent examples, but I'm the only Keli Gwyn. (Actually, I really am the only one in cyber space. Isn't that cool?)

  10. Guilty. But the best way I've found to counter the jealousy is by remembering that others have been jealous of me before too. Or so they say (maybe they're just trying to be nice--I'll take it!). I've had seven kids and all my weight just comes off. I do very little. I can't explain it. It just does. I can't apologize for it and yet I can't deny I'm happy either. Same with writing. Some are just especially gifted, other will work their butt off to get where they need to be, and others will work their whole lives to fulfill their dreams bur will only find satisfaction when they find contentment with their weight--I mean writing. Loving ourselves throughout the process is just as important as the end result.

  11. Great post! I like the way you bring up sensitive topics and handle them well. I think that's one of your many gifts.

    As I said to Wendy not long ago, I'm not very prone to envy--only a twinge once in a blue moon. I'm glad about this because I hate that feeling and I know it's one of the chief tools of evil. I've seen envy (and its precursor, insecure territorial behavior) in action so many times, and people behaving in ways you just would not believe, especially in churches. Sad.

    That's one reason why I really like the notion of tribes and teams when it comes to books and writing. If we think of ourselves as a ministry team, it becomes a lot more fun. I know Bonnie posted the other day about how she tends to think of our agency, Wordserve, as a team. I do too. It's fun to cheer each other on and share the joy of successes. And it's less lonely that way. Our profession is lonely enough as it is, with all the time we spend by ourselves.

  12. I remember a good friend telling me that jealousy was a choice. It took me a while to learn how true this's easy to see it as a natural reaction. But, it's not. We have a choice to be happy for others or to compare.

    and, I love the line that getting published is a marathon not a lottery. that's one I heard that I keep close to heart as well.

  13. I remind myself that as much as I work hard and strive to be the best writer I can be, and take the right steps toward seeing my work published, I'm not ultimately in control of my writing journey. If God doesn't intend to open certain doors for me, then they aren't going to open. Neither is my agent ultimately in control of my writing journey. Nor is a publishing house or a group of readers or any of the contacts I've made in the business over the past 20 years. God is. He's also the one who brings success to other authors, so who am I to begrudge them what He's provided? We're to rejoice with those who rejoice, and if I feel a twinge of envy I confess it to Him, and get my head straight again about who's in control. :)

  14. I'm so glad you brought the green-eyed monster into the light today, Jody. He's much less harmful if we recognize him for what he is and take steps to avoid him.

    In most of my life, jealousy is not a struggle. But in writing? Well, my hazel eyes veer to green more often that I would like to admit. Thankfully, when that ugly feeling hits, I recognize it and immediately start praying for humility. For some, jealousy stems from low self-esteem, but for me, jealousy stems from pride. Humility is the best medicine - even if it is a bitter pill to swallow sometimes.

    True confessions - I recently faced a bout of envy when a certain debut author and dear friend of mine found her book on the best seller list. (wink, wink) Isn't it crazy how we tend to be more jealous over the success of people we know than over those we don't?

    Thankfully, the green-eyed monster has been tamed and I can whole-heartedly rejoice with you now, Jody.

  15. Jody, thank you for this amazing post, and thank you for the link over to my post. You're so nice. :)

    You already know how I feel about the jealousy monster, and that it's something I battle all the time. It's interesting that you don't see other authors as competition, and I do. I didn't used to, but after reading Zoe's post (linked in my post) I saw it a little differently. It may be competition (to me), but I think it's a good thing. It certainly spurs me to stand out from the crowd. If I didn't feel like I was competing, I wouldn't try nearly as hard. Just a matter of perspective. :)

  16. Hi Everyone! Loving all of your comments today and the wisdom.

    Michelle, I think that the idea of competition can definitely spur me to work harder (like for a contest for example). But I'm trying to keep in mind Rachelle's words. Readers can be a fan of my books and still really like other authors too, like my fellow Bethany House author and friend, Karen Witemeyer *waves up--Hi Karen!* Readers buy both of our books and enjoy them equally. I'm not in competition with Karen. The sales figures on her debut are outstanding and she's done a fantastic job with her second book too. Has that detracted from sales on my book? Not at all. There's enough room for both of us.

    But I can relate to the idea of competition spurring us on to be better and work harder. Right now, I'm competing against myself! I want to always do better and be better than I was with the last book. Thanks for always getting me thinking, Michelle! Love that!

  17. I think I'm the inverse. I don't do the jealousy, but I do think there's a competition.

    Jealousy is a weird emotion to me. There are times when I sigh or pout and say, "I wish I were able to do that," or whatever, but it doesn't involve any kind of resentment or bitterness other than my own regret. I don't think I've ever really felt jealousy, and I don't really comprehend it. This does not make me great; this makes me ignorant and emotionally under-developed.

    On the other hand, I do feel like there's a competition among authors. There's competition for agents, for publishers, and for readers. Yes, there are plenty of all of them, but for those of us pursuing commercial publication, we want the best agents, the best publishing houses, and a ton of readers. So we are competing with other authors for a slice of the attention.

    But I think it can be a perfectly healthy competition. There's no reason to resent or sabotage other authors. That's not how you get that attention. You get the attention by putting your best product out there.

  18. Such a great post Jody! And yes, there ARE enough readers for all of us...and yes, keep working, improve our craft and we will eventually obtain our goals.

  19. Food for thought.

    I'm so thankful I have smart and clear and helpful friends like you and Michelle in my life, Jody.

  20. Jody: I can understand your way of thinking, and I do believe many authors have to stick in that vein. I'm more with Nevets up above about the competition. To me, I see readers as having limited time to read, limited time to find new authors, etc., and agents as having limited amount of time to take on so many clients. For instance, if I wanted your publisher and had written a book similar to yours, there's probably no way they'd publish my book any time soon, no matter how good it is or who tried to sell it to them. That's how I understand it anyway - maybe that's only with small publishers? I've spoken with my publisher many times about this sort of thing, and they certainly can't afford to publish two very similar books too close to each other. That means somebody isn't getting picked up. One had to be picked over the other.

    I really do hate to think of publishing as "slots filling up." I don't think that's how it is, but I do think most businesses are competitive in nature. Target competes with Wal-Mart even though I visit both of them. It's still a competition even though both businesses are getting my money. But Target wins because I certainly shop there more than Wal-Mart.

    Okay, ignore my rambling. I'm just thinking out loud. :)

  21. Jealousy is one reason I'm glad I didn't start blogging until later in the game. I think if I'd had access to so much good news (agents, sales), it might have overwhelmed/discouraged me to continue. Sad, but true.

  22. Jody, I know you're chatting about jealousy today... and I'm grateful for that monster to be driven out of the closet. It's an issue I've struggled with in my own life, and even felt a tug from Him to write about it for others.

    But what really CAUGHT my eye is when you said, "There's enough readers for everyone."

    What I've noticed about jealously is the idea of lack (which is a poverty mindset). If you get then, maybe there's not enough for me too.

    But there is enough for everyone! If God's called us to write, then He already knows the readers who will benefit from what we share.

    So that's what I'm taking away today from your posting today!

    Thanks Jody -- When I first 'stumbled' on your blog several months ago, I knew I'd hit a mother lode of gold.

    Wishing you glimpses of heaven at every turn today.............

  23. Great post, thanks. Lately I've been jealous of other bloggers (like you) who actually get comments on their blogs. :) Or of writers who actually have time to write novels (I'm finding that a challenge with two kids under three in the house). At the same time, I'm grateful for all that I've learned from other writers (like you!) and the support and encouragement that I've received from writers I've met at conferences or in the blogosphere. That's a better perspective to focus on. :)

  24. Great post! I battle jealousy allll the time.

  25. I battled with jealousy several years ago when a fellow writer's speaking ministry began growing by leaps and bounds. I wanted that too!

    So, I decided to try a different approach and I started praying for her - a lot! I prayed that God would bless her and give her tons of opportunities and expand her platform.

    It sounds hyper-spiritual, but it really did help me. It helped me be excited for her and not jealous.

    The strangest thing happened last year - she asked me to come on staff as her Executive Editor in her ministry! I had NO idea that my prayers for HER would ever affect me directly, but somehow they did.

    Of course, I still have to remind myself of that every now and then! :-)

  26. I have to tell you I've been there. I've also let go and let God run the show and have questioned him on why the long wait. The bottom line is, it's out of my hands. I can no more control a literary agent picking up the phone and offering me a contract than I can a hurricane. The only things I can control is my stories and then there are days that I wonder about that as well.

  27. Well I'd be lying if I said I'd never experienced jealousy, but it is usually short-lived. I think the success of others typically makes me feel like it's possible for me too. I'm truly happy (with a hint of jealousy) every time someone I know achieves something I'm struggling for. Especially if I know they've been working just as hard as I have.

  28. Great point, Susan! I think it's good to realize that if others can make it, then it's possible for us too.

    And Michelle! LOVE your continuing thoughts on competition! You've really got me thinking today! ;-) That's why I've always loved reading your posts and dialoging with you!

  29. Back at you, Jody! I love seeing the other thought processes, so thank you for sharing your side, as well. :)

  30. Thanks for your honesty! It frees us to be honest too. Yes, I'm sure we've all been frustrated and wondering when it'll ever be OUR turn. Working hard, writing hard, doing all the "right" things, and still nothing happens. While others land agents, get editors, and proudly give out their ARCs.

    But on the flip side, it's really FUN to celebrate with someone, because we know what it's like to be unpublished! And you're right--we're not in competition. We're fellow writers, and we can inspire and help each other. Thanks!

  31. Thanks for this post. I've definitely experienced my share of jealousy. Since I'm just getting started with blogging and still at the beginning stages of getting published, I'm sure I'll feel it again and again.

    I think what makes people jealous is the feeling like if some one else has a success, it means there isn't room in the Universe for that success to reach them too. As you've said, that isn't true. There is enough room for all of the great books in the world and every writer has the same opportunity to succeed.

  32. Dear Jody,

    Yes I have suffered with this monster. However, I have been able to convince myself to delight in their success. Like any author your emotions flow from your heart to your fingertips, to you story.

    I'm not a big fan of jealousy so I try to overcome it with love. I start with analyzing what I "feel" my competition is.

    Is it my genre? Is that something I really want? Readers read a lot! I too have several authors I love, from several genres.

    I'll even admit that I was a little jealous of you Jody Hedlund...with her 900+ followers. And I with my 15...then I got the 16th (you) and I felt better. :)


  33. I remind myself that a great Christian novel is good for the entire industry. The more great authors (like you) writing Christian fiction, the better it will be for everyone!

  34. Another "Jodyism" gem for my notebook: "I'm competing against myself! I want to always do better and be better than I was with the last book." That's the perfect attitude to combat jealousy. The thing is, jealousy is such a negative force. Wallowing in it keeps us from doing our best work. I keep Proverbs 14:30 in mind: "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."

  35. wonderfully honest, thoughtful & uplifting post. lifts one writer's spirit! (gratefulness is, as you show, 1 way to combat the green-eyed monster!)

  36. I'm getting better at keeping the monster at bay. It's just not worth the energy. And I'm learning to trust God that his blessings will come my way in due time--and that he has more than enough to go around.

    Just finished a guest post for Rachelle on this exact topic. :)

  37. Honestly?

    I think that anyone who is healthy enough physically to waste time on being jealous of another human's success, happiness, or talent or good fortune should get on their knees and thank their lucky stars it's so.

    Then they should go back to their own writing and try to make it the best it can be.

    I'm sorry if that sounds harsh. I've just seen way too much on the medical front- not just my own experiences but those of people I love and complete strangers- to abide pettiness. Life is too short, everyone, please, please do not waste time on things like being jealous of other people. Fight it. Your time is so much better spent on caring for yourself and building up your own self-esteem so you don't worry what the person next to you is achieving. Focus on your own goals, and appreciate the good things you have.


  38. Very thought provoking post, Jody. Thank you for being so honest and for shedding some light on a topic that I am sure we all fall into.

  39. Jealousy is an awful emotion--in any area of life. I know! As writers, if we're always comparing ourselves to someone else, I suspect we'll always be unhappy. Yes, I too have been jealous of others' writing accomplishments. I just try very hard to be happy for them, and for anyone's success in any endeavor. Not as easy thing to do. We're all human!!
    Ann Best, Long Journey Home

  40. Hi Jody -

    Thanks for your honest post. Would you believe one of my blog ideas is about competition?

    I like what Keli said about not making comparisons. If I write anything else here, I won't have any material for my post!

    Susan :)

  41. Ofcourse I have battled the green eyed jealousy monster, Jody. Then I start comparing my writing with that other writer's. Its tough time out there and we are bound to feel jealous when we see someone get success faster than us.

    But eventually I manage to talk myself out of it saying that everyone will get their success, we have to constantly strive to be better and better. I channelise my energies into my work.

  42. "There are enough readers for all of us."

    I like that. Thanks for the reminder.

  43. It's hard to turn that monster off, but like vvdenman, I liked your comment about there being enough readers for all of us. That's so true.

  44. What an interesting post! I'm so glad I'm not the only one. I class this in the same category of feelings I had in high school when all the girls felt prettier, smarter and all around cooler than me. And I deal with it in pretty much the same way. I give myself about 5 seconds to have a pity party and then I go do something that makes me happy. Like, umm, write. =) Not surprisingly, I get caught up in how much I love whatever I'm doing and totally forget about everyone and everything else.

  45. I've definitely tangled with the jealousy monster. I think it's only human, especially when you feel like you're working so hard for something and it *seems* to happen more easily for others. But usually, it really isn't the case. Everyone has bumps in their path and struggles you're not aware of.

    As for competition, I tend to take a middle of the road view. Yes, readers have limited time, so there is definitely some competition. However, I think, depending on the genre, it may not be as big of a deal. If you write really heavy literary fiction or Oprah book club type books and those readers only read say--a book or so a month, the competition seems a bit tighter.

    However, if you're in say, romance, where readers devour 2-3 books a week (according to stats) then there's a little more room. Like for me, I don't think hmm, should I buy fave author #1 #2 or #3 this month--I buy them all, lol.

  46. Thank you for being honest about jealousy!

    I haven't gotten to agent-searching level yet, but I've sometimes been guilty of blog jealousy and other things. It's really silly and I need to just get over it.

  47. Yep. Been there, done that, will be back for more I'm sure! It's really hard not to get jealous, but for me it goes hand-in-hand with my own insecurities!

  48. Thank you for this post - very encouraging. I look forward to following you.


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