People are a jealous lot, probably because we can think. In the wild, if an animal has something another animal wants and that animal is bigger they just take it. If it’s smaller sometimes they pee on it, so the bigger animal doesn’t want it anymore. But people, we think, we obsess, we covet.
Before I had an agent and was published, I felt the pang of jealousy a lot. I was part of an author and writer bulletin board and would see posts each day about an author getting an agent, getting a book deal, getting two agents who wanted to fight over them in a boxing ring, getting twelve publishers wanting to fight to the death for their masterpiece. When I saw this, I would at first feel happy for the author, but then quickly my mind would travel to, “Why not me?”
I guess I thought this kind of thinking might stop once I was published, but unfortunately, I still have that voice in my head when I see an author who even though I am happy for–thrilled for– is doing “better” than me. What does better mean? It could be better sales, better exposure, better reviews, a better website, a better cover quote. It could really mean anything that my crazy human mind is deciding to use as a point of comparison.
So yes, I admit I feel jealous sometimes. I think it’s unavoidable.
Here’s something interesting though. I know an author on the NYT Bestseller list and in conversations with her I have learned that she gets just as neurotic about sales as I do. Even with her thousands and thousands of sales a day she is still worried about sales.
STILL WORRIED ABOUT SALES!
So this made me think. Her life seems worry-free to me. I would *kill* for the sales she has. Her admission helped me realize that there are probably some people out there who are jealous of me. Of my “success” that I am undermining by feeling jealous of others. I felt shame in how shocked those people would be that I also felt jealous, in the same way I was shocked that she worried about her sales.
This author’s book is different from mine, so I could never expect to have the same sales she does. Just like every writer has a different path and can’t expect an agent, book deal, success overnight.
Books are different, because people are different and we want them to be. We want to hear different voices. We want to be able to see different perspectives. Not all books can be the next Hunger Games and we shouldn’t want them to be, or every book would be like the Hunger Games.
Feeling jealous about our writing is like trying to compare oranges to unicorns. Sure unicorns are special and beautiful and magnificent, but you can’t eat a unicorn (unless you’re one sick puppy); you can’t smell a unicorn and think about sun-drenched citrus groves.
No one’s work is just like yours. No one’s path is just like yours. It’s all about finding your path, your readers, your voice. If you feel jealousy you are denying your contribution, you are saying that it is not as worthy as someone else’s.
There is only so much in this business you can control, so try not to let jealousy control you. Next time the little green monster comes calling tell him to take a hike because you’re writing about sun-drenched citrus groves.