Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Jealousy and Envy

“God. You must really hate it when someone in your writing group gets a contract.”

I get tired of hearing that line. Because, actually, when someone I know gets a contract for a piece of writing, I’m thrilled. I’m delighted. I do a little dance of joy.

Getting published is not a competition, as much as industry professionals try to turn it into blood sport. Yes, each publisher can only afford to contract a finite number of books. Yes, it’s difficult to become one of those.

However, human beings have an insatiable need for stories. And there are as many different points of view as there are individuals. You find the right match, agent and publisher wise, and your book comes out. Then, you hunt down your readers. And, maybe, you might get ten or fifteen minutes to actually do what it is you want to do, which is write your next book, and thereby build a career.

“Jealousy” means you’re worried about losing something or overly possessive. One actually has to have a career in the field in order to be jealous of someone else in the field. It is motivated by fear that if someone else does well, it means you will suffer. That’s simply not true.

Most people buy books. Not “book”, but “books”. When I stand in line for checkout at a bookstore, I snoop. I take a look at what the other buyers are buying. It’s terribly selfish – I want to know which of these are my potential readers. Or, in some cases, if they’re carrying a volume including my work, they are an actual reader, and I’m quite pleased. One thing I’ve noticed, standing in line in bookstores, is the variety of books people tend to bring to the counter. They are far more likely to simply add another book to the pile than put one back.

I think that’s a good sign. And it’s one of many reasons that jealousy is a waste of time.

“Envy” is seeing someone else have something you want and resenting it. Unpublished writers often envy published writers. A midlist writer might envy someone who topped the best seller list. It’s natural.

It’s also unnecessary. If you feel that momentary pang of envy, ask yourself why you don’t have what the other person has (i.e, a career in the field you love). And then take steps to get it. After all, you don’t want someone else’s actual career. You want your own career that is on an equal level to the person who sparked the envy.

Envy can be a positive emotion. You can use it as a catalyst to re-evaluate what’s missing in your own life and take positive steps to achieve it.

If you sit there and stew in these emotions, you’ll poison yourself. Wouldn’t your time and energy be better spent . . .writing?

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