Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Ugly Truth

Here’s a dirty little confession: I get jealous sometimes.

I’ve been blessed with great writing friends. They cheer me on when I’m up and support me when I’m down, and I like to think I do the same for them as they struggle in this crazy profession of ours.

But every once in a while, when they experience greater success in their writing than I do, I get jealous.

This isn’t an easy admission. Jealousy is petty. It turns me into a small-minded, mean-spirited version of myself that I really don’t like. And it takes away from others’ success, even if it’s only in my mind.

My closest writing friends and I started at roughly the same place in our writing careers and we worked very hard. They’ve earned every little bit of their success. As have I.

Jealousy–in my case anyway–is like admitting that I believe I’m the better writer and really, should be more successful than they are. They should be jealous of me.

I know, I know. I told you it was a dirty little secret.

I couldn’t handle the feeling, so one day I told one of my friends how I felt.  Instead of recoiling in disgust, she just patted me on the knee. Then she shared her own stories of jealousy and we laughed at ourselves.

How do writing couples deal with this? What happens if one partner has more writing success than the other? Seems to me you need a strong, healthy relationship to deal with the monster together.

I deal with it by admitting it. Whenever I feel that spike of jealousy at a friend’s success, I tell them. Turns out the jealousy monster gets smaller when you shine the light on it. I’m still not proud of feeling jealous, but I am gaining self-knowledge, and maybe a little wisdom.

Here’s what I learned. Don’t let jealousy fester in the dark. Drag it out into the light and let it shrink from shame. Share your feelings with your friends and learn to laugh at yourself. And whatever you do, don’t belittle other writers in any kind of public forum. That only reflects poorly on you.

So… anyone else out there feel like confessing? How do you deal with the ugly feelings that jealousy engenders?

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6 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

*raises hand* I'll confess, I get jealous, too. It's especially hard when I feel like I'm doing everything I possibly can to get noticed, and yet I'm not getting noticed (much). This business can be so hard that way!

"Turns out the jealousy monster gets smaller when you shine the light on it."

I love that!! So true. I have a couple close writer friends that I feel comfortable chatting with when those feelings rear up.

Toni Anderson said...

I get jealous too. Stupid little things that kind of make me flinch with hurt. And I know I've had plenty of success this last year, that I am SO grateful for. But there are those years of hard work before, when you wonder what you have to do to make it all work. You're a brave person putting it out there, Marcell. Most people assume that when you say you are jealous you want to take something away from the other person, but generally I think you just want it too. I'd never want to diminish another writer.

jean harrington said...

Well, Marcelle, you're a gutsy lady. We ALL feel jealousy from time to time. I'm envious of Donna Tartt's skill, Mrs. George Clooney's husband (nothing to do with writing there!), and girls who have hair down to their fannies. A paraphrase: To envy is human, to admit it is divine.

Rita said...

Oh! Me too. It’s more of what Anne says, struggling to be noticed. I also look at what the ‘very successful’ writers I know are required to do. The lazy gene in me takes over and I think I don’t want that. I am always happy for other’s success. Just don’t tell me how horrible your successful life is.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Anne Marie, yes, that's it exactly. This is a hard business. A wonderful one, too, but when it's hard, it's very hard.

Toni, you've earned your success and I hope you're enjoying it. And you're right: just because you're jealous of someone else's sucess doesn't mean you want it instead of them... you want it as well.

Well thanks, Jean, but I'm no braver than anyone else. I've just learned that talking about these things helps me, and helps others, too. Lord, where would we be if we couldn't laugh about our foibles?

Rita, I firmly believe that if we keep writing the very best stories we can, eventually more and more readers will find us. I'm with you -- I don't want to have to do all the marketing and publicizing... my blood runs cold at the thought! I'd rather write the next book.

Elise Warner said...

Wouldn't be human if we didn't get jealous at times but I believe writers also encourage and believe in each other.