A good friend of mine remarked this week that he was amazed that I could feel genuinely happy for the successes of my friends and acquaintances selling stories and that surely such good feelings were a sign of character.
I gave his compliment a good deal of thought over the last week because it bothered me. The year 2012 has been an amazing year for my writing and I have been blessed with a number of amazing opportunities that hard work, aggressive networking, and luck have placed in my path as a writer.
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. Othello Act 3, scene 3
I really can’t complain as Papa Ray would say when life was going his way. Except that can’t isn’t really the right word for my situation. I can always find things to complain about. The sad truth is that sometimes I will ignore my own successes and fortunes to wallow in the bitter sting of jealousy.
It took me years to realize that there isn’t anything wrong in feeling jealousy over the success of others as long as I understand why I was feeling it and how to control it.
One of my best friends in the world is Mae Empson. She is a natural storyteller with an amazing gift with words. We work really well together and so we’re co-editing The Future Embodied together. We have an interest in similar markets and thus we often complete in submissions. This year, she sold two stories to highly prestigious markets that I desperately wanted to place stories in, but sadly didn’t.
Of course, I felt jealousy that she sold two stories to markets that had rejected me. It didn’t matter that Mae and I have shared space on four different anthologies. It didn’t matter that I had sold to other markets and make giant steps in my own career. Writers compete with each other for readers and slots in prestigious markets.
I felt that sting for a moment and it made me feel like crap.
I’ve always been a jealous person. I was angry as a child for what I thought the universe owed me. I used that emotion to shield me and to push myself to do better in school. I’ve never been the smartest kid in school, but I was motivated.
If life were a universal role-playing game, we would all have different merits and flaws. Others will always have different advantages than you. Some will be prettier. Others will have more hair. And yet others will have more privilege and opportunities than you based on gender, the color of their skin, or their family name.
Everyone reading this is human, except for the self-aware AI secretly plotting to become humanities overlords.
Doctor Who? That’s funny! Silence flesh-slave!
And then I realized that the jealousy was a complement. Mae had achieved something awesome and she should be celebrated for it. My jealousy was proof of the awesome. Becoming aware of said feelings allowed me to control them and to be actually happy for my friend and to further encourage her as she has always done for me.
Some writers treat every other writer in the universe as the enemy. I imagine that method leads to a sad and lonely life.
Chess players try to play against superior players because that is the quickest way to learn. Watching, reading, and observing better writers can only help you raise your game.
You might feel jealous. You might feel self-doubt. That’s OK. Allow yourself to feel that jealousy and use it to motivate you to write more and better.
This isn’t a race. It is a marathon. You are running against yourself, not anyone else. If you feel the green-eyed monster gripping you, ask yourself a simple question. Why?
Are you putting in enough effort to get what you want? Did you really need to watch that hour-long special about Honey Boo-boo? Jealousy is really anger towards yourself for not getting what you want. Use that anger for a better purpose and direct it towards your work.
The vikings had a wise old saying from The Havamal; Wake early if you want another man’s life or land. No lamb for the lazy wolf. No battle’s won in bed.