August Theme: HOW TO DEAL WITH ENVY by Irene Latham
The newest member of your writing group queries one single agent… and less than 24 hours later gets an offer for representation. And it’s not just any agent: your dream agent. You want to be excited and happy for her but inside you are blubbering, why her and not me?
The Cover Gods do not smile blessings upon your latest novel. Meanwhile, an author-friend’s book cover gets glitter. And Barnes & Noble is so excited about it they make author-friend’s book part of their Book Club. You don’t even like glitter, but author-friend’s lucky break makes you feel very small inside. Couldn't the publisher have thrown in just a teensy bit of glitter?
Best Author Friend hits the NYT list with her latest paranormal YA. You are thrilled for her but secretly gorge on cookies & cream ice cream because none of your books have ever hit the NYT list. And since you don’t write paranormal YA, chances are they never will. You curse trends while furtively trying to find a way to add a paranormal element to your wip.
Writing compatriot is a Social Media God. He says “hi” to fellow websurfers, and they clamor onto his twitter and FB and email newsletter lists. He doesn’t say anything you haven’t already said a gazillion times. But no matter how many contests you host, he’s a darling and you aren’t. You read THE WHITE DARKNESS by Geraldine McCaughrean and suddenly the vast nothingness of Antarctica looks cozy.
Here’s the awful truth, friends: the writing industry is not fair. You can write gorgeous/snappy/hysterical/thrilling/your adjective here prose and NYT and Newbery does not come calling. You can work at it for YEARS and still someone will come along who makes a sale or some other major success in weeks, days, hours. And that makes fertile ground for ENVY.
So, yeah. The first step is to just admit it: I’m envious of Best Author Friend. Say it out loud. Tell the spouse all about it. Wallow for a little while. THEN PICK YOURSELF UP. And to borrow from Disney’s The Lion King, REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE.
In practical terms this might include any (or all) of the following strategies:
Limit your googling and other online “research” methods. Often, the more you know, the worse you feel. So just don’t go there. Don’t read about it. Don’t check Best Author Friend’s Amazon ranking or blog or Twitter. Temporarily block their Facebook status updates. IGNORANCE IS BLISS.
Throw yourself into your wip or other creative endeavor. The left side of the brain loves envy because it shuts down the right side of your brain. Don’t let this happen. Take out Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD (or whatever works for you). Use writing prompts. Challenge yourself to write a poem a day (or a certain word count or whatever) for the next month. Give your creative self a chance to rub two sticks together and make flame. And before you know it, you’ll be so enthusiastic about your own work, Best Author Friend’s success won’t feel so much like chiggers invading your underwear.
Give to other writers who are not quite as far along the path as you are (and just might be feeling big bad envy about YOU). In my experience, the quickest way out of any depression or other negative place is service to others. So volunteer yourself as a guest speaker at a local writing group. Offer to give feedback on someone’s manuscript. Use your blog to reach out and offer specific help to writers, like resource lists or tips and tricks learned the hard way.
And finally something that works wonders for me personally: adopt the mantra “Encourage and Inspire.” As in, my only job with other writers is to Encourage and Inspire. If negativity begins to muddy my boots, I’m the one who needs to re-focus. Because I want to write books -- books that matter to me, books that ARE me. And there just isn’t enough time in this life to wallow in envy. Especially when they industry is NOT going to change. It will always be unfair.
So, join me, won’t you? Let’s move through envy toward that rich, vibrant place where we can continue to grow as writers and as fellow humans sharing the journey.