For many emerging writers, professional jealousy is bound to rear its green-eyed head at some point. Especially once you move past the “Oh my god I’m published!” phase. When that novelty fades away, you’ll find yourself in a very small world: the published author world. And while that club might seem exciting, it has its drawbacks. Before long, you might find yourself comparing your success (or lack thereof) to that of your peers.
You start noticing the “#1 National Bestseller!” headlines, the award nominations, the magazine ads, the gazillion Twitter followers. You’ll spend lots of time trying to figure out why. Why are these authors more popular? What are they writing about? Why can’t you do the same? Lastly – and this one can cut close to the bone – you may wonder why the world seems to think these authors’ stories are more valuable than your own.
I’ve been jealous of other writers. No point in denying it. Usually, these pangs surface on my subway ride into work when I’m faced with a book advertisement crammed with accolades and adjectives. It’s hard not to feel like a lesser writer; to question the worth of my writing.
Having said that, I’ve found a way to put my jealousy into perspective. I always ask myself one question: do I wish I’d written that book? Ninety-nine percent of the time, the answer is no. I may be jealous of another writer’s success, but I’m rarely jealous of his or her work. And that’s a very important distinction. The odd time I do wish I’d written a book by someone else, the jealousy takes the form of admiration. That writer has achieved something I can aspire towards.
At some point in your writing career, you’ll have to define success and what it means for you. For me, it used to mean selling lots of books. Tours and fan mail. Having “#1 National Bestseller!” on the cover of my books. Jackie Collins sunglasses. But that was from the outside looking in. Now that I’m on the inside, I’ve reassessed. For me, success means writing stories I believe are worth writing. And whether those stories sell a million copies or only a handful, it doesn’t change my conviction that my stories and characters, my words and understanding of this world, deserve their place on the shelf just as much as any other book.
Yours do, too. Remind yourself of that the next time ol’ green eyes comes calling.