I get jealous. I admit it. When I see a notice about someone’s book deal, I’m jealous. When someone wins a writing award, I’m jealous. When someone gets a good review, I’m jealous. When a book I hate sells really well and is getting all kids of press, I’m jealous. (Also annoyed.) And when someone gets a starred review from a publication that was mean about my work, I’m more than jealous. I’m sort of a crazed green-eyed literary monster.
But . . . why?
Why am I jealous? I have no right to be. None at all.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an entry about “Dayainu” (Hebrew for “It would have been enough”) about how each step of my writing journey has been incredible and has surpassed expectations. I never expected to be published. Never expected to love my agent, to be so encouraged by my editor, to be supported by my publisher, to have friends celebrate whole-heartedly with me, for readers to ask what I’m working on next because they want to read more.
So how can I be jealous of others?
I could go with my I’m-a-flawed-human-being theory and be angry with myself. But I think it’s just plain human nature.
Years ago I read Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, a magnificently funny, validating book about writing and writers. So much of it rang true, and it gave me the courage to try getting published again after I’d been rejected by yet another round of agents. And then I got to the last section of the book, which talked about writer jealousy. I didn’t get it. She talked about the secret glee at seeing another writer’s books be remaindered, the anxiety of one’s publishing experience, and about the fleeting nature of the joy of one’s own success. I thought to myself, “If I every get published, I will be joyful. I would never be petty. And I will never, never forget how lucky I am.”
Now listen, I know I’m lucky. And I am happy for other writers when they find success. And I read reviews to see what might be interesting to pick up next. And when I hit “like” on a Facebook announcement about a friend’s deal or positive review, I do it out of happiness and the desire to support. Seriously, I do.
So I will try to forgive myself for my all-too-human and really-unproductive-and-unearned-jealousy. I will try. And I will fail. But I will try again. Just like when I’m writing.