Green Eyed Literary Monster

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.”

Ha.

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.

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11 Comments

Filed under Celebrations, Controversy, Happiness, jealousy, Satisfaction, Writing and Life

11 responses to “Green Eyed Literary Monster

  1. Cynthia

    This being the season for atonement, I confess I too often feel the same way you do, Michelle–though perhaps with a slight twist. When authors I don’t know or, especially, don’t like get great reviews I get jealous. But when my friends and agent-mates get great deals and reviews for wonderful writing and spectacular ideas, I’m merely envious (though sometimes wildly so). Why didn’t I think of The Quiet Book? Or, SvT? Or, Hamlet and Oprah?! But, I’m thrilled for them and for their readers. And I try–with my teeth gritted, sometimes–to remind myself that these new wonderful books mean that there must still be more terrific ideas out there–if I just knew which cabbage leaf to look under.

    Thanks for sharing the feeling most of us debut authors must have and are afraid to admit.

    Like

  2. Mike Jung

    Yup, I agree it’s a natural part of the process – nothing wrong with acknowledging our humanity – but it IS a tough part.

    Like

  3. J. Anderson Coats

    What is that saying? “Celebrate the success you wish for yourself”? A bit of enlightened self-interest, maybe, but the sentiment is in the right direction.

    Like

  4. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    I’m with you, Michelle. I’ve found that envy over a friend’s success is harder for me to swallow than envy over a stranger’s book deal, starred review, etc. I feel so guilty! But it passes soon enough, thankfully. 🙂

    Like

  5. Susan Lynn Meyer

    I love this post so much, I’m off to read your book, which I hadn’t gotten to yet!

    Like

  6. Pingback: The Green-eyed Monster Should Not have Tea | EMU's Debuts

  7. Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    We don’t usually comment on a post when we are assigned to do follow up Wednesday. However, I want to thank you for your honesty, Michelle. Jealousy is a very difficult topic for writers to grapple with and I think you helped many people by putting it out there in such an open, honest way. I’m so jealous that I didn’t think of it first! 😉

    Like

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and Lynda’s follow-up post. I’m fascinated by human nature. And yes, I must admit, that every once in awhile that green-eyed-monster sneaks, unwelcomed, into my soul. But I am mostly jealous of writers who string together beautiful words in the perfect order. I only wish I could do the same and was worthy of their awards and talents. I feel blessed for having gotten two books published, but feel that was because of my perseverance and dedication to being vigilant to the writing community….and both are with small publishers. My wish is that I could write better and be more clever. Even both of your posts were expertly written! There lies my true envy.

    Like

    • Lynda Mullaly Hunt

      Thank you so much, Carol! I so appreciate your coming by and making the effort to comment.

      I wanted to say that I am familiar with your work. You write directly to the hearts of kids–and that is a gift. You write the kinds of books that can change a kid’s world–help them with their worries when they may have no one else who understands. And you do this stunning thing–a thing few can do–in a way that kids understand and appreciate. It isn’t flowery language (nor is mine-and I admit to sometimes wishing that it were a bit more silky) but it isn’t meant to be and it wouldn’t work nearly as well if it were. It’s real and children respond to it. I just know that they would.

      Sitting alone in our offices, we writers sometimes don’t understand the impact we can have. However, I did want to say that, in my opinion, you are making ripples in ways I bet you never imagined.

      Like

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