Sarah J. Maas
Okay, I’m just gonna say it: Jealousy is rampant in publishing. Like, out-of-control rampant. It’s hard not to be jealous when you see an author get a seven-figure deal for a book that sounds just like yours, or jealous when you’ve been querying for 16 months and your friend lands an agent within days of querying. I’ve seen authors get jealous about money, book covers, press—pretty much everything. And I’ve seen firsthand how jealousy can eat away at writers—how it turns them into monsters.
Yeah, it sounds dramatic. But it’s true. I had a friendship fall apart as a result of jealousy. When I met this aspiring writer, she was sweet, and funny, and optimistic. I’d just signed with my agent, and I was more than happy to help her out with her own path to publication—I did everything from critiquing her manuscript to helping with her query letter to researching agents for her. But as the months wore on, and she didn’t get any closer to landing an agent, while I moved closer to getting a book deal, jealousy set in.
It came to a head when she told me she couldn’t be friends with me anymore—that I’d essentially become a colossus casting a shadow over her and stomping on her dreams. I felt blindsided. I felt guilty about my own successes. Had I done those things? Had I stomped on her dreams by talking about how awesome my agent is, or what editors were interested in QUEEN OF GLASS? Was I casting a shadow over her because my blog had more followers? Um, no. Far from it. But I ultimately realized that it wasn’t an issue about ME. It was about HER. Her insecurities and fears poisoned her.
That’s what jealousy is, really. A poison. It clouds your judgment, it turns friends into enemies. It makes you into something you are not. It turned this girl, who was a friend I loved and valued, into someone I didn’t recognize. By the end, she claimed all sorts of horrible things about me. The worst, though, was when she claimed that I never cared about her at all. I don’t think I ever told her this, but I had her number on speed dial. I have five people on my speed dial. And she was one of them.
Our friendship ended. And even though we left things on rocky terms, I wish her the best—I really do. Because I understand how it feels to be jealous of someone, how it makes you physically ill, and I know there will always be someone to be jealous of. But you can’t let it get to you. You can’t let it eat up everything inside of you, because you lose so much as a result.
But it’s hard to let go of jealousy. Really, truly hard. I have to actively tell myself to STFU every time I get jealous. So, here’s some quick and dirty advice when you feel that miserable rush.
1. Don’t panic. So someone sold a book for a hell of a lot more money than you received. So someone got an agent that you really wanted. So what. Do these things affect your daily life in any way? Does that one person getting an agent imply that you won’t ever land an agent? Take a deep breath. Put things into perspective.
2. Sometimes good things happen to undeserving people. Again, so what? Just because an insipid author was featured on the front page of the NYTimes Book Review doesn’t mean you won’t ever be. Look inside yourself—what is prompting your negative reaction? Why are you so upset about it? Once you understand the source of your jealousy, it’s a lot easier to confront it—and let go of it.
3. Someone else’s success doesn’t make you a loser. I don’t think I need to explain this one.
4. Sometimes, we have to work harder than the average person to achieve our dreams. But everything happens for a reason. Maybe we need that harder journey—maybe that journey will make us into better people. Don’t be afraid of taking the longer path. It might lead to some interesting places.
How do you guys combat jealousy? Any tales of woe and misery to share?
Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.