The Writing Community’s Kryptonite…AKA Jealousy

27 Jul


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.


27 Responses to “The Writing Community’s Kryptonite…AKA Jealousy”

  1. Angela July 27, 2010 at 5:59 AM #

    I`m so sorry about your the incident with your friend. You totally deserve the success you have with QoG, but you don`t deserve that.

    But jealously can`t be helped. I`m sure every author has gone through an incident where she has been very jealous of another`s success.

    The jealously should be channeled into something positive–like, instead of being jealous, we should strive to work harder so that we can have our own success. ^^

    • Sarah J. Maas July 27, 2010 at 1:42 PM #

      Oh definitely! Every author is jealous of another author at some point. You just can’t let it drag you down, you know?

      And I agree–I think jealousy can be a great motivational tool! It’s just when it begins to affect your relationships with other people that it becomes poisonous.

  2. Henya July 27, 2010 at 7:56 AM #

    Sarah, one of the better posts I’ve read lately. Your experience with jealousy is common not only in the writing community, but also in everyday living. The pain associated with envy is real and something to be examined, which you have done here.

    I must confess that I am jealous of some people I know who have already published three books – while I – three years struggling to get my first book out there. I deal with it, though,because – as you have said – envy does not change your life one way or another. Unless you let it.

    • Sarah J. Maas July 27, 2010 at 1:47 PM #

      Thank you! And thanks for being so honest! It’s always really hard to see people getting ahead when you’re still standing in the same place.

      Mandy Hubbard, one of our LTWF contributors, actually wrote a beautiful blog post about this a while back. This was before she ever sold her first book (she’s now a multi-pubbed author):

  3. Vanessa July 27, 2010 at 9:17 AM #

    Sarah, kudos to you for being able to share this story with everyone! I know jealousy makes for some very ugly situations.

    You definitely shouldn’t feel bad about your success! I personally think of it as being incredibly inspiring. Sure, I might be a TEENY bit jealous every now and then, but I definitely swat it away whenever I feel it. I’d be lying if I said I was never jealous. But I certainly don’t feel the kind of destructive jealousy your friend felt. Besides, it’s so much better feeding off of your success in a positive way – I brag about you and all of the LTWF girls all the time! Your success gives me the hope that one day, I’ll be able to see my name on a bookshelf.

    Besides, once QoG is out, I’m pretty much going to be telling everyone that MY friend wrote it, and that it’s pretty damn awesome.

    I honestly can’t think of many stories involving jealousy though. I suppose I’m not the jealous type for the most part. And the times that I are, it’s always so fleeting and brief.

    • Sarah J. Maas July 27, 2010 at 1:51 PM #

      I’m actually amazed at how positive our LTWF group is with each other–we don’t really have any kind of aggressive jealousy crap going on. It feels more like a support group than anything, lol! 🙂 That’s probably because everyone in the group is so chill, and aware that everyone’s journey is different, and if we start comparing ourselves to each other, then that can lead us down a dark and twisty road. 😛

      But regardless, I think we’re all entitled to feel a teensy bit of jealousy now and then. It’s healthy–and normal!

      ❤ you!

  4. Launo July 27, 2010 at 10:16 AM #

    Amazing post! I’m often jealous of people, and to be honest I’m jealous of all the LTWF writers’ writing skills. For me jealousy is my motivation; it’s what keeps me writing when I want to quit. But, of course, jealousy had lost me some friends years ago.
    I’m really looking forward to read Queen of Glass!

    • Sarah J. Maas July 27, 2010 at 1:56 PM #

      Aw, thanks!!!

      I think jealousy can definitely be turned around into a positive source of motivation! But it’s always something to be wary of with your friends. It’s one thing to be jealous of an author you only know from a distance–but it’s a whole other game when you’re jealous of your best friend, you know?

      Thanks for commenting!! 🙂

  5. Victoria Dixon July 27, 2010 at 12:01 PM #

    The funny thing about jealousy is, if we keep going on our journey we’ll likely see/experience both ends of the spectrum! When I feel it concerning someone I know, I do AT LEAST one of two things. 1. Beat myself over the head with the differences between our work and remind myself that my novel has not reached the publication point yet because I’m not working hard enough or whatever the case may be. 2. Distance myself momentarily from the person. Not because I’m angry with them, but because I don’t trust myself not to spout off inappropriately. I value my friendships too much to risk them. Am I perfect at it? I doubt it. But saving friendships and connections is always worth the effort.

    • Sarah J. Maas July 27, 2010 at 2:00 PM #

      Those are great bits of advice for what to do when you feel jealousy towards someone you know personally! 🙂 Taking a momentary breather to get your emotions in control is definitely important.

      And yeah–if an author says they’ve never been jealous of another author, they’re lying. 😛 We ALL experience being on both ends of the spectrum. It’s inevitable.

  6. Savannah J. Foley July 27, 2010 at 1:18 PM #

    Great post, Sarah. I like how your article shows that jealousy doesn’t only affect the jealous party; it has a negative effect on the person who had the success, too.

  7. Krystle July 27, 2010 at 4:01 PM #

    Oh, that’s so terrible. I know I totally do get jealous of people, especially if they have amazing writing skills, got published with I think is an inferior book, or have the same-ish plot I have… BUT! I try not to let these things get to me. After all, it’s my writing I have to work on, so I just write and hope that I’ll get my own due later on. It’s not something worth losing your friendship over.

    Btw, I love Queen of Glass, so you can talk all you want about it to me! I love hearing about it. Haha. XD!

    • Sarah J. Maas July 27, 2010 at 5:00 PM #

      Haha, awww! Thanks! ❤

      And I think you have a great outlook!

  8. Kat Zhang July 27, 2010 at 4:11 PM #

    The publishing process is really hard. We as writers slave over a manuscript, putting so much time, effort, and a little (or big!) piece of ourselves into it. It’s easy to see how someone could easily get angry and depressed if s/he faces rejection after so much hard work.

    And if there’s someone else out there who seems to have more success, well, it’s even easier to think WHY THEM?? WHY NOT ME?

    But honestly, I think I’ve only ever gotten jealous of people I don’t know–random blogs I chance upon on the internet or something. It’s much harder for me to get jealous of someone I know because then I realize how much work s/he’s done! When you read a success story, you don’t get the full impact of the sweat and tears that led up to the success.

    But I’m rambling–let’s stop before this comment gets longer than your post, hahaha!

    I just want to say that your successes, along with those of all the other girls here at LTWF, have inspired and pushed me so much. I’ve achieved things in the past few months that were nebulous dreams before I joined this group. And though I’d like to think that I would have accomplished them on my own at some point or another, I know I would have stumbled much more and taken much, much more time to get to where I am today had it not been for the help and guidance of those who have already achieved success.

    So YAY for everything you’ve accomplished, Sarah. I’m happy for you from the bottom of my heart, and once QUEEN OF GLASS comes out, I’ll be telling everyone in the bookstore that I know the author 😛

    • Sarah J. Maas July 27, 2010 at 5:04 PM #

      Awwww, I love you!!!!!!! Us LTWF girls gotta stick together. I always turn Mandy’s book (PRADA & PREJUDICE) face-out when I see it in the store. 🙂

      Before I got an agent/book deal/etc., it was a LOT easier to be jealous and resentful of published authors. But once you realize how much hard work goes into just getting a book on a shelf, you kinda learn to chillax about it. 🙂

      I am BEYOND thrilled to be with you on your journey to publication! It’s only a matter of time before an agent snatches you up!!!! ❤

  9. Chantal July 27, 2010 at 5:17 PM #

    Great entry, and an important one at that. It’s awful when jealousy gets between people, but it’s something that happens all the time. Whether its about boys/girls, popularity, talent, jobs, or money, jealousy can be a formidable foe.

    I myself can be an incredibly jealous person, but I know that, and I recognize it about myself, and therefore I make sure to never let that side of me show to others. Because really, deep down you know that that person you envy hasn’t done anything wrong, and doesn’t deserve the negativity.

    It can be tough sometimes, but its best to just recognize when you’re just being silly and jealous, and just be happy for the success of others~

    • Sarah J. Maas July 28, 2010 at 4:11 PM #

      Thank you!

      I think that’s fantastic advice! And it’s wonderful that you at least acknowledge that you can be a jealous person–most people refuse to do that.

  10. Kairee-Anne July 27, 2010 at 8:58 PM #

    Wow great article 🙂 I feel jeaslous when I read another author’s story- the way its written at times, makes me feel so angry at myself because I usually don’t know what to fix or do after reading the story. But after reading this- I can now use this to help me do better and help others now..

  11. Biljana July 27, 2010 at 10:58 PM #

    I get jealous a lot but I never let it affect my relationship with people…or at least I do my best. It’s hard sometimes to keep a smile on your face when someone else gets something you’ve always wanted, you know? But I refuse to believe that that something is better than a tried and true friendship.

    Unless it’s ten million dollars.


  12. A. Barone July 27, 2010 at 11:52 PM #

    Oh, how horrible that jealousy on the art of the friend destroyed what you had with them. I don’t understand it at all.

    I mean, everyone gets jealous, over everything! It’s a part of life so why let it consume you? I mean, I’m envious / jealous that authors are out there getting published (and yeah, that includes you Sarah ^_<) but for me it just makes me work harder. It makes me analyze my manuscripts more, see what needs to be fixed. It makes me a better writer.

    And it also gives me something that's totally amazing. Hope. I figure if there are all those books out there, and all those authors getting published (and yes Sarah, that also includes you! ^_<) then there's no reason why I can't be published one day too.

    So yeah, jealousy can be a good thing, provided it's channeled correctly of course.

  13. Aniq July 28, 2010 at 2:16 AM #

    hey, fabulous post! came here after i saw the link on twitter. i used to struggle with jealousy a lot when i was a teenager (boys, friends, writing, the works!)… it’s been several years now, and here’s what i think:

    1. being jealous all the time gives you tunnel vision and doesn’t let you realize your own talents/beauty/awesomeness
    2. it destroys friendships from the inside out.

    thanks so much for this post! it’s always a good reminder to keep the green monster in check, and you gave some great suggestions 🙂

    • Sarah J. Maas July 28, 2010 at 3:41 PM #

      Aww, thank you!!!

      And you are SO right about both of those points! Thanks for sharing them!

      It’s always really, really sad when friendships fall apart as a result of jealousy. Granted, my friendship with this girl had a lot of other issues (which only became apparent at the end), but I think it ultimately fell apart as a result of the gap between us that her jealousy created.

  14. Gabriela Da Silva July 28, 2010 at 12:45 PM #

    Wow, Sarah, that’s really too bad. Especially after all the work you did for her, to have her turn back and say you just never cared…

    When I published my book, something akin happened. This friend, with whom I had *always* talked about writing & fantasy, just… grew distant. We would spend hours, literally, talking about our fantasy worlds: the countries we’d create, the traditions and people they would have, the magic and creatures…

    But she never did work, and when I published, she skipped my party, “opening day” and now she says she’s too busy to even talk.

    You’re completely right, though. I guess perseverance is the key – whether in writing, querying, etc., the only thing we can really do (and control!) is how much we try.

  15. Armith-Greenleaf July 28, 2010 at 5:54 PM #

    Hi! This was a really great post, something I’ve been mulling about for months. I’ve been victim of the evil green eyed monster–in the sense that I’m the jealous one (on a smaller, FP scale, since I’m still there.) Nothing too terrible, only the typical thoughts of “what do they have that I don’t?” “why am I so unlucky?” plus a lot of numer 2 going on. Thankfully I never took it out on anyone else; I’ve sighed longingly too often to be mad at someone else, and sighing longingly is quite draining, mind. 😛 But it’s kept me in a mood-slump for months this year, and I think I’m just getting over it (key words: I think.)

    I’m really sorry you had to go through something like that, but like you said, your friend let herself be taken over by the jealousy and that’s what we mustn’t let ourselves go through. A little bit of it is fine, it spurs you to work harder and be more competitive (thing that also has a healthy limit), but any more than that and it’s just bad news.

    Happy writing! 😀


  1. Revisiting Jealousy « Let The Words Flow - January 11, 2011

    […] result from comparing yourself to other writers. A few months later, Sarah wrote a post called The Writing Community’s Kryoptonite…AKA Jealousy, in which she talked about how jealousy harms not only the jealousee but the jealouser. (Yeah, you […]

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