Tag Archives: jealousy

Revisiting Jealousy

11 Jan

by Savannah J. Foley

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Almost a year ago I wrote a post called FictionPress and Jealousy, in which I talked about the negative feelings that sometimes 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 love it when I make up words.) Yesterday Susan Dennard wrote a post about ‘keeping your eyes on your own paper’ when comparing yourself to other writers.

Now, I don’t want you guys to think I’m a big green monster all the time, but jealousy has reared its ugly head for me again here recently, and since it’s the new year I figured it’s time to get it all out there and let it go.

For Christmas I received Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. You’ve probably heard of it; it’s a great memoir/writing instructions book, like Stephen King’s On Writing. Anne devoted a whole chapter to jealousy, including real-life examples, and I think what puzzled me most is her reaction to jealousy (indeed, her reaction to a lot of writing-related problems). Anne recommended removing the person who causes you to be jealous from your life.

Now, in her situation I can understand. Anne had a friend who was already pretty well off who then landed a six-figure book deal. Meanwhile, Anne’s husband was out of a job and she was barely making ends meet, and the friend would call to talk about her book deal and how exciting and scary it was, making statements like, ‘I guess God is just giving me money this year.’ And Anne is right there nodding along and saying ‘yup’ because if she says anything else she’ll just scream or cry.

Anne felt the problem was with her, until she realized that her friend knew that Anne’s family was in financial trouble, and still called to discuss the 6-figures she’d be receiving shortly. Anne didn’t feel the woman was bragging, but it was still really insensitive.

Solution: Distance self from friend.

But is that right? Can you really go through life weeding out people who make you feel bad, especially for something so slippery as their own good fortune?

What about when one of your good friends has something awesome happen to them, and even though you’ve helped them reach their goal, you still find yourself turning green in the face? What about when you see some random person on the internet who’s #1 on the NYT best-sellers list with their first book and they’ve only been writing for a few years? Or you see some stranger’s announcement on Twitter that they signed a 10-book deal and Oprah’s already scheduled a viewing with them?

You can’t just ignore or block out everyone who makes you feel jealous, especially if they’re your friends. Therefore we are back at square one: How do we stop feeling jealous, or, how do we manage our jealousy?

Personal confession time. Recently a friend of mine had something really awesome happen to them. Like, super awesome. My first reaction was shock, followed by a brief spurt of excitement, but then as the details came rolling in of how super-fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime, omg-you-can’t-be-serious this news was, something far more sinister bloomed within me: shaking, raging, can’t-breathe jealousy.

I felt like I’d been leveled with a hammer. One part of me wanted to cry and yell and say really nasty things, and the other part knew this was completely ridiculous and I should be excited for my friend, and why wasn’t I like other people who felt secure in my own good fortune to the point where I didn’t envy anyone else?

To try and get over it, I took my dog for a walk to clear my head. I thought, you know, being out in nature and whatever would calm me down and make me realize that I was awesome enough that I didn’t have to be jealous of anyone. But it didn’t happen.

Instead this acid-pit kept threatening to erupt in me. I couldn’t catch my breath. I hated what I was feeling; I didn’t WANT to be that horrible, jealous friend who couldn’t just be happy for the success of others. How was my friend’s success harming me? How was her happiness detracting from me in any way?

It wasn’t. But my feelings persisted. They persisted for weeks. I tried not to tell anyone because we attach such a stigma to jealousy, but I did share a bit of my disappointment with my boyfriend. Okay, a lot of my disappointment. To the point that when a friend of mine landed her first book deal and I shared the news via IM, his first reaction was, “I’m sorry, Savannah.”

I sat there looking at the screen, horrified. “No, no,” I typed. “This is great! I’m not upset.”

How could I be wanting-to-die jealous of one friend, but excited for another? Why couldn’t I talk myself out of my negative feelings? It made me realize some fundamental facts about jealousy:

Jealousy is not logical. It stems from our own insecurities, which are as varied and changing as we are. I can’t predict when news is going to make me smile in joy or frown in anger. I can only withstand the onslaught.

Jealousy is not easily banished. There’s no quick fix for jealousy. There’s no inspirational quote, yoga pose, chocolate bar, spoken word, reassuring hug or anything that is going to fix it. Only time.

Jealousy does not mean there’s something wrong with you. Despite how I disagreed with Anne about some points and philosophies in her book, I am grateful that she showed me how everyone is jealous at some time. No one is so spiritually secure that they’re never jealous. For some reason I thought that professional writers never get insecure, despite being told that over and over again. For some reason Anne made me ‘get it’.

Jealousy made me scared. I was terrified one of my friends was going to find out, and then I’d be ostracized for daring to feel inadequate. I didn’t want my negative feelings to be a burden on anyone, so I kept them inside. But my feelings were aching to be released. I found myself making passive-aggressive comments, hinting at my unhappiness but not daring to make it fully known. What I really needed to do is have a positive conversation about my negative emotions. I needed to talk with a friend about it, someone I could trust to not let me devolve into gossiping about my friend with the good news. Someone who could say ‘yeah me too, lol, we’re so lame, now let’s move on.’

The thing about jealousy is that you get over it eventually. My jealousy-levels are way lower than they were a few weeks ago. I’m not totally zen about it yet, but I’m hoping that one day I won’t care anymore.

In the meantime, I’m going to go about my business and accept that I don’t have to feel happy and satisfied all the time. I’m going to use my jealousy as inspiration to work harder so I too can be successful.

What about you guys? Anything making you crazy with envy lately? Let’s get it out of our systems and move on already!

~~~

Also, just an FYI that the book I’m working on had a name change. Previously known as Woman’s World, then  Antebellum, the new title I’m working with is Nameless. You can read a sample chapter here.

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Nameless  is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

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Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper

10 Jan

Let me tell you a story:

When I was in 7th grade, I joined the track team to hang out with my friends.  The kids who weren’t fast ended up running the mile race — in other words, I was in the mile race.

Thing was, I never practiced.  In fact, I spent every day at practice just chatting away and walking at a leisurely stroll.  Running is in my family tree (my mom is a marathoner), and I kinda figured I had inherited the skill…

Come on, I thought, if Mom can run 26 miles, how hard can a single mile be?

Um, turns out it can be brutal, and it should come as no surprise that at the first track meet, I got last place.  DEAD LAST.  I cried, and worse than that, I quit the track team out of shame and absolute self-loathing.

Another story:

When I was 15, I agreed to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” (the USA’s National Anthem) at a regional swim meet.  I had performed in front of people many times, and I was taking voice lessons.  I thought it’d be an easy-peezy song ‘cos, you know, people are always singing it!  And so I didn’t practice at all…

Come on, I thought, it’s the national anthem.  Everyone knows it.  We sing it a baseball games — how hard can it be?

Well, half-way through the performance (everyone in the audience was standing with their hats off and hands over their hearts), I froze up.  I had forgotten the words.

So I just stopped singing while my eyes bulged white and mouth bobbed like a fish.  Fortunately, the audience kept singing, and I managed to pick back up.  But as soon as the song was over, I ran to the nearest bathroom stall, cried, and vowed never to show my face in public again.

Yada-yada-yada, you get the point: absolute self-loathing.

Notice something?  I got what I deserved.  I looked at someone else’s success and figured I could do the same…  So then, when I failed, I thought it was because I sucked, because I wasn’t good enough, because everyone else was better…  I didn’t realize it was my choice to be lazy and not practice.

Writing is kind of the same.

When I fail, it hurts.  When my crit readers say, “No, that’s not a great idea” or my agents say, “I think you need to fix that”, it doesn’t matter how sugar-coated their words are, it never feels good.  I think of all those other writers who don’t have to revise/rewrite/start-over, and I wonder if I’m just a shoddy author…

But then I eat a few cookies, and things start to look up.  In fact, I start to feel downright good about my failures.

Why?  Because I’m in charge. This time, I’m not going to give up.  This time, defeat won’t win.  I will win, and not by comparing myself to that writer with four hundred book deals or to that opera singer who can easily hit a high C or to my mom who can run ten miles no sweat.

I will win by working hard, and that means all the power is in my hands.

I will keep practicing; I will keep trying; I will compare my path to no one else’s; and one day — be it sooner or later — I will get to where I’m trying to go.

And I promise: you will too.

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Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, The Spirit-Hunters, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

FictionPress and Jealousy

25 Feb

FictionPress and Jealousy

by Savannah J. Foley

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Hey all! Real quick — we decided to start posting our pictures by our articles, and will be adding them to our prior posts throughout the week. We’re also doing a little bit of site renovation, so bear with us while we’re under construction! The site will be fully functioning–but we just wanted to give everyone a heads-up in case some things look a little wonky.

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When the Let The Words Flow team first got together and started to get to know one another, one thing we were all startled by were our feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, sometimes even caused by each other!

Once upon a time we were all new writers, and especially new to FictionPress. We all posted our first stories, not really knowing how the process worked, both terrified and excited for our first reviews.

Some of us eventually grew a following. Some of us did not. All of us felt the sting of jealousy at one point or another.

Take me, for example. I published most of my Woman’s World series (since retitled to Antebellum) on Fictionpress. I have over 1,000 reviews on the first book, 900 on the second, and 300 on the third. Every time I posted anything I was sure to have my inbox flooded with comments. I had a small fan club. My stories were often chosen to be in Fictionpress contests. One of my friends mentioned Woman’s World to a friend of hers at school and it turns out the other girl had heard of it!

To a FictionPress writer who gets maybe 2 or fewer reviews with each update, I seemed wildly successful. But it wasn’t enough for me. You see, I had big competition, like my now-friend and fellow LTWF contributor, Sarah J. Maas. Her book, Queen of Glass, had over 6,000 reviews! She had an even bigger fanclub, and every time she and I went up against each other in those contests, she trounced me.

I didn’t hate her, because I was secure in my own sense of superiority, lol. ‘She doesn’t deserve all those reviews, or all those fans,’ I thought. ‘My story is better than some stupid Cinderella-remake’ (I have since been enlightened as to how awesome retellings can be). My reviewers would tell me about Queen of Glass. I even read a few chapters. Which made it so weird when Sarah emailed me out of the blue, just to say hi, and we began emailing back and forth, and eventually she asked me to be a founding member of LTWF.

This was a girl I had been jealous of because she was far more successful than me on FictionPress! I had never dreamed we could be anything close to friends, or that we were even so oddly similar (both relatively the same age, same hair color, same first two initials, and got our agents in consecutive months).

Which brings me back to this article’s beginning: There we all were, recently introduced to each other, and suddenly it was all coming out. I swear our conversation looked something like this:

“I used to be jealous of you!”

“Well I used to be jealous of you!”

“I used to be jealous of all of you!”

We marveled at how silly we had been, and how things can change so radically. We realized we had learned an important lesson that needed to be shared with FictionPress writers:

Someone will always have more reviews than you, more subscribers, more fans, etc. When you get published, someone will always get a better review, sell more copies, or get more highly rated.

Always.

But you know what? You’re not competing with them. You’re really not. You’re competing with yourself. Consider runners in Track. Sometimes it’s not about being the fastest runner, it’s about running the fastest race you’ve ever run before. It’s about your personal best. If someone is faster than you, but you beat your personal best and they didn’t, then who REALLY won in that case?

If you focus on the success of others, all you’re doing is taking away from your own success. Hating someone and being jealous of them won’t do anything to make your own writing better, or increase your number of fans.

And yes, I admit it’s not always as easy as that. I’m guilty of being a very jealous person, and not even just of my friends at LTWF. I’m jealous of J. K. Rowling (If I could only be as successful as her!). I’m jealous of Stephen King (If only I could write as many books as him!). I’m jealous of Chuck Palahniuk (If only I were as original as he is!). I’m jealous of Toni Morrisson (oh, if only I could write like her!).

I’m also jealous of writers I don’t like, like Stephenie Meyer and Christopher Paolini. I’m jealous of their success, particularly when I think it’s so undeserved.

But none of that jealousy is going to help me do any better. EXCEPT if I use my jealousy for a  positive purpose. I think Toni Morrisson is the most gifted writer I’ve ever heard of. My jealousy of her writing style inspires me to improve my own. I’m so jealous of Chuck Palahniuk for his mind-blowing story lines, and that inspires me to work hard on my own stories to create my own brand of originality and mind-blowingness.

I’m jealous of J. K. Rowling. Well, okay then, I better write something that can appeal to everyone if I want that much success. I’m jealous of Stephen King, so I better focus, focus, focus and write constantly if I want to have as many books out as him.

(Please keep in mind that you shouldn’t copy others, but instead strengthen your own style)

You can use your jealousy for a constructive purpose, or you can use it to hurt yourself. Please, don’t hurt yourself. 😉

Remember, if you want to have any measure of success, you must take the attributes that you admire in others and use them to inspire you to improve your own writing. Don’t let jealousy consume you, instead let it fuel your desire to be the best writer you can be. If your jealousy is targeted at someone really good, let them be an inspiration, not a source of hatred and self-doubt.

I think that we at LTWF still struggle with jealousy and self-doubt, especially when we’re at all stages of the publishing process, from just finished first novel to already published. But, when one of us has good news, we’re there to cheer, and when one of us has bad news, we’re there to sympathize and encourage.

I believe that we will all make it. And I believe that you will, too, if you don’t give up, and if you focus on your own writing, and not how much better someone else’s is.

Best of luck,

Savannah J. Foley

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.