Writer’s Envy: What to Do When You’re Feeling Green

Posted by houndrat on Monday Apr 26, 2010 Under writing, Young Adult

So, as a writer, do you ever find yourself feeling like this?

It's not easy being green!

It's not easy being green!

No, I’m not talking about feeling like you have ears the size of small trumpets, or a neck that could support a Hummer. I’m taking about feeling green.

If so, don’t worry. You’re not alone. The truth is, writers envy other writers. Often.

Think about it. Most of us are striving for the same goals, and no matter how successful we are, someone is going to reach those goals before us. It’s inevitable. And, OMG, then we worry.

I mean, be honest. Have you ever had one of the following thoughts?

Well, if Writer FancyPants got SuperAwesomeAgent X, does that mean there’s no spot left for ME?

Prolific Proser finished that novel in two weeks, and yet I’ve been slogging away at mine for decades!

Writer LovelyWords wrote a first draft full of such gorgeous, luscious prose, it makes my first draft read like it was penned by a dyslexic donkey!

Then there’s the post-agent envy. That green pang that strikes every time someone you know snags a one, two, three-book deal while you’re twiddling your thumbs on sub, wondering if the editors are using your manuscript as a giant coaster—for the champagne they’re drinking while celebrating the acquisition of THAT OTHER book. Or when so and so gets more marketing money, a better cover, superior book store real estate. The list goes on and on and on.

No fair--his is bigger than mine!

No fair--his is bigger than mine!

http://ruach.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/envy-of-the-bone1.jpg

Guess what? It’s OKAY to be a little envious. It’s a natural human reaction, and initially coveting someone else’s success doesn’t make you a bad person. Really.

That said, there comes a time when the coveting goes too far. I’m all about accepting your envy, only—don’t let it take you to the Bad Place. You know the one. That’s where you go when you start mumbling stuff like, “Oh, Author BigHugeDeal ONLY got that sweet contract because they were in the right place at the right time.” Or, “Author I’veGotARockstarAgent ONLY got signed because he/she had the right connections.”

Uh-uh. Not cool. Remember—99.0% of the writers who get ahead do so because of hard work, skill, and persistence. So while it’s okay to feel that envy, you need to throw up an inner roadblock. Do NOT drag Author HotSHot to your Bad Place. That’s where your insecurities live, and the only person who can deal with those is YOU. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, really—why would anyone else?

So, instead of a visit to the BP, I’ve made up a little list of helpful hints to keep that really negative type of envy in check:

-Chow down on chocolate. That stuff is FULL of endorphins—embrace it. Plus, if you eat a ton of it, you’ll be too busy trying to get that extra five pounds off to worry about what WonderWriter is doing.

-Buy a killer new pair of shoes. Hey, Author Amazing might have had SqueeWorthy Agent offer five minutes after sending out a full, but YOU’VE got the hot footwear—and your toes/ankles/calves are smoking in those suckers!

-Watch your favorite movie. Then, think about envying your favorite actor or actress instead. Chances are, they’re way more successful than Author FabuFreakingLicious is ever going to be.

-Make a list of awesome skills you have that SpectacularScribbler doesn’t share. Like, the ability to pick up small objects with your toes, or execute a perfect rendition of the Running Man. Or the very crucial talent of shot-gunning a beer in under ten seconds.

In all seriousness, though, the best thing? Let yourself experience the envy without beating yourself up about it. Then, after you’ve embraced your inner green self—get over it. Move on. Realize everyone has their highs and lows, and learn to appreciate your own strengths. And, if it makes you feel any better, know this—there’s probably another writer out there right this very minute who’s envious of YOU.

(P.S. What honestly works for me? Getting really, really excited for the writer in question. I find it’s almost impossible to be ecstatic for someone else and still harbor seriously negative emotions. Plus, squeeing on other people’s behalves? IT’S FUN—and kills free-radicals!!!!)**

**Note: this claim has not been substantiated by medical science. In other words—you’ll just have to take houndrat’s word for it. Sparkle Out.

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28 Responses to “Writer’s Envy: What to Do When You’re Feeling Green”

  1. Sandy Shin Says:

    This is such a FABULOUS post. Envy is a part of a writer’s life (sometimes, I feel envious over agents and publishing deals when I’m not even at the query stage yet, it’s ridiculous), but these are wonderful advice for not letting it get you to Bad Place. Chocolates and getting excited for the other person(s) totally work for me, regardless of medical science’s stamp of approval. :]

  2. Veronica Says:

    I am totally with you. We shouldn’t hate ourselves for feeling envious, but we shouldn’t indulge that envy either. Plus, those free radicals are a bitch (bitches?).

  3. T.H. Mafi Says:

    HERE HERE!!

    slams on table. several times.

    well said, love.

    WELL SAID.

  4. Suzanne Says:

    So true! I totally believe in writerly karma. Not too long ago, I was feeling writer envy afer reading a review of a book by another writer who’d lived in Japan, written a novel based on her experiences, and landed a deal with a big NYC house. (My novel was published by a small press.) After stewing for a bit, I posted a link to the review on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. The next day, she contacted me via email to tell me that she’d read and loved my novel. All of my envy melted away.

  5. Kath Says:

    Actual thought while beta reading: It’s a good thing we’re friends because otherwise I think I’d hate her. :p

  6. Shannon Says:

    Thanks, houndrat — your post is a great reminder not to compare our individual paths to others’. That envy has only happened to me once. I tamped it down right away and got excited for the other author. Then I had some chocolate.

  7. sue Says:

    Brilliant post.
    I’m totally behind the chocolate remedy.

    i confess to a mild twinge of envy when a writer I know has a good piece of fortune but it soon passes because, when all is said and done, we’re all in this absurd mess together.

    The only time I ever really spat feathers was when someone who’d written a book set in the same period of history as mine. The writer said she’d received an offer from a UK agent but decided not to take it because she couldn’t afford to go to England to promote her book. it wasn’t anyone I knew, just someone who’d posted this news on a forum

    I ended up with a sore head after repeated pounding against a brick wall.

  8. Karla Says:

    Haha AWESOME post! You’re really amazing! Ya know that? :D

  9. Kaitlin Says:

    Love this post!! I agree: it’s so much more fun to get excited for someone than to glare at their avatar on twitter through your computer screen.

  10. Lee Says:

    Whenever the green bug bites me, I try to channel that angst into writing. It doesn’t always work and there are days when I sob “why not me” into my bar of dark Belgium chocolate, but I think using it to make you work harder is a good thing!

    The “why not me?” turns into, “Hell yeah, why NOT me!” :)

  11. houndrat Says:

    Sandy–I know–the medical stamp of approval is over-rated, right? lol…and yay for chocolates and the squee method! :)

  12. houndrat Says:

    Vee–Yes–DO NOT INDULGE THE ENVY!! It will try to make you a slave and demand all kinds of insane things–like daily crying rants and boiling rabbits in pots! Er, wait, that was something else….

  13. houndrat Says:

    Tahereh–Aw, thanks…and you set such a positive example with your blog!!! <33333

  14. houndrat Says:

    Suzanne—Awesome story–thank you so much for sharing! :)

  15. houndrat Says:

    Kath–Ha–I don’t believe this for a second, but I love you for saying it. :)

  16. Chantal Kirkland Says:

    I totally agree. I have all sorts of awesomesauce being poured all around me–on other people. And I could be eaten-up by malicious greenness, or I could be the cheerleader for my friends and let them know just how proud I am. I choose #2. It’s a lot more rational and, man, when I reach that goal, I sure would like them to be cheering me on!

  17. houndrat Says:

    Shannon–Yes–exactly! Comparisons really can be hard on the soul…they tell us not to do it to our kids, so why do it to ourselves? Plus–chocolate, see? Totally works.

  18. houndrat Says:

    Sue—Argh, well that’s a little different—((hugs)). There’s nothing wrong with a little head-pounding once in awhile! :)

  19. houndrat Says:

    Karla—Aw, <3333–you too!

  20. houndrat Says:

    Kaitlin—Lol, very true! Plus, then your computer thinks you’re mad at it, and that’s never good.

  21. houndrat Says:

    Lee—YES! I totally agree—it’s all about channeling it into something positive, right?

  22. houndrat Says:

    Chantal—This is perfect—I think you should have written my post for me. ;)

  23. Karla Nellenbach Says:

    Completely with you on this…the green-eyed monster has reared his ugly head in my world a few times, but I just keep telling myself that I need to work what I have, plus I have cool shoes! LOL

  24. Elizabeth Briggs Says:

    So true. I think we all feel a little envy sometimes. But I just remind myself that these people did work their butts off too, so they deserve their success. And maybe someday people will feel a little green about me too.

  25. Anne Says:

    I’m with eating chocolate no matter what. Good for the body, good for the soul, just plain good. :)

  26. houndrat Says:

    Eek, my responses were supposed to show up as replies to individual comments! Instead, it looks like I just sputtered out random wordage, like I’ve got some weird bloggy form of Tourrettes–sorry! I’ll try to fix asap! *shakes fist at WordPress*

  27. Mary Brebner Says:

    So with you on the writer’s envy. I mean, of course you’re super-happy for them (especially because it’ll be another great book to add to your TBR pile) BUT I do get that twinge, wishing it were me. Oh, well. I’m off for some chocolate then back to writing! ;)

  28. Dawn Says:

    Ahhh, writer’s envy. That’s a hard one. I get it, I feel it, I hate it. I feel like such a rotten person when those twinges make an appearance. But you’re right, squeeing is a great way to get rid of it.

    As a side note, my girlfriend once noted that whenever one of our other friends would get pregnant, anyone who hugged the prego ended up pregnant too. At least she and I both did – LOL. May be worth trying on the next one of my writer friends who receives good news :) Hug them and see if their luck rubs off.

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