The Little Green Monster

March 31, 2008 at 9:20 am | Posted in Jessica, motivation, writing | 7 Comments
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Envya feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc. greenmonster

The idea of professional jealousy has been one that I have thought about on and off over the years. And I have decided that I don’t resent my colleagues’ successes as much as I wish I had what they have. So I think I am less jealous than I am perhaps a little green with envy. It’s a monster I have rarely visited throughout my life (unless Fenway counts) and it feels a little strange to admit it.

Please don’t misunderstand me — one of my favorite things to do is to root for those people — friends and those unknown to me — who are working hard to make their dreams come true. I love to hear success stories and to celebrate such good news. I know how hard it is to tip the point from toiling writer to victories big and small, and to achieve the milestone is a feat we should all celebrate.

The envy comes in when I step back and look at the collective successes. And it feels like everyone is at a party and I have yet to receive my invitation. It feels a little sad and lonely to be on the outside of the publishing ranks and looking in, but all is not lost. I think that as potentially destructive a feeling as envy can be, it can also serve as a great motivating force.

I am an active part of two writing groups — a monthly in-person meeting group and an online one. At each of our monthly in-person meetings, we all take a turn around the room to introduce ourselves and share what we write. We celebrate the good news and share in the bad. In many ways it is a nice support group of people with shared interests, all presumably working toward similar goals but with not such definitive goals that the work reported feels tangible or the motivation contagious.

Then one day someone tosses a question onto the discussion board of my other, online group — a request that we all report in on what we are writing . . . to give these projects a name and report their progress. The flood of responses that came back to the loop blew me away . . . the sheer volume of pages being written . . . the number of projects being completed . . . the enormous productivity that these women shared. In that flood of reported output, I admit I was envious at how much writing progress everyone amassed each day.

Here was evidence of the much-talked-about ball and I was Cinderella. Without the fairy godmother. No one was going to float into my world on a pink cloud trailing sparkling fairy dust and promising possibilities with the flick of a wand. No pumpkin. No ball gown. No glass slippers. And no Prince Charming. (But that’s a topic for another blog post.)

This revelation was a great reminder — if I don’t want to be left behind, I am going to have to work to get to the party. In that way, I don’t think my envy is too terrible a thing to admit — as long as it is channeled for good purposes. I do not believe in climbing over, using, or hurting others to get what you want. I do believe in the reward of hard work and the hope of reaping the benefits of the time invested and practice logged.

So, the next time you are about to ask someone, “What do you write?”, instead ask them, “What are you writing?” The change in word choice is slight, but the differences in the potential answers are enormous.

There is no guarantee that any of us trying to make it in this business will ultimately get published. But I can guarantee that you definitely won’t make it if you aren’t working to get there. Rest assured, everyone at the party has earned his or her spot.

So watch and learn from the people you envy. Keep writing and get those dance cards ready — you’ll need them for when you get to the ball.




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  1. My work ethic is TOO strong, I’m TOO driven and therefore don’t relax enough to do my body, mind and productivity a world of good. It’s one thing to be motivated, to produce a lot of work but, in the end, it’s the quality of our endeavors that count, not how much sweat we’ve expended…

  2. Alright, I’m writing a YA Fantasy and I’ll be finished and (hopefully) polished and querying on April 19th – Yeah!

    Who Else?

  3. Great post, Jessica. It’s human nature to feel envy or jealousy, but I like your strategies for managing it. And, your Prince Charming comment made me giggle. The only way you take yourself out of the game is to quit, so unless you do that, you are a working writer. Even if you are THINKING about your WIP, you are working toward your goal.

  4. Thanks, Marie! I appreciate your chiming in and the fact that you got it. It’s a matter of not letting your wants get the better of you, but rather using them to help move you forward in healthy and productive ways. My motto – it’s a slow build!

  5. Oh Jessica! I know only too well that Cinderella at the Ball feeling. Personally, I’m impressed that you can put your envy to good use. That speaks to your good nature, and your ability to persevere.

    Great post. It’s nice when people own up to something like envy. We’re all human, and we all suffer from dark days. Thanks for letting us not feel alone.

  6. […] A Not-So-Pleasant Shade of Green April 1, 2008 A recently read a blog post at Purple Hearts talking about envy.  In Jessica’s blog she tells how she, on occasion, feels envy for her fellow authors and […]

  7. Barb,
    Thanks so much for your kind words! I appreciate that you get it, too. I honestly feel that we’re all in this together and can help each other in so many ways . . . whether it’s being motivated by other peoples’ successes or sharing in the doldrums. You are definitely not alone — I’m glad you stopped by!

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