Now that I’m 42, I seem to have (mostly) moved past getting hung up on jealousy — or maybe it’s because between my own books, my freelance writing, my kiddo, and family life I no longer have the luxury of time to bathe in the sea of jealousy. More likely, however, is that I now have had enough successes and failures of my own to understand you can’t always be winning. That’s life, as they say.
Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t wish I had written my debut at 22, or that my book had garnered a multi-house auction or was optioned for film before even hitting the shelves. But I’m now smart (old) enough to realize that I couldn’t have written the book I did 20 years ago. COME AWAY WITH ME is full of personal nuances and life lessons, and infused with the wisdom that comes from living through some challenging experiences — experiences I didn’t even know how to think about at 22.
Having said all this, I do think a little green-with-envy is normal. Motivating, even. But as soon as things shift from inspiration to impediment – that place where you feel the burn of jealousy because author X is getting everything you want on a seemingly shorter timeline — it might be time for a “green” diet.
Tips for putting yourself on a GREEN diet.
- Take some time away from social media. Authors often take to places like Twitter and Facebook to announce successes, which is all part of the marketing strategy when you have a book in the works – no matter what stage of the process you’re at. But many won’t also show the darker side — the times when that bestselling author went to a signing and no one showed up, or when a debut author with a six-figure advance can’t sell her next book, or when an author created an agent bidding war with only ten queries but then couldn’t generate the same enthusiasm with publishers – which leaves those scrolling the stream to believe they might me the ONLY ones not succeeding.
- Keep your eyes on your own page. There is no better way to ensure you won’t get ahead than by paying more attention to what everyone else is doing and not enough to your own work. Even if you see another author tweet about his book – which just sold for a major sum – and with a sinking heart realize it’s the SAME premise as your nearly completed manuscript, do not panic. Turn your eyes away from the deal announcement and get back to work. Your story is unique because your experiences and vision will be unlike anyone else’s, and there’s plenty of room on the shelf if you’ve written a great book – except maybe if it has teen vampires or a boy wizard. Then you might want to move to the next story idea.
- Behind every success is a lot of hard work. I’m sure there are exceptions to this, but I’d guess that nearly every successful author has had a fair dose of serious failure – like the kind that makes you curl in ball in a dark room and declare you’re quitting, this time for good. Take Stephen King, for example. If you read ON WRITING (which everyone who is/wants to be a writer should, in my opinion) you’ll see he had some incredibly lean years – and a giant stack of rejections to show for just how little success he had early on. And the list goes on: Dr. Seuss; J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter); Kathryn Stockett (The Help); Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul); Jack Kerouac (On the Road); Louisa May Alcott (Little Women). Seems the formula for success, if there is one, is this: Don’t give up; keep writing; hope for a little sprinkle of luck.
So what’s your strategy for taming the green-eyed monster?