Keeping Jealousy on the Outside

Between Lisa’s insightful and lovely post yesterday about creating a sisterhood and Karen’s epic piece from December about keeping your eyes on your own paper, I’m not sure I have much to add about dealing with professional jealousy. I’m a competitive and ambitious person by nature, but I’m happy to note that jealousy hasn’t been in my top five or ten challenges in the debut year.

I think that’s mostly because I’ve tried to do what Lisa and Karen suggest, including their advice to control what I can control.

Do I wish my book:

  • was available for purchase in Target and airports?
  • had landed on national bestseller lists?
  • had sold in seventeen other countries?
  • was being adapted for television by Laura Dern’s production company?
  • inspired myriad former students of mine to reach out and tell me how much I meant to them?

Of course, I do. But, to be honest with you, when each of these things happened to a writer I know and admire and cheerlead for, I felt genuinely happy. Jealousy stayed on the outside of that happiness.

We’re often taught that life–and writing–is a zero-sum game, that if one person reaches a milestone, it means we’re all less likely to reach it ourselves. I try to avoid this thinking and instead imagine the rising tide and the lifting of all boats. And, I try to continually build my community of colleagues, just as Lisa advises, and focus on the two things I can control. Do you want to know what they are? (FYI, I’m currently picturing Curly in City Slickers telling Mitch it’s “One thing.” In this case it’s two things, but you get the idea.)

You can control:

  • writing your next book
  • nurturing authentic relationships with other writers and your publishing team.

And that’s it! You’re officially free from the comparison game. It won’t make you better, anyway, and it will only fill you with self-doubt. Who needs that?! Not Curly, that’s for sure.


Author: Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.