Envy Is Good

To paraphrase Gordon Gekko from the movie WALL STREET, envy is good. And I say that as a completely non-psycho, non-egomaniac (at least I think I’m not). I say that as a writer who may still have an unpublished novel if I didn’t let my envy drive me to do what I needed to do.

Back iothello-2n 2012, I read the Facebook update of a dear friend. She just signed with an agent shortly before and now had a book contract. Yep, I was pea green with envy. Then I went to my writing group the next week and someone else had an agent. The green-eyed monster that doth mock the meat it feeds on burrowed deep in my soul.

Now don’t get me wrong. I was beyond thrilled for both of these friends. They worked so hard on their novels. They did the summaries and the queries. They researched the agents. In other words, they did the work. I realized that it wasn’t just that I envied their agents and the one’s book contract. I envied their work ethic and what they were able to do. And the great thing is, work ethic has no defined quantity. You don’t have to take it from someone for it to be your own. You can generate it all on your own, no harm to anyone.

I used my envy to my advantage. Each day when I was so tired from my job/commute/house-hunting, I’d think about my friends and the envy I felt. And it motivated me to sit my envious ass in my desk chair and work on my novel. I really turned up the heat on my effort. I dedicated the better part of four months to get my manuscript to where I wouldn’t be embarrassed to send it to an agent. And all the time, I used my envy to push me through. Whenever I thought about slacking off for a day, I thought of my friends and how they had what I wanted, and I thought about how I could have it, too. I just needed to keep working at it.

And you know what happened? I finished my manuscript. I wrote the summary and the query letter. I queried agents. I connected with my most wonderful agent who promptly sold my novel.

I’d like to think that when I announced to my friends on Facebook that I first had an agent and then a book contract, that somewhere out there there was a friend who was quietly envious. I hope this not because I want to feel superior but because I want that friend to do what I did and let her/his envy push them to get what they wanted. I never told my friends about my envy, and I don’t expect I’ll ever know if any of my friends experience envy of me. But I hope it happened. And I hope that another novel gets into bookstores because of a healthy dose of envy.

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Shelly is the author of THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING, story of love and books in Silicon Valley. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband, two big dogs, and a disapproving cat.

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This article has 2 Comments

  1. Sometimes the “envy bug” is a good thing. Glad it pushed you to finish a wonderful book. Will envy play a part in your next book? I doubt it. You are a good writer and will be motivated all on your own.

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