Time to make the green-eyed monster comfortable, y’all
Let’s just get this out at the get-go: Yes, I am jealous.
Unless you exercise Schwarzenegger-like resolve not to compare your experiences with others, put rose-colored blinders on to the online/print/media worlds, or are the reincarnated soul of a venerable saint, jealousy is just something you’re going to have to deal with. And here’s a dirty secret: success doesn’t make it go away. I’ve been privy to more than one discussion in which an author whose sales look to my eyes like strings of binary code laments that Author P. Sellsowell just got a new seven-figure book deal and a fluffy puppy, while her latest deal only scored her six figures and a Lamborghini. And not a really good Lamborghini, just a used one. No puppy either. Righteous indignation by the bucketfuls, y’all, and meanwhile I’m holding my tongue and not saying “WTF, Do you know what I’d give to get three figures and beat up Pinto?” Total jealousception. Babes, let’s just admit that the green-eyed monster coach surfs in your abode of writerly nirvana from time to time, and deal with the realty of what that means.
I’ll admit it, I get jealous of authors all the time. I’ll think what I’ve accomplished is pitiful compared to 95% of them. Then I’ll go to a local author meetup and see how the worm turns when other people say my meager sales make theirs look like microscopic peanuts. So, can we just face it? Is this established? Do you see where I’m going with this?
It’s not realistic to think you won’t be touched by jealousy every so often. Is there a point at which it becomes dangerous or unhealthy? Note that I’m not qualified in any professional way to advise on mental health (my husband can so attest), but I would say there are some warning signs that should alarm you. i.e. If you’re stalking other’s books with the intention only of analyzing them for their faults in order to make yourself feel better, that’s probably one. Also, if you find yourself cyber stalking an author you feel is riding around in a Glenda-made bubble of success that should have been yours, that’s another. Another thing I think could be a sign (but may not be) is trend riding. You’ve heard the old saying, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?” While there’s some cases where that’s true, I would say if you’re writing a book or genre to “show how it’s really done” or prove that anyone who writes a book in x-genre or with a character that does xyz just to evidence that success is formulaic, this might be a sign that your jealousy has taken a turn down a bumpy country road with no pay phones, street lights, or stop signs. U-turn immediately and merge into traffic with caution.
Going through the occasional envy spasm, however, makes you normal. More over, and I cannot stress this enough, it does not make you a bad person. Please, please, please, do not let your own self-acknowledgment that you feel jealous turn into feeling guilty or hopelessness. Embrace it, at least for a little while. Get the monster a cup of coffee, sit and talk to it for a half hour or so. Ask it why it stopped by. Then, and only then, show it to the door and wish it along its merry way. In short, since you’re going to get a case of wishies anyways, why not turn it to your advantage?
If there’s anything I can convey in this post in no uncertain terms, it’s that. Use it. Make the jealousy work for your benefit and transform it into ambition. Let it motivate you to learn and explore and be honest with yourself. When I get jealous of another author, I step back and try to look at things pragmatically. What has that author done to support their sales? In the reviews, what is it the readers are saying they really connect with, and is that something I could work on in the future? Is there any specific promotions the author has done which I could emulate? Even if I don’t think the book itself sounds interesting or entertaining, can I empathize with why a reader would?
I know so much of this will be read with an air of “easy to say, not so easy to do.” It’s not easy, I know. My green-eyed monster has me on speed dial, and he’s constantly wanting to come over for dinner. It takes a lot of determination to not answer that call, not set him a place at my table, and generally restrict him to court-ordered visitation. But considering the alternative is heart-wrenching self-doubt and agony, what else can you do?