How do you deal with the jealousy you feel when you listen to authors at writers’ conferences or read Pulitzer-prize winning magazine articles in the New York Times? If you’re not a writer jealous of other writers, I need your advice.
One surefire tip for dealing with jealousy is to get deeper into your own writing. Use the exercises in books such as One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft by Susan M. Tiberghien to develop your own distinct writing voice and style. If you’re jealous of other writers, it may be because you haven’t figured out who you are as a writer.
Anne Lamott describes her jealousy of one writer in particular in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (I think she was referring to Natalie Goldberg, but I have no foundation whatsoever for my suspicion). Actually, it may have been traveling Mercies that she talked about her writerly jealousy. If you haven’t read Lamott’s books on writing and life, get thee to a library or Amazon.com! It’s good stuff.
Here’s how I deal with jealousy of other writers: I stop writing. I let my feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and uncertainty overwhelm me, and I surf Youtube for “how to play the flute” videos. That makes me feel even more inadequate and insecure because I’m a new flutist, so then I eat. Lots. Blech.
Since those aren’t exactly the best ways to deal with jealousy of other writers, I’ve decided to get healthy and create a better way to be a writer.
7 Ways to Deal With Writerly Jealousy
Rejoice in who you are. My blogs and magazine articles are all very practical and tip-oriented. I always shy away from sharing personal information or telling stories because I never felt like I was interesting enough to just be me. But, getting my MSW degree has given me a new depth of confidence and security in myself. And – more importantly – my relationship with God has grown mightily in the past year! I have learned to accept and even rejoice in my personality, experiences, strengths, and weaknesses. I like myself better because I’ve learned to see myself and my writing through God’s eyes. I might even say I love myself, despite my flaws and failures and finicky fitzgibblits.
Tip your hat to the green-eyed monster. “Women artists feel shame for having the envy, seeing it either as an indication of low self-worth or confirmation that they’re not talented enough,” writes psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo in Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within. “Women seem to be in competition with other women; men seem to be in competition with some high-achievement self-ideal, instilled I n them in childhood, before which they always fall short.”
Take a deep breath when you feel jealous of other writers. You’re a jealous writer, and your feelings are natural. But that doesn’t mean you have to let your jealousy hobble or stop you from writing. Pen on Fire author Barbara DeMarco-Barrett said she stopped writing for a year after she published her first short story, because she was so busy comparing herself to other writers. Do you compare yourself, and always come up short? There will always be writers better than you, and writers worse than you. The key to dealing with writer jealousy is to stop comparing yourself to other writers.
Ask yourself what you envy about other writers. I envy Emma Donoghue’s ability to make characters come alive, especially in Frog Music: A Novel. That was SUCH an awesome book – have you read it? Protagonist Blanche is so lovable and gross, connectable and confusing. She’s human. Emma Donoghue brought her alive, and I am jealous of her writing ability. Actually, I’m not really jealous of it. I don’t want to write novels. I admire Donoghue’s ability to make characters so interesting and complex, and to make me care about what happens to them. She also wrote Room, which I adored.
Write yourself a personal manifesto. Whether you call it a mission statement, statement of purpose, or manifesto doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have a source of confidence that burns through your jealously of other writers. This is mine, which I read every morning in my God time: “Dear Laurie, People are blessed by your EXISTENCE. You don’t need a gimmick – you are a gift! Tap into the joy, creativity, and passion of your offering, and don’t worry about what happens after you send out your newsletter or hit Publish on the blog post. Be who you were created to be. Nobody sees what you see, how you see it, what it means to you, or why. It is enough to share your experience – YOU ARE ENOUGH. You are amazing! Trust that God will reach out to people through you. Be a bridge, a conduit.”
Stay connected to who you are and your purpose for writing. If you get emotionally and physically healthy, if regularly “check in” with your heart, spirit, and soul – whether or not you believe in God – you will align yourself with your purpose in life. Ideally, if you’re a writer, your life purpose will involve writing! But if you let jealousy of other writers eat away at your confidence, security, and motivation, then you’ll lose sight of what you were put here on earth to do.
One last tip for dealing with jealousy is to find your writers’ voice. Let your personality, experiences, and memories flow through your writing. Don’t copy other writers or bloggers. Just be you.
Fellow scribes, what do you think of my tips for writers jealous of other writers? Who are you jealous of, and why?