Image: Matthew Loffhagen
I’ve heard it said that there are two views of the world. For some, this is a world with a limited number of resources, and so people ought to always be in competition with one another. Others see a world of limitless possibilities, and so they reach out to others in cooperation and collaboration.
Which world do you live in? I trust you have good reasons for your beliefs, but today I’m going to advocate that the writing world is the latter: a world of immense opportunity where authors should cooperate and collaborate instead of competing. A little competition is healthy, of course, but when it turns to raving jealousy, you’re endangering everything you’ve worked so hard for.
Are you jealous?
Have you ever examined your feelings towards other authors? Are you jealous of that guy in your writing group who’s always coming in with another publishing credit? Did you cringe when your friend told you she won first prize in that writing contest she entered?Are you a jealous author, and is it getting in the way of your success? Click To Tweet
It’s inevitable that you’re going to encounter strong emotions in regard to your writing. And I want to say at the outset of this post that I think desires for success are healthy and normal. So, I don’t mean to knock desire or even routine feelings of jealousy. You see other authors being successful, and of course you want that for yourself; that’s okay.
But can you cross a line and take it too far? I think so. Feeling bothered, angry, discontent, or jealous as a direct result of someone else’s success can be harmful to your life as a writer. Take a minute and do some soul searching. Practice some self-awareness. Are you jealous?
What’s it to you?
Jealousy’s effects can be subtle, but they are real. Be intentional; don’t let them derail you from reaching your goals. If you’re not careful, what starts as a little feeling of envy can quickly spiral into full-blown jealousy that will eat away at you. Here are some pitfalls to keep in mind:
Jealousy is a waste of your precious mental energy. Your mind and imagination are the fuel for your work. If you’re brooding about someone else’s accomplishments, you’re wasting a valuable resource that could be used to further your own success.
Jealousy wastes the time and attention you should spend on writing.Click To Tweet
Discontent robs you of the joy of your own journey. I hope by now you know there’s no surefire secret to publishing success. Sure, there are tips and tricks to give you a leg up, but there’s no gilded path and there are no guarantees. Every writer’s success story is unique — what a beautiful idea! If you are constantly looking at other people’s successes as if they belong to you or have been stolen from you somehow, you’re guaranteed to miss the wondrous path unfolding right at your feet.
Anger keeps you from genuine camaraderie. Being part of a writing community is complex. It has its pitfalls and disappointments, but it can also be incredibly rich and rewarding. Getting to celebrate one another’s successes is an amazing opportunity, but if you get consumed by negativity, you’re going to miss out on that and sabotage your own chance to be celebrated when it’s your turn. Don’t let that happen; in the end, you’re hurting yourself and people you really care about.
Envy is isolating. Taken to its extreme, envy will isolate you from your writing community and the publishing industry. More than ever, this industry is one where you need to be forming positive relationships with industry insiders, but negative feelings spiraling out of control can push you to isolate yourself. Don’t let envy be the thing that destroys your chances of building meaningful connections that can help you pave that road to your unique success story.
What can you do about jealousy?
Think back to our two worlds from the beginning. If jealousy is your problem, then collaboration is your solution. Nothing eats away at envy like cooperation and teamwork. And the best part is it’s not only good for others, it serves your best interests too.
So, next time someone comes to you with good news, celebrate! Share their success on your social media feed and tag them. Recommend their work to your friends and family. Every good deed softens your heart a little, and you’ll be surprised by how often a small kindness will be paid back to you. Give what you want to get in return. Trust that it will come back to you. It’s hard for jealousy to thrive in an environment like that.Celebrate other authors, and soon they’ll be celebrating you.Click To Tweet
The world is big enough for every author to thrive; it’s your attitude and actions that determine your outcome.
How can you keep from making others jealous?
Sometimes it’s not your fault that you’re feeling jealous. You were minding your own business, and someone came along and rubbed their success in your face, repeatedly.
So, as I finish out this post, I want to talk to all the successful authors out there, and those of you on the cusp of success: You’ve worked so hard, and you deserve to be recognized and celebrated for your hard-won victories. But be careful about how you share your good news. Be sensible; be sensitive. Stay humble. Remind yourself of where you’ve been and how far you still have to go.
You don’t have to hide your excitement or cloak your good news in false modesty, but if you rub it in people’s faces or act as though one breakthrough means you’ve made it, you’re going to alienate your fellow writers. No-one can take that kind of treatment for very long, nor should they have to. The principle of collaboration applies to you too. You have a unique opportunity to use your successes to help others. That can only work in your favor; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.When success comes, be aware of other authors’ feelings.Click To Tweet
I know this is the perspective of an eternal optimist. I know there are counter-narratives out there of kindnesses going ignored and collaboration gone wrong, but those stories are the unfortunate exceptions, not the norm.
In the end, the question is: What kind of community do you want to be part of? By your actions and attitude, you help to create that community every day.
How do you combat jealousy in your writing life? What practical ways can authors support one another in their successes? Use the comments below to tell us about a time when collaboration opened up an unexpected opportunity for you. Or, for more advice on the psychology of healthy authors, check out The Sneaky Problem That May Be Undermining Your Success and There Are Wolves In You! Now, How Can They Help You Write?