You’ve already seen this is you’re part of my Patreon, but here it is for everyone else.
It’s pretty common lately to see writers telling each other to stop being jealous of other writers’ achievements. “Don’t pay attention to them; pay attention to yourself.” is the common wisdom.
Now, I’m not going to argue that people shouldn’t focus on the things they can control; that’s solid advice. But just because professional jealousy can be expressed in toxic ways doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to tell people their thoughts and feelings are bad and wrong.
Professional jealousy is perfectly normal.
Everyone feels it from time to time. Everyone has to learn to manage that twinge when they hear about another writer finding a great agent, landing a publishing deal, making a best-seller list, whatever.
That’s the key. Not “Stop doing jealousy.” It’s “Jealousy is normal; how will you deal with it?”
Let’s break it down.
1. You feel jealous of a friend’s success
* Let’s say a friend has reached some milestone in their career that eludes you, and you’re burning with jealousy. What should you do?
* Do not tell your friend you are jealous. Your emotional responses are for you to deal with. It’s not your friend’s job to manage it.
* Acknowledge your jealousy. If their milestone is not a goal you are aiming for, try to shrug it off. If they’ve reached a milestone that you hope to reach someday, tell yourself you will work harder and smarter so you can maybe manage it, too.
* Then let your jealousy go. Experience it, but don’t hold on.
* Congratulate your friend. Something good has happened to them, and you should acknowledge that sincerely without making it about you.
* Talk to a neutral third party if you can not let your jealous go. Say the words “I’m happy for [friend] but it hurts that I can not manage to do the same.” With luck, your neutral third party will commiserate and you’ll feel better.
* It doesn’t have to be fair. Your friend’s success might be due to hard work and clever marketing on their part, but then again, maybe not. Life isn’t fair. But that’s not your friend’s fault, so don’t burden them with it. Just keep writing.
2. You feel jealous of a stranger’s success.
* Do not tell the stranger you are jealous. That’s weird.
* Acknowledge your jealousy. We all have milestones we want to achieve, and it hurts to fall short. That’s natural.
* Let it go. If you can’t, talk to a neutral third party. Say the same words as above.
* It doesn’t matter if it’s unfair. It doesn’t matter if you think the successful stranger’s work is trite, stuff, precious, derivative, or whatever. It doesn’t matter if you think they suck.
3. You can’t let go.
If you get to the point that you can’t interact politely with your friends and colleagues because of your jealousy, you should find someone qualified to help. It’s no different from any emotion that causes you to act inappropriately.
4. You can use jealousy constructively.
No, really. It’s possible, despite the way some people talk about it. We can use it to goad ourselves into working harder, or daring to try risky things. It can also spur us to venture into new areas, like self-marketing or online crit groups or who knows what.
But what we can’t do is use jealousy to squelch the perfectly natural urge to judge our success by the successes of those around us, or to see their success as a target we would like to reach someday.
So stop telling people not to be jealous.
It doesn’t work anyway, because humans have emotions and emotions can’t be reasoned with. It’s not even a bad emotion. It just sometimes spurs bad behavior.
Better to use your jealousy as motivation.
And yeah, I get jealous all the time. I just don’t make a big deal of it.