Writer Jealousies and Zero-Sum Games

Here’s the thing: I’m about to get my soapbox on a little when it comes to the subject of writer vs. writer. Other people have already addressed this in the past – probably more eloquently than I have – but I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.

So grab a vial of the complimentary smelling salts because I’m about to make a startling confession:

I have been jealous of other writers.

Are you clutching your pearls? Heading uncomfortably for the back button? I’ll take it a step further: I have been flat-out, bulge-eyed, green-to-the-gills jealous of other writers. Published. Unpublished. Agented. Unagented. It’s happened. In fact, it’s probably happened in the last 48 hours.

I love the positivity of the writing community, especially the YA writing community that I’ve been following for several months now. Everyone’s out there, saying great things about everyone’s stuff, promoting one another, cheering each other on, and it is awesome.

Sometimes it’s also fake.

Not 100% fake – we have all felt genuine excitement and pride in seeing another writer succeed, especially if that writer is a friend or colleague. But there’s also that voice. You know the one. A voice that goes, “Really? Why them and not me? I worked harder! I suffered more! My book is better! I EARNED it more than they did!”

Let’s all just step up and admit that this has happened, that we’ve heard that voice when someone hit a milestone ahead of us. If you haven’t, then congratulations. You probably also have no stress wrinkles, perfectly quaffed hair and a first draft that smells like roses, in which case, you’re dismissed to go sit in the corner.

As for the rest of us, the jealousy is inevitable. When we’re aspiring, it happens when a crit partner gets an agent before we do. When we’re agented, it’s when a fellow writer gets a publishing contract while we’re getting forwarded editor rejections. Or maybe both people get published, but the other one gets a big, multi-book deal and we get a one-book deal with a small advance. It’s the cover, the release date, the marketing buzz, the sales that roll in, the reviews and fan responses – there is always, ALWAYS going to be someone who is doing better than you.

It doesn’t matter.

The fact that that jealous feeling creeps out from the shadowy corners of your brain? Also doesn’t matter. We’re human – it happens.

What really matters is what you do about it.

You can wallow in it. Or you can take two minutes to let yourself go, “Damn, I am super-jealous of [fill-in-the-blank]” and then put on your Big Kid Panties and get back into the freaking mix already.

Writing is not a zero-sum game. It’s not Highlander, okay? There can definitely be more than one. That’s the whole reason why there’s such a thing as a writing community in the first place – because we can all win. Everyone’s path is going to be different, some people are going to shoot right out of the gate and over the finish line and others will have to do a cross-country trek, but the only way you really fail is to stop playing entirely. There is a supportive, loving YA writing community on the internet because there are hundres of published and unpublished writers out there who have realized this and chosen to stay in the game.

We all get jealous sometimes. I have, and I certainly will again, so I’m never going to be one who holds that against anybody. It’s what all of us choose to do after the jealousy that really counts.

8 thoughts on “Writer Jealousies and Zero-Sum Games

  1. *hug* I have been there, many times, not just in my writing life, but my real life as well.

    It always seems to be something that really kicks you in the gut, too.

    The first time was when I was 16 – I was learning how to drive, and one of the only things keeping me from that was that I didn’t have a car.

    A mutual friend turned and gave another another friend a car. She wasn’t even old enough to start learning how to drive yet.

    Oh, that was hard.

    One of the hardest ones (and Lissa already knows about this) was when I started writing for the Yahoo Contributor Network last year. Lissa was one of my referrals, and one of her very first articles was published on Yahoo’s front page (and she’s had a couple since then that were as well). I haven’t made it to that point (but I haven’t written in several months for them, just haven’t had time), but when we were both starting out at the same stage, and she was instantly recognized for the talent she has, and I’ve struggled to get consistent subscribers . . .

    Yeah, that one stung.

    I couldn’t deny that she’s good, but our relationship was so fresh at that point, it was easy to become jealous and hurt over that.

    I didn’t tell her for months, lol.

    It’s still hard, but I also have to remind myself that I’m a different person. I have different objectives and goals, both in my personal life, and my writing life, and not everything is going to happen at the time that I think it needs to.

    1. I have different objectives and goals, both in my personal life, and my writing life, and not everything is going to happen at the time that I think it needs to.
      I think this is the best way of looking at it pretty much ever. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I do have stress wrinkles, a mess of hair, and my first drafts smell like week old kid laundry. But I don’t get jealous of my friends, because I’m proud of them. The writer friends of mine who have had success are ones I know have been working on improving their writing for years. Often, I’ve had at least something to do with it as well, like beta reading and critiquing. I know I can do it too, if I work hard enough. I know the only thing that’s holding me back is me.
    Now… People who succeed with what I deem poor quality writing, on the other hand… THOSE I get jealous of. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. i resemble some of those remarks but i’m not going to claim which ones. ๐Ÿ™‚ they are usually fleeting thoughts when i’m feeling at my worst and it has more to do with how i think i’m doing than how i really feel about someone else’s writing anyway. i love my writer friends and i seriously wouldn’t have made it through this far without them. every critique group that’s told me i don’t totally suck or other words of encouragement have kept me from going over the edge many times, so i do hope they all make it one day…just not before me. KIDDING!

    1. they are usually fleeting thoughts when iโ€™m feeling at my worst and it has more to do with how i think iโ€™m doing than how i really feel about someone elseโ€™s writing anyway.
      YES. Exactly this. It’s not really about what they’ve accomplished so much as what I think I should have accomplished at this point.

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