Envy. Envy is on my mind. It’s an evil side effect of the creative spirit. Well, of anyone who wants to succeed at anything – business, art, parenting, marriage, money. It’s that little twinge of ‘why not meeee?’
It’s such a common problem, even amongst the most talented. Envy can stop people in their tracks, making them feel their own work isn’t good enough, and setting them back for years.
Even the people with enough confidence or chutzpah or arrogance (call it what you like) can feel this. They may just show it in a different guise: as dismissal (‘dumb bastard wouldn’t know a split infinitive if it bit him’) or anger (tearing up their own manuscript/canvas) or upstaging (behaving really badly at the book/exhibition). I promise that none of these are from my own experience!
It’s been a hard path, but I’m finally (almost) free of the envy that I used to feel when other writers got published, or won prizes, or simply wrote something so wonderful that my guts twisted and I put my own writing aside for months at a time.
The opposite of ‘envy’ could be ‘inspiration’. I have learned now to take something from other writers’ success rather than allowing it to eat away at me. I will still feel twinges of the green-eyed devil at times (hey, it’s a very human emotion, hard to suppress!) but now I allow that feeling to happen for a moment, and then I try to see it from another view – how hard did that person have to work, or what issues might they be tackling?
Almost always you will find that the other person has something that eats away at them, too; or they had an awful childhood, or suffer from ongoing illness – there’s very few people (any?) who have perfect, unscarred lives. Once I learn this, I think well, that person damn well deserved that success!And of course, you figure out eventually that envy does absolutely nothing for you personally. Unless you’re the type that works harder and better, driven by the emotion – but that’s probably not a healthy way to do it. I would imagine you could end up with ulcers and migraines that way – quite a stressful way to work!
So this is advice I’d give to writers (or anyone) starting out: feel the envy if it comes, but get over it – congratulate the other person and move on. Be inspired by their work, get back to your own work, take constructive criticism on board, and practice and polish until it’s the best it can be 🙂
(PS Just as I’d almost finished this post, I Googled authors who were crippled by others’ success, and found ENDLESS blogs on writers’ envy! Damn it, some of the blogs were so much better than mine that I nearly curled up in a ball and deleted my post! Then I thought, nah, bugger it, I can’t think of anything else to post, so it’s staying. So laziness got the better of envy. Yay!
(PPS Click here for one of those blogs – they give really good advice on how not envy your published friends. No, of course I’m not envious of their really good advice, how dare you! 😉 )