When I told a close author friend recently how much I hoped all the hard work she was putting into revising her suspense novel would result in a sale to a prestigious publisher, a lucrative advance, and a spot on the New York Times bestseller list, she expressed how much it meant to her that my wishes for her success were genuine because it was evidence of how much I truly loved her. This introduced a discussion about other authors who are not always as supportive because they are too jealous or bitter about their own journeys to embrace another writer’s success. While I am always happy for and supportive of my fellow authors, I admit it is sometimes too easy to compare their success to my own and come out lacking.
I’m friends with several authors on Facebook whose newest books were released this month by traditional New York City publishers to serious fanfare. The authors’ readings at local bookstores were packed with fans clamoring for a signed copy as well as other impressive guests such as well-known local authors, editors, publicists, etc. Reviews of their books were written up in popular magazines and newspapers, and their first week Amazon rankings hit bestseller lists in both ebook and print formats. As thrilled as I was for these authors, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of envy as I compared these releases with the publication of own last novel which did well by my own standards, but compared to the likes of these other novelists, not so much.
I confided my inferiority complex to a non-author friend who responded with these words of wisdom, paraphrased for the purposes of this blog: she assured me that I was every bit as much of an author as these writers regardless of the level of success achieved thus far. And she reminded me that no matter how many books I sold or how famous I might become, there would always be authors who were both more successful and less successful than I, and all I could do was keep writing. And she was right. In fact, several of my author friends have told me they wished they sold as many books as I did. One went as far as to say she wanted to be me when she grew up. The statement made me laugh, but it goes to show that the measure of success depends on the person doing the measuring.
I can’t say I won’t continue to experience pangs of jealousy from time to time, but I hope these feelings will inspire me to keep honing my writing skills so that each book I put out is better than the next. It’s unfortunate that some people, in any field, prefer to surround themselves only with people to whom they can feel superior. To the contrary, I love having role models I can look up to and learn from. And lucky for me, I have so many successful writer friends who are so very generous with their knowledge.
How do you turn potentially unhealthy feelings of inferiority into something constructive?
I tend to compete with myself (goals set by me) and can be hard on myself. Fortunately, I have a few close friends who keep me in check and remind me to count my blessings and be positive.
Friends are great that way, aren’t they?
You just need to keep pushing forward and believe in yourself you can do it! Never compare yourself to others just improve yourself every single day!
Very good advice!
This is interesting, Mere – as always – and it’s a good example of how no emotion is wasted as a writer: it’s something that connects us with others. But for comfort, I think Yoko Ono’s Rainbow Revelation is helpful and I try to remind myself of this.
“Bless you for your jealousy
For it is a sign of empathy
Direct not to your family, direct not to your friends.
Transform the energy to admiration
And what you admire
Will become part of your life.”
I like that quote a lot – it really is a good way to look at someone you admire. Aspire to be more like them rather than bitter toward them.
Love this post! I will admit it is difficult seeing friends excel in the same profession and lag behind … way behind. This does not mean I am not excited for them or think they deserve all of it. They do. Every bit of it. I don’t think anyone is free of jealousy entirely. We always strive to do better. When those bouts of jealousy occur, I need to take a step back and do just what you said — remember that I’m as accomplished as the others, but it’s measured differently 🙂 While I may not be on a bestseller list, that doesn’t mean I won’t ever be. Keep my eyes on my own paper and keep bettering myself. If we worry too much about how others are doing, we won’t succeed.
Great comment. And you’re right – if we focus too much on other people, we lose sight of our own goals – writing the best material we can! And we should also remember that the people we envy most certainly feel that way about someone else. Like my friend said, no matter how successful we become or how many books we sell, someone else is probably selling more!
Meri, such an important post. We are human after all, right? Yet it’s totally true–channeling that not into bitterness or envy but rather encouragement to write better, write faster, write passionately is what makes the difference. XO
Exactly. I get that inspiration/encouragement from you and my other California Beach Babes in spades. I wouldn’t have it any other way. XOXO.