Professional Jealousy

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Last night I watched 2 episodes of Friday Night Lights and a Grey's Anatomy. FNL is pretty darn emotional - I think 2 episodes at a time is all I can handle!

Yesterday as I swept the front porch and threw away some dead plants, I listened to the RWA workshop on professional jealousy. The workshop itself struck pretty close to the bone, because I'm in the chapter the presenters talked about, and I was one who felt acute jealousy of the speakers' overnight success. After all, I had been writing longer, shouldn't I be the one having more success?

I did something right with this jealousy and something wrong.

The wrong thing was that I let others know. And when those others sympathized with me, they let me feed my jealousy. And the objects of my jealousy found out and were hurt.

The right thing I did was that I started working harder so I could have the same successes. Dang it, they were doing it, and I could do it too.

This was my worst case of professional jealousy, but not my only. The Hive knows of one, and Trish knows of both. That's it. I know, not admirable, but I have learned my lesson. I don't talk about it. I don't let it eat at me, I let it spur me.

The thing about that workshop is that the speakers made it seem like professional jealousy is common. I disagree. I'm around the internet a LOT. I go to blogs, I see message boards, I'm on several loops, including 4 GH loops (most inactive now, but....) and I don't see jealousy. Maybe it's there, behind the scenes, but these ladies made it seem like it's out there. I think overall there's a great support of each other in the romance writing business, from buying each other's books, reviewing them, passing the word. I've gotten support when I've been down and when I've been on top. I think for the most part, I've been supportive.

What do you think? Have you been the object of professional jealousy? Have you felt it? Am I stupid to make this admission on a public board??

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MicheleKS said...

Mary, I think you're brave to admit this. And you're human in feeling this way but since this is such a close-knit community information flows pretty freely. I, on the other hand, will feel a bit of guilt when I sell because I know there are people out there who have written tons more than I have/submitted much more than I have.

Gina Black said...

The problem with jealousy is that it is negative. It's all about wanting something that you don't or can't have.

You took it and made it a positive thing, which is great. That's the best thing you can do with it.

I tend not to be a jealous type. I'm not sure why but it's not something I do. A long time ago, I realized that wanting only part of something someone else has is wrong--you have to want the whole package and I never do. An example: lusting after someone's purty red Beemer, but not lusting after the high-stress job they have to have in order to pay for it.

You know, we each have our own roads to walk on our journey to success. If we try to walk someone else's road we might miss some important things that were sitting on the roadside just for us. I really believe that.

Hmmm. I have a blog coming up that I have to do for one of my RWA chapters. Maybe I should write about this. Sorry for going on and on. ;)

Oh--but to get back to your question, yes I think there is a good deal of jealousy in this business and I think it's one of the things that makes writers stop writing.

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

I think the writer in us will sometimes think, why not me? It's a natural reaction. But you have to brush any negative feelings off and just keep going toward your goal for yourself. I know, easier said than done. But I really believe you'll feel better for it inside. :) :)

Trish Milburn said...

I think there's a difference between jealousy and envy. I heard someone say this somewhere, but I can't remember where. You can be envious of the accomplishments someone has made -- not wanting to take it away from them but to find your own similar success -- while still being genuinely happy for them. I think jealousy is different -- that's when we slip into the "she doesn't deserve that" and "I deserve it more." It's when we begrudge someone her success. I think bits of both are human nature. We just have to recognize them and turn them into something good, as you did.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I agree that it's completely normal to have these feelings, and I admit to having them. I'd never want someone to know. I USUALLY feel only the part that's about me not having what I have worked really hard to have--I don't AT ALL begrudge people success that they deserve.

Where it gets difficult is when someone says they dashed off a book and sent it to someone who bought it immediately and gave them tons of money and a hardcover deal with a big promotional push. When you've "paid your dues" as long as we have, it's hard not to be resentful of those for home it comes easy.

It's also difficult to see someone achieve the same goals I'm trying to achieve, or friends of mine are trying to achieve, when they don't have the level of talent of those who haven't made it yet.

But those feelings are always fleeting. I don't feed them or hold on to them and I try really hard not to ever let anyone know I've felt them. And, like Michele, I feel bad when I have something good happen and all around me are friends who are being slammed everywhere they turn.

In the end, all we can do is focus on what we can control and what we can affect and be affected by, which is definitely not someone else's success or failure.

Marianne Arkins said...

Good heavens... we're all human. Of COURSE you'll feel those feelings. I can't tell you how many published books I've read and wondered WHY THEM? Strangely, most of my "jealousy" isn't about why them and not ME, it's why them and not (all these other really great writers I know that aren't pubbed).

I bet your feelings aren't that you want the success taken away from others, just that you want it, too. That's not a bad thing.

Still, I think that human beings, by nature, are selfish -- it's how we survive. So, yeah, we want ... but it's what you do with the feelings that matter. You're letting them propel you forward.

And I'm rambling. So, I'll stop.

Good post.

Michelle Rowen said...

I feel professional jealousy on a daily basis. It can be an ugly thing if we let it fester. However, it does work as motivation if we can push it aside and focus on what's really important -- our own writing. Whomever we're feeling jealousy toward -- that's who we want to be. It might be a bigger advance, or publisher backing or really great reviews. I've felt it all both as a prepubbed and as a pubbed writer.

Do people feel jealous of my success (if you can call it that)? I'm sure they do. Do I feel guilt because I was able to get published relatively easily? No. Why should I? I simply feel very lucky. However, no one I've met has ever made me feel that they dislike me because I'm published and they're not. But maybe I'm just not paying attention. ;-)

KATZ said...

I agree totally that it just means you're human!!
And, also, that wanting it yourself doesn't mean you wish ill on the other person.

The biggest thing I try to remember (heard it at Nationals this year) is that just because someone else is successful doesn't mean I can't be.
Their selling a book or rising to the top is not hurting me in any way -- it's not hurting my chances, it's not taking my place.
We're just getting there at different times...

MJFredrick said...

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on this tough subject. I really wish I could be less jealous. I'm working on it.

Gina, I try the balance thing. This person I was jealous of really sacrificed her personal life for this career. I've recently found balance and would hesitate to give that up. I have a friend who was so jealous of another published author, but that pubbed author had such a rough life....writing was her escape, the only thing she really had control over.

Michelle, you're right - I'm jealous that she has what I want. And you SHOULDN'T feel bad about having what you have - don't let anyone take that from you!

Sarah, I love what you said about just because someone else is successful doesn't mean you can't be. Great motto.


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