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Dealing With Author Envy, by Jenn J McLeod

It’s not easy being green. By green I am, of course, referring to writer jealousy and…

Uh-oh!

I just heard a united scraping of chair legs as writers everywhere start exiting the building.

Why?

Because of that big white elephant in the room; the one that, in this case, is actually varying shades of green.

So what is it about this white/green elephant in the room thingy that sends writers scurrying rather than discussing; preferring to bury their head in their keyboard rather than look in the mirror and say: “Yes, that big white/green elephant thing is messing with my head. I have to do something.”

For convenience I’m going to call this ‘thing’ The Blob and I challenge any writer with a publishing dream to admit they’ve never battled this horrid creature of the subconscious.

I’m happy to stand up and say: “My name is Jenn and it’s been 575 days since I buried The Blob.”

I had let myself become a victim – crying, ranting, lashing out: “Why not me, oh publishing gods? My books are heaps better than book A, B, or C currently sitting on my bedside table.” (Read: smashed against the bedroom wall in frustration!)

Lucky for me I discovered what a total waste of energy The Blob could be – both in my personal and my professional life. Okay, so I am over-exaggerating a tad (I do that!) My Blob encounter wasn’t that debilitating, but I know some writers who have let it destroy their creativity, their dreams, and even their relationships/friendships. I can recognise it in others because I’ve been there. I know what it looks like. I also know how much energy it wastes.

Right about now, some of you will be tuning out. I mean, I got that publishing contract in the end. What have I got to be jealous about? Right? Besides that, if The Blob is of the subconscious, is this a problem? Is The Blob even horrid?

I’m not sure at what point an author actually stops feeling a little envious. There is always someone doing better than you and it’s often hard to not let their success get you down. For example:

  • Someone is not necessarily doing better than you, but maybe they are doing it faster or easier (eg. they have an agent or they have an editor helping them while you slog it out on your own).
  • Someone gets a massive advance after an international book fair bidding war.
  •  Someone is translated into several languages, on a bestseller list, or closer to making this gig an actual living.
  • Someone gets the good covers, the publicist, the awards, the accolades, the 5-star reviews. (When did the poor old 4-star review stop being enough?)

I know when I was unpublished I told myself I didn’t want the world. Just one book sitting on a shelf somewhere; some sort of validation, at last, that I was indeed a writer of some worth. Never did I think The Blob would bother me once I had an agent and a publishing deal. But so-called success does not make you Blob resistant. You’re always behind someone more successful, or there’s always someone younger, more eloquent, more revered. Then there’s that author coming up behind who is so amazing they are sure to surpass you. Then how will you feel?

My advice?

Get a handle on The Blob now.

Just so you know, I’m currently reading one of THOSE books. You now the one: the whimsical tale from the wonderful wordsmith whose brain comes with a built-in thesaurus. They contrive perfect plots with clever twists and can’t-get-enough-of characters. It’s your it-has-everything novel, the one you seriously can’t put down, the one that delivers lines that make you bash your head with the damn book and bleat: “Why, why, why can’t I think of lines like that?” (yes, Liane Moriaty – you crisp Tupperware container woman – I’m talking about you and The Husband’s Secret).

I’m pretty sure every writer battles The Blob at some point along the path. Perhaps we won’t all experience the same intensity, but the smallest of Blob can squish its way into the tiniest of cracks. If you’re reading this and still shaking your head in disagreement, then you can go now. See ya! If you’re relating to this post – even a little – I’m not going to tell you to get over it or ignore The Blob. Everyone deals with these feelings differently. From my experience, you’re much better off accepting its existence and that it’s not so horrid.

Let The Blob drive you. Let it inspire you. Learn from those you aspire to be like. The saying “Gracious in defeat” comes to mind (not that there’s any defeat). Be a gracious, generous, caring writer and karma will energise you and reward you. It just will.

Bringing author envy from the subconscious to the conscious mind can help you then deal with it and get on with what you really love – the writing.

***

Jenn J McLeod’s author website: www.jennjmcleod.com

Jenn J McLeod’s bio page

***

House for all Seasons by Jenn J McLeod     Wings of FearStillwater CreekThe Fragment of DreamsSavage TideThe Fortunes of Ruby White

Writing Novels in Australia
www.writingnovelsinaustralia.com

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34 Comments Post a comment
  1. The green eyed monster. Thank you for this. Now I know what my blog/autobiography excerpt topic du jour is going to be.

    August 7, 2013
  2. One more thing (after receiving a private email just now) In case I didn’t make it clear … Envy is NOT a bad thing (come to think of it, and neither is gluttony on a Friday night after a hard week and sloth all weekend!!!). Envy does not equal evil. (No “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all” evil queen stuff.)
    PS Steve, nice colour combo in those book covers!

    August 7, 2013
  3. Jenn J, exposer of the writers’s dark underbelly. Oh, there’s a thought! Underbelly: Writer. (Although I suspect that might be a somewhat different underbelly). You’re right of course. There’s always someone doing better, or you perceive it so. It’s corrosive to dwell on though. I think I am preserved to some extent from the worst of it by being one of a large and impressive family. I had most of my serious envy/insecurity beaten out of me by their achievements long ago!

    August 7, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

      Half way thru my sticky date pud and I read “writers dark underbelly”. Hmmmm!

      August 7, 2013
  4. I love the topics you cover here Jenn J. Great post, wise words.

    August 7, 2013
  5. Wonderful, honest post, Jenn! That blob visits me too…

    August 7, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

      So I don’t need to see a shrink, then? ;). Thx Dawn, my lovely launch date buddy. See you next March?

      August 7, 2013
  6. Jenn, you’re right. Well said. We’re all guilty of it sometimes, and there’s nothing wrong with wishing ourselves to be the very best in our profession. Yet I think all of us know true talent when we see it, and don’t resent that success, but revel in it, as we’re all book lovers, after all. Probably more jealous of promotional opportunities that appear to have come more easily to other writers than ourselves. If we can use a little professional envy as a spur to write better books, then that’s a good thing too 🙂

    August 7, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

      Well put, as always, Greg Barron. It is very much about recognizing talent in others and letting it inspire. Thx for commenting.

      August 7, 2013
  7. I do so relate. And yes, I am somewhere in the middle, which, after all, is not such a bad place to be.

    August 7, 2013
  8. Great post Jenn. It’s such a human thing to compare ourselves to our peers and to measure our success against theirs, and while I admit to twinges of it occasionally, I get them less and less. I think it’s because (and I don’t want to sound too zen and flaky) each writer is on their own private journey and it’s a journey made over stony, dry ground, no matter how ‘successful’ we perceive them to be.

    Some marriages may look as if they are flourishing to outsiders but are actually a living hell for the couple, and every author, published or not, has their own private disappointments, stresses and frustrations. We know it’s not a glamorous or easy way to live, and we know that any author who is committed to their work stumbles, falls, gets up, falls again, gets writers block, or gets dumped or badly treated or left eating a bag of peanuts alone in a hotel room after the book tour hoopla has moved on. And one of the best spin offs of the writing life – after the writing – is other writers, for me anyway. I love being with my tribe, not booksellers, publishers, agents, sales and marketing, but other writers. I love them and would never want to be alienated from the tribe by my own insecurity (of which I have enough to fill Sydney harbour)!

    August 7, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

      Okay, Phillipa, I am so totally jealous I did not write that! LOL You are very zen. I so love it and you blog posts. This biz is far from glamorous. You are right and you don’t find out until you are into it. Bottom line…. It’s a job. The only glamour job I can think of is …. Well, I was going to say Miranda Kerr’ s job, but there is nothing glamorous about not being able to eat chocolate.

      August 7, 2013
  9. kerriepaterson #

    Great post Jenn. It can be hard to beat that blob down sometimes but using it to spur and motivate is the go.

    August 7, 2013
  10. Great post indeed, Jenn. Oh I know the Blob … the why is my book not selling and hers is-blob. The admiration-blob for the talents and help of other authors is taking over, which is a good thing, right 🙂

    August 7, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

      indeed! 🙂

      August 7, 2013
  11. A very good post, Jenn. Sometimes it’s hard to use the ‘green thing’ to motivate yourself further but in the end that’s the only good thing for it! Thanks for being brave enough to talk about it.

    August 7, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

      Thx Margareta, funny thing is brave did to come into it until a writing friend told me not to post on this topic!!!!!! not sure what that makes me! 😉

      August 7, 2013
      • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

        That was supposed to be “brave didn’t come into it…..” IPad

        August 8, 2013
  12. Great post and so honest! I definitely deal with The Blob sometimes and while I’m always happy for the successful author, you can’t help but think “But why not me? When is it going to be my turn?” I was ridiculously upset with JK Rowling the other day when her book went to number #2 on the amazon charts just because she is who she is and not because of the book’s merits, but then I thought, you know what, she’s done it tough, she’s an intelligent, talented, hard-working woman, and she deserves all her success. So I will always be happy for my friends and others who make it big with their books, but of course, I will always have that hope that I will make it too and I’ll try not to let The Blob hang out with me too often :).

    August 7, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

      Thx Dionne, yes, the JK thing was big – of course! I once saw a news item on TV (so it’s real, right?) that said she has to have a decoy in a car leave her property first, so the media follows the car. Then she comes out in another car. (Although I guess with that having made the news, she has had to change strategies.) There is certainly a ‘level’ of fame I would not aspire to. So it would have to be fame on my terms only. Hmm, I can see that happening!!!!! 😉

      August 8, 2013
  13. Jenn, you are the ONLY writer I know who had been brave enough to NAME this. Bravo! It’s a natural part of the journey and one I think we should accept rather than judge, knowing it will pass. Comparisons are easy to make, particularly in the literary world where so much of it goes on in reviewing and critiquing. I put my hand up. The Blob still visits me sometimes. Hell, even often when I’m insecure.
    You’ve done good sista!

    August 7, 2013
  14. Fabulous post, Ms McLeod! In every facet of life that Blob can raise its ugly head from sibling rivalry to the jealousy of teenagers to the ‘grass is always greener’ avarice of a career change.

    Writing is no different. Making sure it motivates us rather than paralyses us is the best possible we use can make of it. I hope I grow out of it completely, but I suspect I’ll still have the odd whimsical moment of thinking, ‘wow, that would be nice to be in their shoes’ except that I can’t know that until I’ve walked in them and if I did I might find those shoes pinched my toes!!

    (And I know exactly what you mean about Liane Moriarty’s ‘The Husband’s Secret’ – a wonderfully crafted story!)

    August 8, 2013
  15. I suffer from the Blob. I entered the SYTYCW competition with Harlequin last year and made lots of friends among other entrants. And a good number of them are now published and I’m still not. *cries* It’s not that I’m not happy for them. It’s just….you know…I don’t want to be last man standing.

    August 8, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

      Fi, extend your network of friends (which is always good for an author) and you will soon see you are already way ahead of so many just for entering. There are many who will be jealous that they lack the skill and the courage to put work out there for others to judge. So you are already way ahead. Keep plugging away. Keep connecting with people. It’s what I did.

      August 8, 2013
  16. Wonderful Jenn. You said it all perfectly. Love ur work 🙂 x (My Blob is too friendly lol)

    August 8, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

      Thx for saying so, Fee

      August 8, 2013
  17. You’ve got me thinking about this, Jenn. I reckon that part of the problem is that on social media we all tend to (rightly) celebrate/report the big successes, nice media promotions, great moments etc. Since we all have dozens of writer friends, on any given day it can seem like everyone else is living the high life and becoming a celebrity while we’re stuck here at home with the flu, sick kids, bills, trying to find a way through chapter seven … I think we should remember that a win for any one of us, is a win for all of us. That our future relies on all of us producing fantastic books, not just one or two of us. We want everyone to fall asleep with a book in their hands every night, not just once every year or two years when ours comes out.
    If we all want to be the best writers of our generation, then that’s a great thing, but as of now, the blob isn’t welcome at my desk.

    August 8, 2013
    • Absolutely, Greg. I do honestly feel that. What’s good for one is good for all. And I am genuinely happy when my mates do well. Doesn’t stop you from feeling as though you aren’t doing well enough though! I think it’s worth remembering that, as someone said above in the comments, what we see isn’t ever the whole reality. We talk about the good stuff. We talk less about the snotty noses and the blockages and the near misses. Doesn’t mean they’re not there. I think that’s one of the reasons we really need conferences and other opportunities to get together face to face. It lets us talk off-the-record, out of the public view about our realities. And that always helps!

      August 8, 2013
      • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

        Thank you Greg and Imelda for contributing to the post. I so agree about social media being a negative influence at times. You do need to pick your time.

        August 8, 2013
  18. Thanks, Jenn, I’m as guilty as the next author of ‘the blob’. A Danish friend of mine says that jealousy is like preparing poison for another and drinking it yourself. It just hurts you.
    I just have to get on with trying to improve my writing and enjoy the ride.

    August 8, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons #

      Oh Deborah, “jealousy is like preparing poison for another and drinking it yourself. It just hurts you”. How gorgeous is that saying? Thank you.

      August 8, 2013

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