What a perfect week to talk about jealousy. Ariel's brilliantly constructed post on Monday about fear of fiction and Latayne's heartbreakingly beautiful poetry on Wednesday set this topic up perfectly. I'm so jealous! What amazing writers! I totally understand how Anne Lamott feels when she talks about jealousy in the writing world. And why are we talking about jealousy? Because we're still chatting up Bird by Bird, and today's chapter is creatively titled "Jealousy."
Jealousy is one of the occupational hazards of being a writer, and most degrading. And I, who have been the Leona Helmsley of jealousy, have come to believe that the only things that hlp ease or transform it are (a) getting older, (b) talking about it until the fever breaks, and (c) using it as material. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
Jealousy has only gotten worse in the seventeen years since Bird by Bird was published. After all, we have the Internet now. With our smart phones, we can compare numbers of Facebook fans wherever we go, be alerted when our agents announce a yowza contract for another client, know who our publisher is taking to a conference, get weekly updates on the top ten bestsellers, know how many followers a certain author has on his or her blog, click into a storm of congratulations when someone else wins an award.
But then, Cain and Abel didn't have the Internet, and, well, that story didn't end well either.
A heart at peace gives life to the body,but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30
As someone who deals with rotting bones from time to time (don't ask how often, please), I have to disagree with Anne's advice in this chapter. Getting older may help some writers put things in perspective, but I'm not willing to wait until my death bed to see just how old is older. For me, talking about jealousy only seems to empower it. And as for using it as material? Perhaps, but this can simply be an excuse to give jealousy a place to grow in the dark until it's needed. And it will grow.
For me, jealousy is a God-Patti relationship issue. When I forget God's sovereignty, His perfect love, that He must become greater and I become less, the green-eyed monster gains momentum. Here are some of the ways I've battled and will battle jealousy as a writer:
- Keep my relationship with Jesus vital and intimate. For me, that means almost daily (daily IS my goal) personal bible study and an ongoing conversation with him. Nothing else convinces me of his love and sovereignty, the source of peace.
- Be part of a writing community that promotes love over publishing, like Novel Matters. Don't get me wrong, we all want to be published, to bring our art out into the light, but being published is not the measure of God's goodness to us. His Son is that.
- Look for ways to bless others who are living the writer's life. Those we envy experience good days and bad, tiramisu and hardtack, tsunamis of inspiration and a cold, white computer screens of doubt. Pray for them. Encourage them. They probably have hemorrhoids.
- Celebrate the "success" of others.
- Set my heart on what God wants for me, not on what God wants for others.
- Be grateful, for heaven's sake. God is using my writing. He is good in all things. The writing life is amazing.
- Use the Internet to build relationships, not as a tool for self promotion. Give your "friends" and readers a gift with your wit and wisdom.
Am I the only one who spurs the green-eyed monster into a gallop? Please say no. How do you deal with jealousy? Have you noticed times when you are more vulnerable to jealousy?