A few weeks ago a friend of mine landed a book deal. I think this person is a fantastic writer, a generous person and a kind friend. You'd think that, upon hearing the news, I'd want to pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate with them.
The truth is, if we had celebrated with a bottle of champagne, I may have aimed the cork at this person's head.
Why? Because of the great writerly companion.
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"If you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with (jealousy), because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know - people who are, in other words, not you" (Anne Lamott, "Bird By Bird")
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So what's wrong with feeling jealous? Nothing, at first. But if you let it settle into your heart, it will eat away at your creativity, paralyze your narrative arc, stifle the good voice that gives you wisdom and inspiration and the stuff that everyone enjoys reading.
Plus, if you let jealousy set up camp, you actually end up missing out on stuff - things like comraderie, community and joy.
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But sometimes it just doesn't want to go away. Sometimes jealousy clings as persistently as the odor of a diaper in a poorly ventilated room. Here are some things to consider:
- "stop comparing your insides to other people's outsides" (Anne Lamott)
- try letting yourself appreciate the positive things about the target of your jealousy
- "don't try to stop the jealousy and competitiveness...the main thing is not to let it fuel your self-loathing" (Anne Lamott)
- allow yourself to have a sense of humor about these difficult emotions
- write about it
My friend Bryan Allain has a wildly popular blog. My other friend Ira Wagler has a book coming out soon, and the pre-orders are through the roof. The list goes on and on, writer friends who are experiencing success in their field. I could very easily let jealousy settle in and wreck our friendship, turn me into a bitter, inward-focused person.
Instead, I enjoy breakfast with Bryan and pick his brain on how to improve my blog. I help spread the word about Ira's book (and let him buy me lunch). I help my writer friends in any way that I can. Their success becomes my success.
And, at least for tonight, jealousy is kept at bay.
Thanks for the great thoughts Shawn! You can read more of Shawn's writing at www.shawnsmucker.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter.