The other day I was with writer friends and someone mentioned something (a new placement, a publishing deal, a new confidante), and was a little timid about going into specifics, but then did, and, wow, the feeling I was left with was . . . envy.
I was quiet about it. Didn’t mention it to anyone. I was ashamed and embarrassed I felt this way. But deep down I couldn’t help myself from thinking: When will it be my turn?
No wonder Envy is in the top seven. When it surfaces, you know it comes from a deep dark place. Ancient. Primitive almost, which is why I am ashamed. Certainly I can be a person who is more evolved than someone affected by such a caveman emotion as envy.
I have tried to train myself to not be affected by other people’s successes (or failures). Even tried, ala Amy Poehler, to cultivate ambivalence about success and its trappings.
I have remembered to remember that life is a crapshoot and I should not take things personally. Whining, petulance, feeling sorry for myself—these I wish to recognize and eliminate. I want to be Zen.
So that’s why I’m embarrassed because envy seems such a juvenile problem, right up there with popularity contests.
It bothered me that envy showed itself. I wondered whether writers experience envy in a way unique to their calling (Isn’t a writer a needier individual after all?).
It’s been a couple weeks now. It’s not at the surface any more; once dispersed, my envy floated away.
When it showed itself, I tried to process it.
First, I indulged myself for a moment. It is okay to feel envy once in a while. It’s a human tendency (nothing personal) so I should forgive myself for feeling it in the first place.
Then I told myself that I could put envy to work. It should inspire me, not discourage me.
I examined what I envied. What had struck such a nerve? I realized what I wanted was to be as well regarded as the person I envied. I thought about this and how I want to present myself/my writing to the world and whether this differs from the way I do present myself / my writing. My gauge of success should be in how closely these align.
I realize that wanting success is ego-driven, whereas, the way I want to write is creatively driven. Market forces do not drive me to create a certain poem or story; I write what interests me.
I have to balance these out, favoring the creative side and finding the feeling of success right there in the act of creating, writing, and revising something. In one sense, the work is its own reward.
However, as to getting readership and publication, to be honest, these are goals. To me the step of being read completes my act of writing. I write to get read. I am not Emily Dickinson.
So I can’t put to use the sour grapes of Aesop myth here. I still want what I want; it still seems delicious. What shouldn’t matter to me though is when someone else gets what he or she wants. I have to keep the focus on my work and myself, not get distracted.
I have to appreciate what I have, even more. Notice that when someone tells you bad news like they’re sick or getting sued or have a problem that would stop you in your tracks, usually you do not ask: When will it be my turn? But it’s just as applicable here.
I have to let go of envy, just like you let go of anger, because envy takes energy to sustain and that energy could be better spent.
Your chances of finding success (however you define it) are increased with the more work you do. So let the envy dissipate and get to it.
Peace, love, and solace