Writerly Jealousy

As I’ve said before, the only TV show I really watch is Family Guy. I watched the latest episode last night and it struck a chord with me because I’m a writer. In a nutshell (without giving away spoilers) here’s the plot: Brian writes a play and everyone in Quahog loves it. Stewie writes a play the next day, and Brian is incredibly jealous because Stewie’s play has the potential to be the next American classic.

First of all, I cannot stand Brian. He’s my least favorite character on Family Guy because he is a self-righteous jerk. This episode shows him at his worst: when he acts like a super pretentious writerly type, wearing a jacket with elbow patches and drinking like he’s Hemingway.

Most writers I know in real life aren’t like this. We don’t act all pretentious and get jealous of other writers’ successes. We are genuinely happy for them when they sign with an agent, get their book published, and sell many copies. Writers I’ve met online are some of the most supportive people I’ve ever “met” and they’re the first to pick you up when you don’t feel that great about the way your writing’s going.

But we’re all human. I’m sure we do get jealous at times when it seems like our writing is getting rejected all over the place and everyone else’s writing is getting published. But we overcome that. We look past it and genuinely feel happy for the other person.

My question for you… have you ever been jealous of another writer’s success?

33 thoughts on “Writerly Jealousy

  1. Two of my very first writer friends have recently self-published.
    I haven’t experienced any jealousy, probably because I know I’m not ready to try publication yet. I think it’s exciting to say that “I knew them when…”

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    1. I think it’s a little different when someone self-publishes (which anyone can do) versus when someone gets published by a New York City publishing house. To me, the latter implies a great deal of luck and skill.

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  2. I’m jealous of EL James. I wish I’d thought of writing a bondage/erotica Twilight fanfiction, changing the names, and making millions of dollars. Sadly, that sort of thing will only work once.

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  3. According to Goodreads, I read over 300 books last year. Since my name isn’t Isaac Asimov, I won’t write 300 books in my lifetime. That means we need all the great and successful authors we can get. I might get mildly annoyed when a hack enjoys great success, but not jealous.

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  4. Nope. Never. I’m also not jealous of actors, artists, comedians, sports figures, millionaires, or rock stars. They are welcome to their place in the spotlight for however long it lasts.

    I am a bit jealous of people who can eat anything they want without gaining weight. 😉

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  5. I wouldn’t say I’ve been jealous. I guess I’ve been inspired by other writers’ successes. Also, I usually try to be as successful as someone rather than be like them (as in I don’t write like them or talk like them but just aim for their level of success). But in no way whatsoever do I try and change myself.

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  6. I never have been, but I guess that’s one of the advantages of not being (or aspiring to be) professional. I have a friend who’s been a (successful, award-winning) writer since 1972. More power to him.

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  7. Definitely! It’s sometimes a gut reaction, sometimes it shows up over time (like, as you said, when everyone else seems to be having successes and all I’m getting is failure). The good thing is, I can usually recognize it and talk myself down. It’s a natural feeling to have, especially when we can’t control who likes our work, who publishes it, who reads it, who reviews it…so I think it’s easy for some people (me, sometimes) to remember to look inward and focus on what we CAN control, which is writing the best darn book/story/essay/poem we can write. And to keep getting better, and thirsting for more education about the craft of writing.
    Whew! You struck a nerve! I’ve been mulling over this issue for the past week. The past two years, really, if I’m honest. 🙂

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    1. For me, jealousy is my first response (sounds horrible, I know), but I guess that’s human nature. 🙂 You’re right to say we need to focus on what we can control.

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      1. I’ve noticed lately that most of my jealousy is of writers (established, aspiring, part-time, full-time, whatever) who have (or seem to have) more time to write than I have. Which is something I definitely cannot control! However, I can control what I do with the time I have, i.e. perhaps a little less internet after the kids go to bed?
        Also, jealousy, while natural, is not productive, and I’m trying to note and then dismiss emotions and feelings that don’t help me in my life. It’s totally normal to feel it, but then I want to let it go, you know?

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        1. Time management is definitely one of the biggest issues. If you have kids or a full-time job and you have some extra time, you usually want to spend that time doing anything but writing. I come home from work and end up zoning out in front of the computer screen surfing the Internet. It’s a tough thing.

          Yeah, it’s important to be mindful of those feelings and to get rid of them after we’ve acknowledged them.

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  8. I feel the same sort of happiness for others when they have success as a writer that I do when they find happiness in love–I don’t think in either as zero-sum games, and bitterness in either is likely to make it less likely to find happiness or success for yourself.

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  9. I’ve been jealous of other writers, but of their skill and hard work—not so much of their success. In writing, as in other art forms, success doesn’t always correlate well with quality. I’m more jealous when someone’s work makes me feel, “I can never write like this.” But yeah, that binge-drinking, elbow-patchy stereotype is annoying.

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  10. I used to get jealous for a short time, but now I get mad at myself. Because if I would just work a little harder and apply myself a little more….just maybe…..

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    1. I’m kind of jealous of the people who have children and can still find time to write. I imagine that if I had children, I would have any time or energy to spare! In that case, it’s not so much writing that inspires jealousy, but time management.

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  11. I haven’t been in a position to be jealous of any of my writer friends yet. I’m still young enough in that world that nothing has changed yet. However, I have felt the oposite end. I know a family member who tried to be an author, but completely quit before she really had a chance to try. Because I’m trying as hard as I can to achieve my own goal to be an author, she crushes me every chance she can get, trying to show me exactly how impossible it is. It’s pretty much made my mind that I will do everything I can to support anyone who wants to achieve their dream in life, no matter how impossible the dream may appear.

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  12. I think it’s so tough being a writer, so much rejection and waiting and fear that you can’t help feeling a little pang when someone gets the thing you’re hoping for but most writers I’ve talked to are really supportive and like to cheer each other on!

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