Monday, November 3, 2008

How We Do It: Two Writers Talk Technique

This month's shared blog focuses on friendship and jealousy between writers. As always, Caroline has a great take. You can see mine on her blog

Writers need support—and other writers. But what happens when your friend gets that 6-figure deal and you get another rejection and maybe it’s even a form letter and they spelled your name wrong, too?

How do you handle jealousy and envy?

First some definitions. Envy is the desire for something that someone else has. Jealousy is the feeling that someone has something that you feel belongs to you. And both are evil emotions which will hurt you.

This is all something Clea Simon and I have been talking about this week, and I think it’s important to realize that jealousy and envy are natural emotions, but that they have to do with your views on scarcity. Are you jealous because you think your friend got something so there isn’t enough to go around? Or are you envious because you think it means your friend is talented and the only thing you should be writing is “Vegetable salad” on a menu pad at Arby’s? Both of these scenarios have solutions. Scarcity is a myth—there is plenty for everyone, and worrying about your own talent is insecurity and you can easily shut it up by just writing some more.

A writer friend and I used to routinely deal with our throbs of jealousy when someone got something we wanted by instantly congratulating the person and writing a lovely note to them. Karma, we figured, might protect us, and in fact, writing those notes did diffuse our heart-wrenching yearning to “have what she’s (or he’s) having.” I’ve also been blessed with enough generous writing friends to know that their success often paves the way for opportunities for me (and vice versa). Of course you are going to feel the stings of jealousy, but when you begin to realize that we writers are all in the same boat, bobbing about at the mercy of publishers, editors, reviews an media, you begin to realize that the sharks bite at everyone one time or another, and that there really is room for all of us in the boat, which to my mind, is headed for Rome.

Case in point, my friend MJ Rose just got a rave Editor's Pick review of her book The Memorist in People. I was so excited, I screamed. I know how much this means to her-and I also know how much she deserves it (the book is that good.) All I want to do is share in her joy.

Thanks, Caroline. And YAY MJ!

1 comment:

Sorell Says... said...

Hi Caroline!

I am loving this dialogue between you and Clea...I commented on her blog at your blogspot. It is so true that we have to take a deep breath and realize that there is plenty to go around. As an actor I had to work so hard on this, to remind myself that if someone wanted my friend Amy, then they didn't want me, because we are totally different. Amy wasn't taking work away from me, she was offering something different that, that particular director was looking for. I had to just be me and do what I do, so that when someone was looking for what I had to offer...there I was.

I had to practice this, but it is true and over time it allowed me to stop wasting energy on envy and put it back into working. This approach is especially true of writing...just as you say about dealing with insecurity.

I think when we truly understand how HARD it is for anyone to create anything from nothing, we can not feel anything other than absolute joy for our fellow artist's success. I for one am thrilled when a friend or colleague of mine has worked their butt off and gets rightfully rewarded. They deserve it, and it's a reminder that it can happen...for them, for me, for all of us.