It’s funny how you can start out with one dream, and when that’s achieved you want more. First I just wanted to get a book published. Then I wanted it to do well. Then..
I have a friend who wrote a compelling memoir. Her book is still going strong years later, and she is at the point where she can command a fee for showing up for events, for which she is still requested. A friend of mine in a different town is going to one of her events and she talked about how good the book was and how much of a fan she was, and how unbelievable it was that I was a friend of the writer. To which I sat in grumpy silence thinking.. But…But…I wrote a memoir too! What about meeeeeeeeee?
It’s hard to be envious. It doesn’t feel that great. Because of course I am happy for my friend. Her book is good. She worked hard on it. She deserves this. At the same time, I’m envious of her success. I can name off all of the reasons why hers caught on and mine didn’t as much, and some of it comes down to the whole marketing thing, and others to contacts, and still others to what a publishing company is willing to do for an author. But still. It still doesn’t feel great.
You can feel envious of others for more than just writing books. For example, I sometimes get envious when I see young women trotting all over the globe, gear ambassadors and making their living adventuring, long touseled hair and faces still apple-cheeked. When I was growing up, I didn’t see those opportunities. Life has gone by so fast. Other things I envy? People who don’t have to work for whatever reason, people who can travel at the drop of a hat, people who don’t have sometimes uncertain knees.
This makes me sound like a perpetual envier, and that’s not the case. What I’m trying to say is that I attempt to use this emotion in a positive way. I help other writers by reading their manuscripts. I tell myself that if nothing else, I have written two books of which I am proud. That they have made a difference to some people, even if they didn’t bring any money in. I talk to younger women about lessons I have learned in the world, if they ask. I try to empower other women who might be too afraid to attempt hiking alone, for example. I try to remember to be grateful. I think of a man in the grocery store line recently. When asked how he was doing, he said, “Well, I didn’t wake up with a toe tag.”
Envy is ultimately not worth it, but it’s something writers–and others–don’t really talk about. It seems shameful to admit. But it’s real.