Writing: The Green-Eyed Monster

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In writing, as I’m sure in other professions as well as life, the green-eyed monster can raise its hoary head. This is not one created (usually) for a story but the one that manifests at the successes of an individual. Yes, the green-eyed monster Jealousy, with its diminutive cousin Envy.

There is professional jealousy when one writer thinks another writer is unworthy of having a piece published or winning an award. Sometimes this is justified and if truly judged by informed peers, it would not win. Some awards are indeed popularity awards. One type of award is that you’re popular because you have fans or readers. The second is that you just need to get enough votes and anyone, including friends, colleagues and family, can vote you in because they know you, not on the merit of your work. This happens all the time

But in the realm of jealousy, a writer feels that: how could that person win/succeed when I’m so much better? My work deserves recognition. Why isn’t it being recognized?  Etc. This came up in a writers group today, where a friend of one of the writers and likewise a writer continues to cut down the more successful person, praising one moment, being scathing the next. Often jealousy is a sign of a person’s own insecurities and I’m sure many of us in writing have felt that we’re doing all that we can, we think we’re good, what’s wrong, why aren’t people buying my stuff. I know I think it at times but I wouldn’t say I’m jealous of someone else for succeeding. To me the sum of the parts strengthen the whole. I wonder how writer couples ever manage to make it work, though, if they aren’t both successful. In fact, I know that such a state has been damaging enough to the ego to have broken up a few couples.

Jealousy of course happens in all walks of life and did happen to me, but not so much in writing. A very important aspect of SFC (SF Canada; the professional speculative writers’ organization) is that we are supportive. Members can get advice, information, be silly, commiserate and congratulate. I’m sure some may be jealous but thankfully they never post such to our e-list.

I actually believe very seriously in supporting whenever I can the arts  and friends who are artists in any medium. This might be as small as saying congratulations and as big as cheering in the front row or buying someone’s work. If I had buckets of cash I would support the arts more. Without art in all its myriad forms the world would be a very drab place indeed.

Why do I feel I must support artists? For many reasons but I KNOW as an artist how difficult it is to create and create well. And then on top off that, to take that creation and make it into something to be viewed, read, watched, heard or otherwise appreciated. It takes a lot to complete something, putting blood, sweat and tears into it and then no one knows about it at all. And then to get any monetary acknowledgment for that accomplishment is very difficult, especially enough to live on. Being an artist is not simple and certainly isn’t the easy road, no matter what Prime Minister Stephen Harper thinks about artists attending high-end galas (that they probably paid to get to or put in a lot of work beforehand).

On our list I try to congratulate everyone who has an accomplishment/sale. It’s good to give and show support and really doesn’t hurt at all. Sometimes people even reciprocate. We might not all be Picassos and Hemingways. We may never make a living at our art and we might not even be that good at it. But we are all, indeed, worthy of recognition. Whether the accomplishment is small or grand, it’s enough to be cheered on. Jealousy has never, anywhere or any walk, served anyone well. It’s as destructive as hate. Next time you feel the green-eyed monster riding your back, try to be generous with a complement. I bet you’ll get farther and feel better.

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2 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, people, Publishing, relationships, Writing

2 responses to “Writing: The Green-Eyed Monster

  1. Karma Doc

    Thank you for saying this… I hope every writer or other artist takes heed of your word, it sure struck a cord with me.

  2. Kevin

    I’d like to suggest that this country put itself on the cultural map by instituting something called, ‘Take a Writer to Lunch Week’. Writers could register on a national database, and then those two or three hundred Canadians who still read books could then search the database of hungry writers filtering by city, genre, titles, et cetera, and find a suitable match. The writers could fill out a quick checklist of the kinds of eateries where they are most comfortable (e.g. greasy spoon diner, Umberto’s) and the members of the reading public could request either a particular writer’s name or search by city and genre (e.g. ‘Moose Jaw’ & ‘erotica’).

    Imagine the following scenario: a book club somewhere decides that the next book they’re going to read will be by a local author – someone that they can take to lunch afterward. They’d register on the Take a Writer to Lunch website to fete, say, Colleen Anderson. Then, they’d all go rushing out and buy something she’s written (book sales… what a concept) and then treat her to a lavish luncheon where the conversation is all about her work as an artist. Colleen would be the center of attention for a whole hour or more and the topic of conversation would be entirely about her writing, her influences, her ideas for future stories. In turn, she’d get to meet some of the people who actually read the stuff she writes and get to ask *them* questions. Think about it … actual dialogue between an artist and their public. (Yes, I know, libraries have readings where the public gets to ‘meet’ the writer through a Q & A following the reading, but there’s no way that such a stiff and formal setting can be anywhere near as illuminating for writer and reader alike as getting slowly toasted over a second bottle of merlot at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon.

    Besides Colleen, Canadian writers that I’d like to take to lunch include Brian Fawcett, Richard B Wright, and Ivan Coyote. Although I really don’t want to take Margaret Atwood to lunch, I would very much like to sit at the table behind her and fling bits of salad in the general direction of her table just to see what might get caught in her frizzy hair. Edible Woman, indeed.

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