Welcome again to another edition of Author Etiquette. Apocalypse Ink Production started our segment on a few months ago and so far it’s been a great success. AIP loves authors. We wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t; but we have seen situations blow up that could have been prevented with just a little bit of patience, communication and common sense. Whether you are a new author or a pro, it’s sometimes handy to have a small reminder on how to handle a situation before it it gets ugly.
Being an author isn’t easy. While ideas might be plentiful, not every idea makes a story that is worth writing and and that’s just the beginning of our troubles. Even with hard work, taking workshops, and listening to the advice of editors and beta readers sometimes it seems as though you just aren’t making progress. Your stories are returned with that dreaded “R” in the response letter.
While other writers are our friends, they are also our competition. Most of the time there’s a sense of camaraderie as other writers cheer on successes but sometimes things turn sour. That story that you helped author Bob edit six months ago was accepted to a market you’ve been trying to get into for years. Jane got the slush reading position at a prestigious magazine you never heard back from. Marty is now editing an anthology for Publisher X—a publication you’ve not heard of before.
It’s understandable to start feeling queasy in the pit of your stomach every time your author friend announces another success. That uneasy feeling is often jealousy and it’s an emotion that can not only steal the fun out of your writing but ruin your friendships as well.
That little queasy feeling can lead to various situations that leave friends and family wondering what is going on. Jealous people often snap out at others who are experiencing success. Other people experience withdrawal from social norms until they can get their emotions back under control. Both of these actions are normal but it doesn’t make things comfortable for anyone.
No one should ever feel guilty about feeling jealous. Jealousy is a completely normal emotion that everyone has faced especially while growing up. Who hasn’t been jealous of a classmate’s new shoes or a new car? Everyone can identify with that feeling even if they haven’t had a full on jealousy surge in a while. The problem is, since most of us don’t experience it day-to-day, it’s a difficult emotion to get a hold of once it’s loose.
For many writers, jealousy is a byproduct of worry. There’s a push—both by the author and by our peers and the industry—to be successful. But when you look at the writing world, there’s no real definition of success. For some, it’s a mega book deal with a six figure advance. For others, it’s the latest short story finding a home. When we compare our successes (or lack of) to another author we often find we fall short of an imaginary line that’s supposed to mean we are a bonafide author. It can lead to a feeling of being an imposter or that other authors aren’t deserving of their successes.
And here’s where people often begin to act out.
I don’t know an author who hasn’t worked (finishing a novel or short story is WORK) for the success they have received. We might not agree with what they write about but, that author sat down, put words on a page and submitted it to someone and often kept submitting until they got an acceptance. They deserve kudos for it. You don’t have the right to take that away from them even if that little green goblin in your belly is telling you otherwise.
What you do have is the right to examine why and how they got that break or book deal or what ever successful venture that you have been trying to get for years. Take a look at why they were accepted. Did they write 50 drafts before that story was accepted? Did they approach a new market and get their foot in the door? Have they put in time, effort and sometimes money into establishing themselves as a professional? Did they know the editor well enough to skip the slush pile?
Now the next question is: Did YOU?
If you’ve answered no to these questions then that’s possibly part of your jealousy problem. Don’t worry, keep writing, editing and submitting and you’ll get there.
If you answered yes, your answer is still the same.
Your time is coming.
Don’t give up.
And when you do feel that little jealous urge to snap at someone, step back. Observe what’s really going on, why you feel that way and come back later.
~The Shadow Minion