Several posts back, I mentioned reading Jeff Vandermeer’s BOOKLIFE: STRATEGIES AND SURVIVAL TIPS FOR THE 21ST-CENTURY WRITER. This book is excellent for a number of reasons. The thing I most appreciated, though, was his intentional division of a writer’s public and private booklife. In the Private Booklife section, he’s devoted a whole chapter to envy.
It is easy to be envious in all professions, but I think there’s a special envy reserved just for the arts. When what you create is the thing ultimately received or rejected by others, it is often difficult to keep ourselves separate from our work, and it’s easy to grow bitter when others’ work is received differently than our own.
Here’s what Vandermeer has to say:
“…Envy expresses a perverse feeling of helplessness: an acknowledgement of our inability to control what we could never control anyway. The only true balm is to tend to our own work, our own business, and to be as sound and honest in it as we can be — and as for others, to treat them with love and affection, recognizing that what we may see of them in our eye, they too may see of us in theirs. Recognizing that the fortunes of our fellow travelers rise and fall as do our own — knowing that we are bound in a brotherhood and sisterhood of envy — may remove the sting of the sliver when it enters, and when it exits.”
How do you deal with envy?