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How to Combat Writer's Jealousy & Genuinely Celebrate Your Community ✨
my thoughts on envy, competition, & community - welcome back to The Slush Pile!
Welcome one, welcome all to a new year, a new month, and a new issue of The Slush Pile! For Issue 13, I wanted to dive into a topic that’s been on my mind for many years: writer’s jealousy. We’ve all felt it, that horrible ugly feeling that grows into our chest when we see our friends and mutuals being published in dream magazines, getting bylines in prestigious publications, winning fellowships and grants, receiving awards and nominations, acquiring an agent or publisher, publishing a book, sharing any exciting news of any kind worth celebrating while we ourselves may feel worthless, rejected, dejected, like we’re being left behind or we’ll never measure up or see ourselves doing those same things. Even if it has nothing to do with us, even if we didn’t want that specific success for ourselves, even if we don’t know the person personally, it can be a hit to our ego, a reminder that the person being celebrated isn’t us. It’s present in nearly every industry, every line of work and yet we refuse to talk about it because after all, who wants to be the jealous one in the relationship?
For me, social media is the main instigator of these feelings because it’s designed to be a rose-colored version of a person’s life. All we see is the good news without the hard work, struggle, and years it took to get there. In this way, the digital world can be a double-edged sword: you surround yourself with a supportive, inspirational writing community but will have to be okay with exposing yourself to, not a false sense of reality, but a flawed one. While there’s nothing more exciting than celebrating someone’s successes, especially when it’s someone you admire, it can also lead to bad feelings that are too taboo to talk about or address without just squashing them down, only for them to rise up later. Maybe the rest of you are more emotionally mature than I am but I find that I need a little help now and then to not only combat these feelings of jealousy and envy in a healthy, sustainable way, but also to celebrate my fellow writers genuinely, because I mean it, not because I feel obligated to. That’s where this issue of TSP comes in.
But First, The Twitterscape.
I experience writer’s jealousy on every social media site but none so much as Twitter, which especially in recent days, has simultaneously become a safe haven, an effective way to promote my work, and my worse nightmare. Because of its versatility, it can be all these things at once. My least phenomenon (one, admittedly, that I take part in regularly) is the announcement tweet. Off or on Twitter, writers have seen it and know it intimately, the tweet sharing a special announcement like an acceptance or upcoming publication, the precursor to the thing itself.
I can’t help it, I see it and feel bad about myself. Why? Whether it’s a book or a dream journal or something else, it’s a reminder that I’m not actively submitting or that I am but just got a whole bunch of rejections (which was true a few weeks ago), that I’m struggling to be creative and not even writing the novel I keep telling people I’m working on. I think: why couldn’t that have been me? When will it be my turn? Sometimes I have to fight to like the tweet, to say “congrats” in the replies if it’s something I believe I deserve. It’s petty and it might even be childish but it’s important for me and all of us who feel this way to address it, not just live with it. So, you may be asking, how? How do we take others’ successes not so personally?
Acknowledge & Sit With Your Feelings
Be intentional the next time you see something worth celebrating online or even in real life. Notice what your body is doing. For me, I always get this heavy weight in my chest, a deep ache like something just popped and is spreading a thick goo. It’s going to be uncomfortable but sit with it for a few minutes instead of doing what would be my first instinct of quickly squashing it down and exiting the situation. What does it feel like, this jealousy? What are you feeling? What specifically is causing it? What else makes you feel this way? Think of this as a meditation focused on the “what.”
Dive Deeper & Ask Questions
This is your chance to dive a little deeper into your psyche and consider the news with a different eye. Why are you feeling this way? Identify an emotion that’s deeper than jealousy or envy. Is it because you feel guilty about not writing or revising? Discouraged because you’ve been querying and submitting for months with no takers? Angry because it sounds similar (but not) to what you’re working on? Silly because you have no “right” to feel this way? Longing for the day when it’ll be your turn to celebrate something? Finding out these answers, really thinking deeply about what is causing you discomfort and pain beyond the immediate reaction of jealousy, is essential to thinking of your feelings in a different way.
Flip the Script
Instead of viewing these experiences as a source of negative emotion, think of them as a signpost, a pathway to moving forward and figuring out where to go next. Maybe it’s a sign to take tangible action to push yourself forward, to get back to that blank Word doc or make more time for writing in your week. Maybe it’s a sign to take the plunge and submit that piece of work one more time. Or maybe it’s a reminder to think of the writing world as a whole a little differently. Write it on a post-it, put this somewhere on your desk: our fellow writers are our allies, not our competition!
I truly believe that these feelings stem from harmful capitalist impulses, the fear that there are so many people out there succeeding that there’s no room for us. But instead of feeling jealous of a writer and seeing them as examples of what we are not, what if we saw them as our partners? What if we reached out for advice and asked them a few questions? What if we requested the name or email of that editor or agent they know, or ideas for where to submit your work? What if we took initiative instead of feeling angry? I think we would all be better off.
Take Steps & Make a Game Plan to Protect Yourself
That said, sometimes it’s not enough. No matter how much we try to change our mindset, those feelings of jealousy, hard to undo in one night, continue to come back, and for me, it happens often. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had to mute certain people on my timeline for what their constant successes were doing to my sense of worth and accomplishment, my self-esteem, my mental health. I wanted to be happy but couldn’t, and that’s something I’m continuing to work on and not a step I would practice in bulk.
What I am happy to recommend, however, is limiting the amount of time you spend scrolling on social media. If taking the above steps isn’t helping, log off. Rest. Do something else. Go outside if you can. Spend time in the world alone or with others if you can. I love to go in my backyard just to spend a few minutes alone, a nice reminder that the online world isn’t everything, is barely even real. It’s also a reset for my mind and gives me new motivation to get back to accomplishing what I want and not get caught up in someone else’s life. Figure out what works for you and come up with an action plan for the next time you find yourself feeling ugly feelings.
This is perhaps the biggest piece of advice I can offer: respond to someone else’s success with enthusiasm and joy, even if you don’t quite feel it. I know that for so many people, definitely nicer and better humans than me (lol), celebrating is the easy part. It’s not so much for me, which is why it’s even more important for me to do it. I can’t tell you how much better I feel after sending good wishes to someone and they respond in kind. I love letting go of the feeling and casting it off into the void and releasing a weight off my body. Plus, I’ve found that the more I do it, the more I mean it. Each time, I give something good back to the world in some small way, and believe me when I say that a simple “congrats!” is always appreciated by the receiver and goes a longer way than you think. As they say, send out good energy and it comes back to you ten-fold.
Still, I won’t sugarcoat it: this is an ongoing process. It gets easier with time but for me, it always comes back and that’s okay, as long as I don’t let it control me. That’s an important caveat in all this: let yourself feel the feelings but don’t let them get so big that it clouds your judgment, your life, your career, and what you really want out of it. We’re better than that.
Remember, Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper
In an interview with author Zoraida Cordova two years ago to celebrate her then-most recent book publication, she said something that still resonates with me today: keep your eyes on your own paper. And this is someone who’s written 17 books, and it struck me that someone could have all her success and still feel feelings of jealousy. The truth is, there will always be someone ahead of us but so what? We can celebrate other writers without worrying or stressing ourselves out with the idea that we’re not doing enough. We’re all on our own individual creative journeys and making art and dreaming big and making the world more beautiful because of it, and that to me is something always worth celebrating.
notes from the writer’s desk ✍️
my favorite recently pub’d pieces:
I recently launched creativity café, an ig live series where i feature, create space, and hold conversation with writers I love and that you should too! The first episode will feature inaugural special guest writer and friend Keana Aguila Labra, and we will be going live TODAY at 2pm on my Instagram. Can’t wait!
STREAMING SERVICE: season two, the sequel to my self-published debut poetry chapbook STREAMING SERVICE: golden shovels made for tv, IS NOW OUT! Digital and signed physical copies are available, as well as the option to bundle both chapbooks and receive a bookmark and sticker with every physical order! Order your copy today! Thank you as always for your support :’)
I am now a media mentor for Tectonic Media! If you are a young/aspiring journalist, I am available for consultation and mentorship on a variety of topics. Learn more about my areas of specialty and how we can connect here.
other stories i’m loving 📖
The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel José Older
Bob’s Burgers, S9
currently listening to:
F2F by SZA
all my love,