Blogger: Mary Keeley
This is the time of year when contests will be won and awards will be announced. A few will get the prize; most will not. Since I am out of the office attending BEA this week, I decided to repost a blog I wrote more than two years ago. I won’t be able to respond to comments, but I look forward to reading what you have to say about your own experiences with professional jealousy and your encouraging words for each other.
Let’s get right to it: at one point or another we’ve all been bitten by that green-eyed monster, otherwise known as professional jealousy. Ever hovering, seeking whom he may devour, he attacks by surprise at an unfortunate moment when defenses are weakened.
On the CBA side of this industry I observe continually that authors, both unpublished and published, truly are thrilled for fellow authors’ successes: winning a writing contest, receiving an award, getting a book contract, or hitting the New York Times bestseller list. But it’s also when you have to arm yourself against the GEM’s venom: jealousy. Left untreated, the bite can take an author to a negative place where creativity and inspiration become paralyzed.
Michael K. Reynolds, author of the Heirs of Ireland series, made this comment, which gets to the heart of the issue:
As writers, the same gift which allows us to write with passion and effectiveness–that is the ability to flow our heart onto pages–makes us even more prone to jealousy. Even as a Christian author, who should know better, it’s something I grapple with all of the time.
If you are yet unpublished, be advised that getting a publishing contract doesn’t immunize you. I decided to ask two well-established authors how they nip professional jealousy at the first hint of an attack.
DiAnn Mills, award-winning author of more than 50 books, including her most recent FBI series, and her book on writing, The Dance of Character and Plot, offered this advice:
When the jealousy demon nips at my heels, I simply have to remind myself that I’m writing for an audience of One, and He doesn’t care how many books I’ve written, awards I’ve earned, or the times I’ve hit the best-seller list. What God wants is obedience to use the gift He’s given me to write the best story possible and to always glorify him in the process, and for me that means the writing, editing, and marketing.
All of us in Christian publishing are quietly nodding our heads as we read DiAnn’s wise words, which describe the proper perspective.
Robin Jones Gunn, author of more than 80 books, with 4.5 million copies sold worldwide, including the Christy Miller series, the Sisterchicks series, and more fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, goes on to say:
God deals with each of us as individuals. There was only one burning bush. Only one Esther. Only one time when Peter was invited to walk on water. The work that God has for me to do as a writer is going to be different than what He has for any other writer who ever was or ever will be. Should Elizabeth be jealous of Mary because Mary gave birth to Jesus and Elizabeth “only” gave birth to John the Baptist? The best way for me to use the few short years God has given to me on this crazy planet is to focus on Him alone and listen to what He is asking me to do and then obey Him with my whole heart. I am then free to rejoice with other writers on their successes and weep with other writers on their losses because on this journey I have experienced both. And I’m pretty sure the roller coaster will continue. All that will matter in the end is that I held on and was available for God to complete His work in me.
Robin summed it up with following paraphrase of Romans 12:6, from The Message:
So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
The perfect antidote.
When was the last time you were bitten by professional jealousy? Does it get easier or harder for you to fight the bite? How will you put the wisdom offered by these publishing pros to use in your own writing career?
Here’s how to immunize yourself from professional writer jealousy. Click to Tweet.
Wisdom from established authors to guard against professional jealousy. Click to Tweet.
Pride creeps in, even with no agent, contract or published book as yet–moments when I think that I am doing great work. The enemy continually tries to break off my connection to God. Or at least fill that connection with static.
*I visualize myself before the throne of grace, placing my WIP at the feet of God. It is his book, not mine.
*When I write in my journal (that is, as I record my conversation with God), I call it “the book” and not “my book.” It is no more mine than my children are mine. I carry responsibility for it, but not ownership.
*It helps that every work day I drive over the same stretch of pavement where God dropped the outline for the book into my head. Writing is my hard work, yes, but the concept is God’s alone.
Shirlee, I try to remember that the stories are write are from God’s mind and heart, not so much my own. I loved what you said about you carrying responsibility for it but not ownership. Good words. 🙂
Mother Teresa — ‘I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.’
I struggle with this when it comes to platform. It’s easy to be jealous when a new blogger’s readership explodes and my growth remains slow and steady.
In a writer’s group I belong to, there is a constant affirmation that I am uniquely prepared to share words no one else has. Even if we were to all write about the same specific topic, each of our responses would be different. If I didn’t write, my perspective would be missing.
Becky, I’ve struggled with blog-envy too. You’re blessed to have a writer’s group that affirms you for who God created you to be. And I loved what you said about, if you didn’t write, your perspective would be missing. What a great thought.
Ditto for me with blog-envy and to be honest, the fear of not even having a platform. However, God is dealing with me on this issue with the assurance that He will give me something to say, in His time.
I memorized this poem a long time ago – ‘Richard Cory’, by Edward Arlington Robinson
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
Profound, Andrew. Such a vivid reminder that we only see one facet of people. We don’t really know what’s happening behind the screen we see. Needed that reminder.
I know this poem. Used it as a context question for some exams. Never read the first two verses though. Good to know it had a message, and not just some literary device.
Mary, professional jealousy rears its ugly head on a regular basis for me, and has since I began writing. If anything, it gets worse as I have more novels published. Although I’ve been pleased that Christian authors are much more willing to help other authors than is the case in the secular writing world, we’re not immune to jealousy. Thanks for the reminder, and for helpful words from authors who are subject to the same things the rest of us are.
Richard, I so appreciate your perspective. Being on the other side of the “published” bridge, it’s good to know that I’ll have to continue to guard my heart if/when I get punished. I’m so thankful Christian authors are willing to help each other. I’d probably not still be writing if Christian authors hadn’t helped me along. 🙂
Mary, I have dealt with some jealousy, although I blush at calling it that. When I see friends who have moved ahead of me on this journey, I’m so happy for them, but I’m also jealous, wondering if my turn will ever come. I’ve discovered these thoughts are draining and discouraging. I’m learning the necessity of letting go of those thoughts and remembering the writing journey God has me on is 1) MY journey, and 2) the best one for me to be on. God knows what His plans are for me. He knows the story of my life, and I need to choose to trust Him and not be looking all around me, comparing my perceived lack with others’ perceived success.
I stopped having a problem with jealousy when I realized that it was just disguised ingratitude, and a rejection of what was good in my life.
* So, right now, I look around at the dogs crowding my feet…and know that if I had been ‘successful’ when BPH was written, and it had made the best-seller lists, a lot of these guys would not have survived. The roads I took through my literary desert allowed me to find them, and bring them home. If I had been away on book tours, these wagging tails would have been stilled forever.
* I wouldn’t trade what I have for any dream. If my books sell well, fine, but I am equipped to be happy already.
Andrew, your canine companions are proof of the blessings God puts in our path no matter how rocky the journey.
Andrew, I love your definition of jealousy. Disguised ingratitude. That’s a little convicting. 🙂 Those dogs save your life even as you save theirs. I love how God works in multi-faceted ways like that.
I love what Robin had to say about Mary and Elizabeth. So true! It reminded me of when Jesus told Peter what awaited him in old age. Hard words to hear! And Peter asked of John, “What about this man?” Jesus’s reply? “What’s that to you? You follow me.”
It is encouraging to know that this is something we all struggle with, whether we are published or unpublished. Jealousy is just one item on a list of many to guard ourselves from … I love how Robin said that there was one Peter, one Mary … that we all have a unique journey with God. I love Ann Voskamp and Beth Moore … and though I’d love to have their platform, I wouldn’t love the difficulties in their lives that brought it. It’s like Andrew’s poem … sometimes you only have to uncover the pain in others’ lives to know you are glad to be on your own road, wherever that may lead. But I think uncovering the pain in others’ lives helps us straighten our perspective and pray for them instead.
What a great reminder, in writing and in life! It’s easy to get caught up in the perspective that there are millions of hungry writers reaching for a very small pie, and to feel jealous for those who get a slice or, worse, a whole slab with ice cream on top. We forget that we serve a mighty and infinite Baker, so to speak, and should think more of resting in Him and less about grabbing our slice.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I remember discussing this very subject with Beth Vogt, several years ago. A writer friend, whom I adored, and still do, met a career goal, and I was somewhat unkind about how I wanted that as well, and blah blah blah.
As gracious as always, Beth let me vent, then said something that hit me like a bullet.
“You need to realize, that someday, someone will be thinking the same thing about you.”
I laughed, quite hard.
She waited until I was done and then said, “Yes, Jennifer, they will.”
I was not prepared for the gravity of her response. I did not, for the life of me, think ANYONE in their right mind should be jealous of anything about me.
I still don’t.
But, armed with that awareness, I do try to keep my extremely rare outbursts of professional jealousy to one or two trusted people, and only in private.
Because it HURTS. It hurts to feel such muddied animosity toward a friend, and it hurts to know I have that inside me. And it hurts to know that out there, in the heart of a friend, such dross is simmering about me.
I do not walk anyone else’s road. I may walk beside them and share in their travels, but I am not on their road. I am on mine.
I will have my day in the sun.
I have every confidence in that.
And when a friend has theirs? I will try to not be the shadow that ruins the day.
That right there … that’s why I love you. Keep it real. And I want just a slice of that confidence … but I don’t have to be jealous of yours because every day, you give me a little more and a little more confidence. xoxo
I’m going to print this one to keep handy during the upcoming award season. Thank you, Mary! And what Andrew said about “disguised ingratitude”–pure gold.
This was so timely for me. I actually just wrote on my blog this week about jealousy and comparison in general and in regards to other authors, so your post was something that helped to remind me that I write because God wants me to and He wants me to remember that daily. Thanks!
I learned a huge lesson recently regarding this topic. A member of our writer’s group has enjoyed more publishing success than most of us in the group, yet her writing required the most work for us to critique. When I received yet another rejection, and she received a contract, I felt jealous. I was glad for her, but it felt “unfair.” Of course, I was ashamed of myself for those feelings. I didn’t want to be that person.
One of her stories was accepted by a publisher for an anthology. They were looking for another author. She recommended me to her agent. Her agent contacted me and agreed to handle my submission. The result? The publisher accepted my proposal, and the agent signed me as a client.
Humble pie. Yum.
I hate to confess that I was plagued by jealousy last week, but my daily Bible reading led me to 1 Samuel. I recognized King Saul’s jealous spirit in my own heart, immediately repented, and asked God for forgiveness. This morning I turned to 1 John 15:7-8. “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory; that you bear much fruit.” I pray that the fruit of His spirit is evident in all that I do and that my work glorifies Him.