Writer's jealousy

I don’t believe this jealousy is specific to writers. Probably people of any trade – maybe especially the creative ones – are prone to feeling jealousy towards each other. But lets focus on writers since this blog is for and about us people of the written word.

I think there are three main things that make me feel jealous of another writer.

  1. If the person seems to be more popular than me.
  2. If I read their stuff and I think they are more talented than me.
  3. If the person seems to be more committed and a harder worker than me.

Hmmm… Can’t say that sounds all too healthy, does it. The first one, I don’t even care if the person is a good writer, all I care about is popularity. The second is comparing talent which is almost, if not absolutely, impossible because we all write differently. I find myself comparing my talent “levels” to people who write totally differently than me.

A couple of years ago, in a creative writing course, I told my teacher I was afraid I’d never succeed as a writer because other writers were able to write hundreds of words on topics that I couldn’t imagine writing so much about. I was at once jealous of that ability of working through ideas that way, but at the same time didn’t truly feel I wanted to write like that anyway. I very much believe in getting the point across as quickly as possible. (btw, this is one of the reasons I love blogging; you just write as much or as little as you want.) But I still felt like there was something lacking in my writing because I like writing short. (Not including this blog post, apparently.)

My teacher at the time, Paul Belserene, told me that there is a writer – I wish I could remember his name – who wrote a whole book of just very short sentences, each one a piece unto itself. I think Paul was trying to teach me not to compare and not to have expectations of what my writing “should” be without challenging those expectations. Who said writing should be a certain way?

My last reason for jealousy, at first seems so ridiculous. I’m jealous that someone is trying harder than me? What if this motivated person is a “horrible” writer? And really, if there is one thing over which we supposedly have control, it’s the amount of work we put into something. Jealous of someone else’s talent, maybe, but jealous that the person sits down and writes? Geez, just sit down and write yourself!

But no, it’s way more complex than that. It is a myriad of psychological factors stopping the writer from sitting down to write. And seeing someone who, supposedly, is free of all those blocks, really is the ultimate reason to feel jealous.

Or… dare I say, the ultimate reason to take heed, look at that person, ask yourself how they do it when you don’t seem to be able to, and work on doing it.

“קנאת סופרים תרבה חוכמה” This famous saying from the Talmud means that jealousy amongst the wise leads to more studying. Meaning, if you’re jealous of someone else in your trade, it will motivate you to become better yourself.

Is that true? Do you find your jealousy, if you have any of course, is helpful or destructive? Does it make you want to go and create or go back to bed?

Interestingly, Benji Lovitt, a fellow writer, told me he thinks we feel jealous when we’re not doing all we can do. Whatever the jealousy might feel like – whether it feels as if it’s about the other person’s popularity or talent – he’s saying that if the person is putting the most he can into his writing, he won’t feel jealous. I assume that that is what he found with himself. An interesting idea… And if that is true, the next important question is, why am I not doing all I can do? What is it that is stopping me from trying to write as much or as well as I want to?

Here is a song about how we feel about the world – well, the day – when we aren’t feeling jealousy towards people. Actually, it’s just an excuse to post this song here because it was just playing in the cafe where I’m sitting and I love it.

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