Thursday, August 4, 2011

That Green-Eyed Thing

Today I'm going into the Personal Zone. I've been getting a certain question as of late that has really bothered me, and I want to put it to rest now (and have a blog post to refer people to so I don't have to repeat myself). The question is along the lines of this:

Aren't you jealous of her?

The "her" in this case is usually one of my best friends, Kiersten White, who many know as the amazing, witty, talented NYT bestseller. Sometimes the question refers to some of my other incredibly gifted and successful friends, but today I'll mostly be talking in reference to Kiersten because I have her permission. Take this as a blanket statement for all authors, nonetheless.

Now, I can see why people would ask this of me. It's a natural thing to wonder about, looking from the outside in. I mean, Kiersten and I (and our dear friend Renee Collins, too) started this journey at almost the exact same time. We met over three years ago now, at which point we were all noob queriers just trying to learn the business. We were equals.

Then Kiersten got an agent almost a full year before I did.

She sold in an amazing three-book deal before I had an agent.

She's sold in countries all over the world, basically pwning Authorial Risk™.

Her first book came out right around the time my book on sub had been out there getting rejected for a year.

And then she hit the bestseller list.

I finally sell a book, while her second one is about to come out.

That one hits the list, too.

And by the time my book comes out, yes, I'm very well aware that she will likely have four books out, while I'm just barely getting started.

But guess what? We are still equals.

I can honestly say that I am not jealous of her success. It's really hard to be jealous of someone when you know the whole story, when you've seen all the struggles that other people don't.

Do I sometimes wish my own journey would have been shorter? Sure, of course, but I have never wanted Kiersten's path or anyone else's. I am HAPPY to see her reach her goals and dreams, and she is just as excited when I succeed as well. I was there when her dreams were just as implausible as my own, and it honestly pisses me off when people suppose that I would be anything but excited for her, because she means so much more to me than some professional connection or whatever. She is my friend, one of my best friends, and that happened long before any of this other stuff.

Jealousy is a strange thing. I'm certainly not immune, because I have felt it towards other people, but rarely those closest to me. There were times when I was on sub that it seemed like EVERYONE was selling books except me, and that they even had an easy time doing it. But I know that's not true—I just didn't know the whole story.

I think jealousy comes from focusing only on the success while refusing to see someone else's struggles and imperfections. It's an excuse to fuel your insecurity, to play the victim. It's ugly and pointless and something we have to fight. For me, the fastest way to overcome those twinges of jealousy is to remember that everyone struggles independently of their success. And not only that, but their success does not diminish mine. We're all playing on the same team, here. Every writer out there deserves compassion. We're all walking the same road, and it's a much easier journey when you make friends of your fellow travelers, not competitors, or worse, enemies.

Especially now, there is enough room for everyone. So come along, but don't you dare ask if I'm jealous ever again;P


  1. Amen! I have a very close friend who is so far ahead of me in the 'success' department that I should probably be jealous of her in others' eyes. But I'm not. And I think that's because we're so close. All I want for her is the BEST. When you have a really great relationship with someone, jealously isn't even a part of your vocabulary. Of course, just like you, I wish I could hit the jackpot sometimes. But that's a GENERAL feeling. And something very personal which has no relation whatsoever to what other authors are doing. I understand where you're coming from completely. And BRAVO for speaking up!

  2. Good for you! I think when you are happy for other people's success, there's no room for jealousy. I, for one, will never ask you if you're jealous. ;)

  3. People seriously ASK that? I mean, I could see people wondering, but to actually vocalize it?? What are they hoping you'll say? "YES. I WANT TO HAVE WHAT SHE HAS ONLY EVEN MORE SO THAT I CAN BE QUEEN OF PUBLISHING." Puh-lease. People amaze me.

    Jealousy is like anger: a normal human emotion. It's what you do with it that matters, I think.

  4. Friendship includes, among other things, wanting your friends to succeed. Good for her, and good for you to say these things.

  5. It is entirely possible to wish that your own journey might be shorter/smoother, whatever, (I'm speaking generally here, not about Natalie particularly) without being jealous of someone else. Your success is not dependent on someone else's failure.

  6. This is a really great post, Natalie.

    Two of my very best friends in the world are fellow writers. Both have been previously published, one while still a teenager. Now we're all working on new books. One has an agent, while I have a book deal. I still see the three of us as equals, in every sense of the word, and would never begrudge them any success.

    You're absolutely right; jealousy is an ugly, despicable thing. We each have our own paths to take. No one writer's journey is ever above any other's. We all have our hard times and our good times. What's important is being there for each other, seeing our friends share the journey with us.

  7. I think when they are good friends, you may feel a pinch of jealousy, but your happiness about their own happiness sort of cancels that feeling out. Everyone has their own journey to take, and they do say that it's the journey, not the destination that matters.

  8. Annie, yes, I've had people ask! It always throws me off, but it's mostly people who are more "outside" the business or fairly new. I don't hold it against them—I just wanted to make sure it was clear for everyone.

  9. This was such a sweet post! I can imagine you two being on tour together!

    I'll admit - I am jealous of Kiersten. And I'm jealous of you, too! It is hard watching everyone else land agents and deals, when I'm still struggling to even find myself as a writer. But you're completely right. I don't know the whole story. And I can't let the jealousy eat away at me. It's a natural thing to feel, but then I dismiss it. I just have to find my own path, take my own journey, and wish the best for everyone else, too.

    We are on the same, difficult road. I just keep tripping more than most...=) What can I say? I'm a publishing klutz.

  10. Great post! This is why (well, one reason) I love your blog.

    Btw, I'm jealous of your friendships. (kidding, my friends are great too)

  11. "Jealousy is a strange thing. I'm certainly not immune, because I have felt it towards other people, but rarely those closest to me."

    Ditto. And it's because, just as you said, we know the full stories of those closest to us. We know their struggles, their demons, their flaws.

    "I think jealousy comes from focusing only on the success while refusing to see someone else's struggles and imperfections. It's an excuse to fuel your insecurity, to play the victim. It's ugly and pointless and something we have to fight."

    Right on!

    Seriously, lol, sometimes I wonder why I bother blogging. You say everything I think of or feel, but better. ;)

  12. Envy is so destructive. No matter how successful one is, if the green-eyed monster has one in its thrall, nothing will be good enough. No matter how wildly successful you become, Natalie, you will always find another author who is more so.

    I'm pleased that you have chosen to enjoy the individual road you are on, and that you can see that one person's success doesn't suck anything away from yours. I know a few people--most of them NOT writers--who would benefit from this little post of yours.

  13. I just wish you would quit referring to me as a "thing," Natalie. That green-eyed girl would suffice.

  14. Well, I wanted it to be open to interpretation, Kierst, but now that you've pointed it out...

  15. "It's ugly and pointless and something we have to fight."
    I like that. I'm probably going to be quoting you on it.

  16. Lovely post. As soon as I finish a book, I'm ready for a new one. Like Doritos, we just need people to make more, so there's plenty of room.

  17. Great post, Natalie. I feel strongly about this and I'm glad you posted about it. Recognizing that we all have our own path to take and no one else's will be the same as ours is an important piece of the puzzle. Thanks for drawing attention to it.

  18. Tell it, sistah! LOVE this post.

    I am happy for the success of the people I "know" and jealous of all the faceless people on the PM deals page.

  19. AMEN! Preach on, sister! Yahoooo! Thank you, thank you! (Can you tell I love this post!) It's just what I needed to hear today--thank you!

  20. Thank you! This post was perfect timing! I got an email today from critique partner with her AMAZING news. And you know what? I'm not nearly as jealous as I thought it would be.

    I literally jumped up and down for her. When it's someone you really KNOW it's exciting and all of a sudden it feels like these great things are truly possible and can happen to REAL people.

    I'm much more likely to be jealous of someone I don't know. Working on it, though!

  21. Good for you. Great post! Sometimes I get a bit jealous when things seem to come easier to friends of mine, but when it all comes down to it, I'm enjoying my journey as it is, and I'll love each day of it, no matter how soon or how long it takes for me to find success.

    <3 Gina Blechman

  22. Good for you. It's never easy for me to see things come easier than other people, but I have to tell myself that my journey is my own, and everything happens for a reason. I'm learning so much every day, and all I can do is work hard and see what happens.

    Great post!

  23. Wow, that was so deep. Loved your comment on jealousy. I've actually felt jealous towards my friends a few times (for things non-related to writing) but now I look back on them and think, "Oh my God, what a silly dope I was!"

    Thanks for making me realize that.

  24. Great reminder that it's not always a zero-sum game, and that we don't know the full story. It's easy to get jealous when it seems as if the agent contracts or book deals are just presented to certain writers on a silver platter, when in reality those writers worked really hard and overcame so many struggles. Thanks for the insightful, open post!

  25. I love what you write here about a community of writers. "For me, the fastest way to overcome those twinges of jealousy is to remember that everyone struggles independently of their success. And not only that, but their success does not diminish mine." Great stuff!