Personally, I think jealousy is a great motivator. Who hasn’t experienced a moment of jealous rage so virulent that it’s propelled them to action? Whether it’s romantic or professional, this base and vile emotion can force you to get off your keester and make things happen. Okay, sometimes, it lands you in jail—not so good. But, when we are jealous of someone’s accomplishments and able to see the effort and talent behind them, we can parse the elements of their success and try to apply them to our own circumstances. Also, there have been some epic feuds born of jealousy that make for great entertainment—Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer; Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck….
The kind of jealousy we encounter on an almost daily basis is creative and professional. Why is so and so getting bigger advances than me? Why did she get a better review from the Times when everyone knows she’s a hack? Why did [fill in the publisher’s name] give him an eight-city tour when they can’t even get my books in stores? And so on.
Our response, in soothing, zen-like tones is something along the lines of “Be patient, grasshopper. Unimaginable success will be yours.”
Uh…yes…well…more often it’s “Stop whining and stay focused on your own work. No one can write your book better than you and being jealous of other people’s success is just distracting you from doing your best work, not to mention meeting your deadlines.”
So, this piece in Writer’s Relief made me think about the uses and misuses of jealousy and wonder whether it is, indeed, a motivator? Can you keep it in check and make it work for you? Or is it just a corrosive, soul destroying thing you wish you could banish from your creative life? Who are you most jealous of?
UPDATE: I love the link Tamara posted in the comments so much, that I thought I’d share it with you here: