The Envy wombat

April 8, 2011

I’m not sure which of the 10 Commandments involves envy, but I do know the Cosmic Muffin wasn’t very enamored with it. And with good reason. Envy creates crow’s feet between the eyebrows, screws with your heart valves, promotes rickets and a penchant for going to bed without brushing your teeth.

I’m talking about “the book deal,” of course. I remember when I published my first book…rather than receiving congrats from friends, I heard a few, “Hmph, I could write a book.” Um, well why don’t you, then?

I’ve heard the same thing at writer’s conferences…amazing what you overhear in a bathroom or a bar. Authors do land deals at conferences, and rather than celebrating someone’s success, the green-eyed envy wombat strikes with precision. “She may have gotten a book deal, but she’s still a bitch.” “She may have gotten a book deal, but her writing sucks.”

Or what’s really annoying is watching the fakeroo, “Ohhh,” air kisses and hugs, “congratulations to you! Your book is fabulous!” at which point Ms. FakePants turns around and rolls her eyes and sticks her finger in her mouth.

What is it about our DNA that makes us want to lash out at someone’s good fortune? Just because it hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean that it won’t. And even if it never does, that friend you’re stabbing in the back had nothing to do with it.

To diss someone in a fit of envy diminishes the hard work they put into their book. It didn’t just pop out of the oven like the Pillsbury Dough Boy (a character I dearly wish I could burn to a cinder, btw). That author undoubtedly had a high BIC index (Butt In Chair) and got the job done. She got the book deal because she worked for it.

I admit there are times when I see publishers who are the same size as we are and they have a really big hit, and I feel the green envy wombat slurking nearby, ready to pounce. I wonder what they did to get that hit, what could I have done differently to have nabbed that book.  And then I remember that we’ve had some nice hits ourselves and even bigger ones on the near horizon. I’ve learned to let others’ success work for me – to invite me to be better, to analyze the steps they took to get where they are, and challenge myself to do the same things. That perspective makes me grateful for their success because it’s a learning tool for improvement.

Screw the wombat.

There’s a really good “Dear Sugar” article over at The Rumpus that sort of puts it all into perspective and whose advice is far more glib than anything I could have written – which totally makes me jealous…

How ’bout it…have you been jealous of someone’s literary success, or do you see it as a learning tool for your own improvement? Or has someone shown the green-eyed wombat to you with your book deal?

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