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Monday, May 12, 2014

The Green-Eyed Monster

It was jealousy, not envy, to which Shakespeare is referring in the famous lines from Othello, but the comparison is still apt. And it's one to to which writers at all levels of their careers can relate--if they are honest, that is. In the Bard's day, the color green was associated with illness. You've heard the phrase "sick with envy," right?

Maybe it's because as writers we share the same devouring need for attention, or praise, or both. And perhaps we secretly believe that there's only so much of that stuff to go around, so we liken it to an equation that might read so:

If she gets x amount of praise times big advance multiplied by Amazon numbers--well, that somehow leaves less for me.

Stated in this manner, we can see how ridiculous it seems. There's certainly enough book love out there to go around, but we all want our share don't we? (Or perhaps more than our share.) And that's where that green-eyed guy tends to rear his ugly head.

With the possible exception of Nora Roberts, none of us is immune,. And we feel it at all levels of our careers. Remember that creative writing class you took in college? Remember how you felt when that one student was singled out for praise? Did you go up to her after class and say, you rock, girl! I'll bet you dollars to donuts you did NOT. (And if you did, you're much too nice to be reading this post.) If you're like me, and I suspect you are, you had at least a moment when your baby blues or browns or hazels glinted with a sickly green glow.

Because it's a natural response. It's not right and it's not becoming, but it's part of the human condition. It's part of our condition as writers. We go to pitch sessions, waiting our turns nervously outside the door, only to see the guy ahead of us emerge with a big grin on his face. And we clench our fists just a little tighter. Our writer friends get agents or contracts or awards before we do--and we're happy for them, because we love them, but that green-eyed imp sits on our shoulders and whispers bitter little nothings into our ears. Is she any more talented than you? Did he really deserve that review in the Times?

The honest answer to those questions is maybe. And the honest response to envy is to acknowledge it. Own it. You might try this little mantra: Yes, I am feeling envious right now and it's not worthy of me. My time will come. My time WILL come.

Repeat as necessary. And then try believing it--because, sweetheart, green is so not your color.

A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut novel, Murder and Marinara, was named a Best Cozy of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. The second book in the series, The Wedding Soup Murder, is scheduled for release September 2.  An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She lives fifty miles from the nearest ocean  in central New Jersey, with her husband and two younger sons.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I have felt that green-eyed monster! But I have found that you can tame him. I have been lucky to have been a part of a wonderful writing community based in the Doylestown, PA, area, headed by the Liars Club of Philadelphia. Their guiding principle is that writers helping writers raises us all together, and we will all get farther together than separately. Over the years, I have seen this to be true--it has been true for me and for others. So even though that green-eyed monster still pokes me sometimes, on the whole I have reached a place where I can be genuinely pleased for those who find success, and not feel like it's taking anything away from me. And let me tell you, that's a much happier place to live in!

Rosie said...

Well done, kerrygans! And I agree--there's nothing productive about envy.

Kassie Kay said...

My roommate recently lost her job, and she told me that she has decided to be a free lance writer. She has the time, and her parents are now paying the bills for her. It stinks to be the "responsible" one. Not asking Mommy and Daddy to pay MY bills because I'm an adult and it's really not fair to them.

So, I'm teaching and tutoring writing full time, anxious for "my time!"

I get what you mean by the envy. I have friends who have published, and I swear that I could write better stuff than them, but here I am still unpublished.

I love the mantra: My time WILL come. :)

Thanks for your thoughts. Check out my blog sometime: kassiekay.com