Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Professional Jealousy

"Professional jealousy makes other people crazy,
When they think you've got something that they dont have.
What they don't understand is it's just not easy,
To cover it all and, stand where you stand.
Professional jealousy makes no exception ,
It can happen to anyone, at any time.
The only requirement is knowing whats needed,
And then delivering, whats needed on time."

~~ lyrics by Van Morrison

As Jody explained yesterday, the road to publication is filled with detours,wrong turns and dead ends. If you want to make it to the finish line in one piece, you'll need to watch out for potholes. Today's pothole is (drumroll please!) professional jealousy.

Now if you're foolish enough to believe that PJ will never apply to you, I beg to disagree. Be serious. In the publishing biz, the odds are overwhelming stacked against you, add the fact that writers are a rather solitary bunch equipped with overactive imaginations and you can see why many of us find our wheels thrown out of alignment due to PJ.

So, do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

~ You grind your teeth every time you read in Publisher's Lunch about a debut author who has landed a "very good" deal.

~ You've just recieved your 157th, 158th, and/or 159th rejection letter from an editor agent about your latest MS.

~ You open up your latest copy of RWR, turn to the "First Sale" column and scratch out each author's names with an economy-sized black Sharpie marker.

~ Your writing friend (who joined RWA the same time as you) rings you up to tell you about how she got "the call" and what you really want to do is ring her neck rather than congratulate her.

~ You investigate the legalities of changing your name to Nora Roberts, Sherrilyn Kenyon, or (insert name of author here.)

~ The Rita awards make you cry (and not in a good way.)

If you answered yes or even maybe to any of the above, you've most got professional jealousy.

Please don't argue that you're a nice person. I'm sure you are--most of time. You probably have a family, friends, maybe even a pet or two that love and adore you. You probably teach Sunday school, run a girl scout troop or volunteer at a soup kitchen when you aren't writing, collecting those pesky rejection letters or throwing darts at the New York Times bestseller's list.

So how does one fight that nasty green-eyed monster that lurks in all of us? Here's my roadmap to sanity:

1. Recognize PJ for what it really is: frustration. Yours, to be precise. Maybe instead of fuming and choking down anger, you should be reassessing your goals. Are you putting too much pressure on yourself trying to keep up with Nora? ;) Worse, are your writing frustrations turning you into a person that your kids run away from, your hubby avoids and your cat hisses at? Maybe you need to adjust your 5 year plan into a 7 year plan...and save your sanity while you're at it.

2. Everybody's road is different. Really. Even if you started writing at the same time, there are an infinite number of variables that differentiate your creative process, responsibilities from everyone else. Maybe you need sleep. I know I do.

3. TMI can be a bad thing...sometimes. If you know that you're frustrated and prone to PJ, maybe hearing every wonderful detail from your newly pubbed writer friend is not the best idea. Do you really want to spoil your friend's moment in the spotlight? If you're on the phone, make an excuse to get off. Better to tell a white lie than destroy a friendship. Consider sending a congratulatory card if you just can't keep your eyes from going green. Nice matters.

4. Look on the bright side. And yes, there is a bright side. Publishing is not a zero sum game, so every time a buddy breaks into publishing YOU'VE just made a networking coup! Her experiences and contacts may help you somewhere down the line. Especially since you were so darn nice when she got the call. Publishing karma is a force to be reckoned with and most authors believe in paying it forward.

Next time someone announces their big writing news, do yourself a favor--drop the jealousy and keep the professional part.

Got any more helpful hints for PJ? Add 'em on ladies and gents!


Write on!



  1. I love number 4. Look on the bright side. I use that and a tip I’ve picked up from Bonnie Friedman’s book, “Writing After Dark.” She says, “The antidote to envy (which Brenda thinks of as a close cousin to jealousy.) is one’s own work. Always one’s own work. Not the thinking about it. Not the assessing of it. But the doing of it. The answers you want can come from work itself. It drives the spooks away.”

  2. Sometimes I think a touch of PJ can be a good thing. I'll give myself a short time to rant, especially if I've just receved bad news for my own stuff : ) but then I step back and use it to motivate my writing. No one can deny the frustrations of this busines, and it is VERY important to maintain professionalism, but we're human. Emotions are fine, it's what we do with them that matters.

  3. Thanks for the comments ladies. Many of those lessons I have learned firsthand. Now, I can say that I no longer suffer from PJ. Partly from concentrating on my own work (nods to brenda) and partly because I recognized what a total waste of energy it was.

    Life is much better when you fill it up with good karma.



  4. I try and skip the jealousy and let myself become inspired. most of the time I succeed, but I guess even the folks at the diner are only human, aren't we?

  5. I've experienced PJ from both ends.

    When I got my agent, I felt it directed at me. My writing friends were happy for me, but I definitely felt an undercurrent of "why her and not me?" from some of them.

    Then a good friend who started writing the same time I did sold. I was very happy for her, but I still had the green-eyed cloud floating around me for a while. The thing was, I was more mad at myself than jealous of her. My friend worked much harder than I and perservered while I procrastinated and let a prime opportunity pass me by. My lack of success is my own fault and I know it.

    But as Cathy said, a touch of PJ has also been a great motivator too. Who cares who did what first? Realistically, I wasn't ready to be published when she did. I'm ready now and I know my time will come.