Seeing Green - Coping With Writer Envy
5 Strategies for Managing Envy in the Online Writing Space
We all experience jealousy at some point in our lives. It's a normal and healthy part of the varied spectrum of human emotions. Sometimes, it's even useful. People often use the terms 'jealousy' and 'envy' interchangeably. The key difference between a momentary experience of jealousy and envy, I think, is positionality and intent. For a split second when confronted with the accomplishments of another, the jealous mind says "Damn, I wish that was me." The envious mind, however, begrudges the success of the other person, wishing instead that it was not them and experiencing deep longing to hold those accomplishments. This morally ambiguous realm of being is one filled with self-loathing, constant comparisons and ill-wishing.
Envy in the writing space is alive and kicking but no one talks about it. It manifests itself as comparing the merits and qualities of your work against others. My story was so much better. This isn't even that good. How did this win a challenge? Or withholding important nuggets of information because you believe it gives you an edge over other creators. Yeah, I'm not sure how I got so many reads. I don't know what I did to get selected as a top story. Or as a refusal to like, read or support the challenge entries of other creators because of a desire to win. Even of the non-writing variety, confronting this difficult emotion triggers feelings of shame and deep embarrassment. Drafting this post right now, I'm cringing thinking of some of the ways that I've contributed to this notion of writer envy. Today, I thought I would take you through some of the strategies I use to centre myself when some of these feelings arise.
Focus on Your Worth as a Writer and An Individual
To live without comparison is to remove a tremendous burden
- Jiddu Krishnamurti
This is going to sound sappy and cheesy (basically my brand at this point) but you are special and there's only one of you. By the same token, the subject of your writer envy is also unique. You are not the same and you should not aim for sameness. Perhaps they are at a different stage in their writing journey than you are. Maybe they've been doing this for many years while you are still fairly new at this. It's possible they have crossed writing hurdles that you have yet to even encounter and that's why it seems to be so "easy" for them. Constant comparison of your writing to others will rob you of the joy that the act of writing brings. Focus not on where you want to be but where you actually are. You are who you are and you are where you're meant to be (right now).
Express Gratitude for the Little Milestones
A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.
My anxious mind has a hard time living in the present moment. It's always looking forward to the future and suspended in a perpetual state of wanting. During times when the bout of writer envy is particularly grim, I find it helpful to ground myself in the present moment and ponder the little wins that I've achieved. I give myself compliments as if I'm a little kid because whenever a child does something, the world applauds like it's the greatest thing...because let's be honest, it kind of is. Seriously though, endeavour to speak to yourself and regard your accomplishments like you would those of a friend. We wouldn't dream of speaking to friends the way we seem to speak to ourselves. What did you achieve in your writing life this month? Did you write more than you did last month? Have you finally managed to break through that writers' block? How did that make you feel? Spend time thinking about the ways in which your writing has positively affected your life experience instead of ruminating on the ways your hopes have fallen short.
Acknowledge Where You're Falling Short
You don’t really see the person that you are envious of. You see a mirror that reflects what you find lacking in yourself. Paying attention to this can be very instructional. We often despise in others what we wish we could find in ourselves.
- The Stoic Emperor
Often when we project the emotion of envy onto another, it's because they have something that is missing for us. It's important to conduct some introspection to ascertain the underlying issues triggering this emotion. I suppose the question is what do you want? Is it a top story spot? Is it more reads or likes on your story? Higher earnings? To win a vocal challenge? What actionable steps can you take to achieve this goal? I suggest writing a plan of action clearly outlining your writing goals. Manifest that sh*t. Let the universe take care of the rest.
Show Love to Other Writers
Transform jealousy to admiration, and what you admire will become part of your life.
- Yoko Ono
Recently with the introduction of Vocal Bonuses and the announcement that one of the ways to earn bonuses was to like other writers' stories, there have been an onslaught of posts on Facebook discussing spam-liking stories. Rather than reading a piece of work, enjoying it and organically awarding it a "like", some have taken it upon themselves to randomly like a bunch of people's writing in the hopes of receiving a cash reward. I can't explain why but this idea irrationally irritates me. It feels cheap and disingenuous. Truly reading and supporting the work of others is a great way to pay it forward but also to learn and improve your own writing. Actually interacting with creators on the platform closes the mental gap between you and allows you to view each other as colleagues and co-conspirators instead of competitors.
The best way to avoid envy is to deserve the success you get.
Seriously! The amount of mental energy it takes to project negative vibes another's way is incalculable. You're better off directing that vigor into the production of your own work. What are you working on currently? Write everything down. Compile a list of ideas, no matter how silly they may seem. Make a plan. Get to writing. You'd be surprised how clear your mind's eye becomes when it's not occupied thinking about others. Writing is such an amazing outlet for navigating difficult emotions and keeping an overactive mind at bay. Write, write, write!
Again, just to reiterate, experiencing envy is not inherently a bad thing. That's the way our bodies are wired, we can't help it. Emotions are powerful messengers of what's going on in our internal and external environment. They are signals directing us to that which needs attention. Writer envy is real, pervasive and can be incredibly toxic if left unchecked. I hope you enjoyed my five strategies for managing writer envy!
If you liked this post, please be sure to like this post!
Sidenote: this story was written in response to a writing prompt in the Vocal Creators Saloon group on Facebook. It's a fairly new Facebook group started by longtime Vocal Creator, Teisha LeShea, so if you're not already a member, please join!