Thursday, December 2, 2010

Greater and Lesser

A couple of things have had me thinking. Always a dangerous thing. First: the things that made me think:

  1. A fellow writer sent an email out about how she was having a confidence crisis, worried about making it.
  2. Natalie Whipple wrote a blog post that made me cry.
Here's something you may or may not know about me. 

I get jealous.

Like, ridiculously, stupidly jealous.

Before I finished my first novel (ten years ago), I was jealous of the people who'd actually written a whole novel, omg amazing.

Then I finished my first novel.

After I finished writing it, I was jealous of the people who got published with their first novel.

After my twentieth birthday, I was jealous of all those teens who got published. Christopher Paolini gave me a complex and made me feel ancient while I was still in college.

I started blogging to get practice with writing and network with writers. I was (and sometimes still am) jealous of everyone with more blog followers than me. Or more comments. Or cleverer posts.

I could go on. Long story short: I wrote for ten years and completed ten novels, and every. Single. Step. of the way, I was jealous of someone else. Nearly everyone else.

I was jealous of those who were agented.

I was jealous of book deals.

Oh, how I was jealous of the book deals. 

Now I can look back at those years I spent jealous of others, and shake my head. Now I can look at all the rejection, and understand that it made me a better writer, and a better person. Now I can appreciate the whole journey, even the parts that sucked. 


But not then. Not while I was in it.

Look, I know it's not good for me to think this way. I know it. I know that I made myself miserable--sickeningly utterly miserable. I know that I would be happier if I didn't get jealous. I know that there's no point in being jealous, especially when it comes to writing--after all, writing is by definition subjective. 

I know all this.

But I don't always believe it.

But the thing that I gets me through my green eyes is a line from the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. My parents have a copy hanging on the wall, and I memorized a bit of it by accident (when I was little, I just read everything that my eyes rested on--framed poems on the wall, cereal ingredients, whatever. Heck, I do that now). 

Anyway, the Desiderata:

... always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

There will always be someone better: they have an agent and you don't; they have a book deal and you don't; they have 10,000 blog followers and you don't; they have a better review, they have a better cover, they have a better marketing plan, they have something and you don't.

And there will always be someone who's looking up at you, wishing they had what you had.

Knowing that makes it easier, I think. It helps my green eyes fade, at least. It reminds me that I'm human--but so is everyone else.

Oh, and also? I know it's way easy for me to write this. Now. Hindsight being 20/20 and all that. But I also know that part of the reason why I wrote this post, today, was because sometimes I still get jealous. I didn't throw that Max Ehrmann quote up there for you. I wrote it for me. Because I still need to remind myself of it. I still need to tell myself, in the dark cold of the night, that I don't have to be jealous of other people, that being me is enough.

I still have to remind myself of some of the last lines of the Desiderata:
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.


Emy Shin said...

I love Natalie's post, even though it is painful and heart-breaking to read.

And there will always be someone who's looking up at you, wishing they had what you had.

This really makes me pause. It gives me a different perspective, and is applicable to both writing and life.

Robin L said...

First of all, I had never heard of the Desiderata before and I LOVE it, so thank you for pointing me in that direction!

Secondly, a big fat YES. We ALL get jealous. It is simply a part of the human condition. I think the more we shine the light on these feelings then the less power they have to get under our skin.

It's also yet another great reason to try as hard as we can to live in the NOW of the writing. If I'm fully immersed in my own creative process, it's much harder to look around and see who I should be jealous of. :-)

That's also one of my least favorite things about the internet; now I'm just so aware of how very many things there are to be jealous about! :-)

IanBontems said...

I don't think I get jealous when I hear of people doing really well with their writing. Honest.

If it were someone I knew then it might be different. Thing is, I don't think of myself in as even being in the same league as fantastic writers like that.

Also, I'd never read the Desiderata before, so thanks, Beth, for educating me that little bit more.

Unknown said...

Great post. Thanks for thinking and sharing.
The universe is unfolding in the only way it can.

lotusgirl said...

I'm going to have to go check out Natalie's post. I haven't been around the blogosphere much since Thanksgiving.

The green-eyed lady is a pushy taskmistress. I beat her down the best I can every time I catch her raising a stink in me.

christine M said...

Thanks for the post, Beth.

Renae said...

Love this post! I need to print it out as a reminder of why I endure this craziness everyday.

Thanks Beth!

CL said...

Hey, Beth, We have something in common! I struggle with jealousy also, even when I'm so proud and excited for authors I know (and admire) who have three-book deals with Penguin :)
It's so great that we all share our feelings and experiences; we are not alone! I also loved Natalie Whipple's post. Thanks for your great blog.

Jamie Grey said...

I saw Natalie's post yesterday and it stayed with me too. I'm so glad you posted this, Beth.

I know I get jealous, and I always feel like such a jerk for feeling that way. Like I'm a bad person for feeling like that - especially now when it's so easy to see all the other successes out there. I'm so glad to know that I'm not alone in having those thoughts.

I think you're so right - there will always be someone wishing they have what you have. And you'll always wish for more. It's how you deal with it that's important.

Matthew MacNish said...

And now there are people jealous of you.

Just kidding, though I will say you must be and should be proud. You've written an amazing novel (assuming the whole thing is even half has good as the incredible part I've read, which I'm sure it is) and should be experiencing huge success very soon.

I do think it's wonderful that you're able to let it go now, it's hard.

Off to check out Natalie's post.

Maria said...

Ha! This is so true! Just this week I got jealous of someone who got a position that I would have wanted if I were still working as an herbalist. But, I'm not. And I don't want to be, either. So, how silly is that jealousy???

Thanks for your honesty. It's nice to know that people who are soon to be crazy famous are just normal people :-)

Elana Johnson said...

I'm definitely going to be looking up the Desiderata.

And this post made me cry. *hugs*

Anonymous said...

I bow down to you, Beth. You simply rock.

And I have to tell you, I forgot all about the Desiderata, which is crazy, since I wrote it one of my high school journals as a reminder that I didn't want to be like anyone else. And yet...

Now excuse me while I go grab some more tissues. I needed this. Thank you.

PJ Hoover said...

Awesome post, Beth! I think you are amazing!

Amanda said...

Found you via Vivian's tweet. Such a great post and reminder to matter their profession. We all need to keep on keeping on for ourselves -- it's hard not to look at what others are doing, though. Whem my thoughts turn green, I try to just sit down and write. That's the only thing that will get me there, too.

Slamdunk said...

Great message with your post Beth.

I think it is important when we recognize our shortcomings--rather than some who simply ignore them not that I ignore mine or anything).

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Was it my email?

Can't help it. This was my first thought, as the confidence is lagging right now. I really appreciated Natalie's post, too. Having access to others' success is one reason I'm glad I didn't start blogging until pretty recently, actually. I think I would have been so overwhelmed and discouraged by others' good news, that I might have given up.

Sensible? No. But unfortunately true.

Lynsey Newton said...

Thanks for posting this and I also just read Natalie's post and commented. It's natural to get jealous (we're only human) but I would never have known this about you Beth because all I see is a perfet book with a PERFECT cover and a perfectly designed website. So it just shows that some things are definitely worth waiting for ;)

Lindsay said...

Natalie's post made me cry as well. She deserves all the success I am sure will come to her!

I think it is natural to get jealous. I try not to as well, but it sneaks in. I love the poem you quoted.

And whether or not it is clear to you,no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

This made me think. I guess we all need to be on the part of the journey we are on. I just wish the universe would hurry up once in a while. LOL.

KA said...

The Desiderata used to hang in my house growing up. It's helped my jealous green turn from a deep forest to more like a mint. And who doesn't like mint, right?

Corey Schwartz said...

Wow, this post is so awesome, Beth. Because I think it is something every single one of us can relate to!!! I think envy is something all writers struggle with.. I know I do!

Thanks for sharing this.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

So wonderful and true. I think everyone is feeling Natalie's pain today, and she is so brave for posting.

Staying in a place of gratitude, and focusing on our successes, is what keeps me going.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Natalie's post was shocking to me, as well as inspiring. Shocking because I always had her on this pedastal - Nathan Bransford, an awesome blog, fairy dust and glitter. She an inspiration to us all. Her perseverance and faith and hope and utter honesty is powerful.

Jealousy is a piece of our humanity. You're just like the rest of us, only brave enough to admit it! :-)

Jenn said...

Well said! We all face that green eyed monster and days where we lose confidence in ourselves and our writing. Thanks for the reminder that it's all about perspective. :)

Anonymous said...

My parents had the Desiderata on their bedroom wall, too! Kismet!

It's so easy to forget about where we've been as we get disgruntled about where we aren't. Thanks for the reminder.


Alix said...

Lovely post Beth. Thanks for sharing. Jealously is such a hard one to deal with because it's natural and sometimes even healthy, if we let it push as on rather than dragging us back.

That quote is lovely I only knew the Child of the Universe past (because I have it on a magnet!) but the rest is beautiful.

kellye said...

Thanks for this post, which is great because it's so honest, and for the helpful quotes. We all dream of the next stage, and every stage has its own problems. (Who wouldn't want to trade places with JK Rowling, for example? But look at the incredible expectations that were place don her. I don't think I could deal.) Problems at every stage: Maybe someone struggles to finish a draft. Another bangs her head on multiple revisions and dreams of querying an agent (uh, hello!), another has an agent, but isn't selling (yet). When one friend pubbed her first novel, everyone asked when her second would be out. (Always make it a point to celebrate every step!) It's taken nearly five years, which is fine. I had another friend who published two novels but then her editor didn't like the next two...problems (and joys) at every step....

It's so easy to get caught up in you've said, it doesn't help anything at all. I think it's good to acknowledge it, understand that it's normal (even if you love the person you're jealous of!) and move on as best you can....each journey is different and we never, ever know what's going on under the surface.

Tere Kirkland said...

I'm going through my own struggles with jealousy and pessimism right now, too. This was good timing for a motivational quote, so thanks!

Sara B. Larson said...

It is hard not to get jealous, and this was such a great, honest post about it. Now, you have tons of people jealous of you! What a switch, huh? Your book is absolutely amazing, btw. I'm telling everyone I know how great it was and to buy it when it comes out. I'm dying for the next one already! (And trying not to be jealous of YOU, ha ha!) Seriously though, thank you for this post. Both you and Natalie are inspiring for your honesty.

Jessica Bell said...

This was a brave post. I've been following you for a while, but somehow I keep missing your posts. I was just over at Shannon O'Donnell's. She mentioned you and I popped over.

I don't think feeling jealous is anything to be ashamed about. Of course it can get out of hand, and that's when you have to step back and remind yourself of the bigger picture. But I do believe that withour a touch of jealousy, we would have less of a drive to succeed, don't you think?

I think all these emotions are linked to give us the most fullfilling life experience as possible: Jealously, Hope, Courage, Doubt - ALL of it molds us into who we are and what we want to become.

So I'm going to say, sure, don't let it get out of hand, but don't feel guilty about it for one minute. You feel it for a reason, and that reason may very well be to get you where you need to be.

Thanks for such a wonderful post and making me 'think'. I should stop by MORE OFTEN!!!! :o)

ali cross said...

Beth. I've heard Elana talk about you lots and lots, but I honestly think this is the first time I've been here. It took numerous people across the blogosphere talking about THIS post to bring me here.

There is no doubt in my mind that other people love you. You're spoken of so highly. But now? My first impression?

Purple is beautiful and suits you so well.

I love your photograph, and how you said you look up to "US". That was my first impression, those two things, and they immediately taught me something:

There's a very good reason why people speak so highly of you. Because you are special.

This is a beautiful post and I'm so thankful you took the time and made the leap to bare yourself for all to see. Because you're courage in doing so, gives me the courage to carry on.


Abby Minard said...

Oh wow, that is so true. I hate to admit it, but I get jealous too. Especially with writing, books and blogging. I know I'll go through the same stuff feelings as you becasue I already feel those feeling sometimes. Thanks for giving those feelings a voice.

Christine said...

Great post. I really needed to hear that. And I'm following you now, so that means you have one more follower and can celebrate. YAY!

Melissa Sarno said...

What a fantastic post. I hate myself when I get jealous of other writers who have the things I don't. This quote is wonderful and really puts things in perspective. BTW, I always read everything I could put my eyes on, especially cereal boxes!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Great post, Beth. And I love that Desiderata. I need to print it out for myself too!

Melody said...

Thank you for writing this, Beth. I think a lot of times we writers try to put on this 'perfect' (I don't struggle with jealousy or impatience) face that really only serves to make others jealous of us and, possibly, even makes them think less of themselves. Thanks for being honest.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I loved Natalie's post too. I hope 2011 is kinder to her.

Thanks for your honest post, Beth. I don't think I get jealous very often. I guess the only thing that makes my eyes turn green is people taking awesome research trips...

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Wow! Desiderata. That takes me back...

Beth, this is my first visit to your blog -- and what a great post! Appreciate your honesty.

Yeah, I'm certainly guilty of jealousy. (for instance,I'm a LOT older than most writers, and still unpublished). It's interesting to know even someone with a book coming out soon gets jealous.

Donna Gambale said...

"No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should" is, like, tattoo-worthy in that I'd like to see it every day and remind myself of its truth.

Something similar in tone to Desiderata, but much shorter and a bit more overtly religious, is a poem by St. Teresa of Avila, who is made of awesome.

Nada te turbe,
Nada te espante
Todo se pasa
Dios no se muda
La paciencia todo lo alcanza
Quien a Dios tiene
Nada le falta
Solo Dios basta.

Loosely translated:
Let nothing disturb you
Let nothing frighten you
Everything passes
God is unchanging
Patience conquers all
He who has God
Lacks nothing
God alone is enough

The phrase "todo se pasa" even made it into my novel!

Steff said...

These lines of poetry really inspire me. Like deeply.
Thank you sharing them.
I feel like I have a place in this world now.
Have a great day. :)
(+1 comment! Yeaa! )

Steff said...

These lines of poetry really inspire me. Like deeply.
Thank you sharing them.
I feel like I have a place in this world now.
Have a great day. :)
(+1 comment! Yeaa! )

Stephanie Burgis said...

YES. This is so true. Thank you!

Sophia Chang said...

I thought about Natalie's post quite a bit and yours helps bring it back up again.

It must be some low self-esteem or something, but though I intellectually understand when you or anyone says that there are those with lesser, I just think "who? Who could have less than me? Oh them? Well that doesn't count..."

sigh...stupid Asian overachieving never-good-enough-for-my-parents upbringing...:P

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being human. And thank you for reminding me of the greater/lesser lesson.

Funny how the heart and mind are constantly battling!