Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Experiencing Jealousy as an Author And How To Turn It Into Something Positive

Let’s talk about that little green-eyed monster I’m sure we’re all acquainted with in one form or another: jealousy. Jealousy, or even envy, is likely a natural state of being for many creative people, since we tend to be full of self-doubt and various insecurities. It’s easy to play the comparison game, feel inadequate, and be jealous of other people’s success or the things they have or the opportunities they’ve been given. While it's natural, it's not something you want to let consume or control you. You can choose to let those feelings make you bitter, or you can flip them around and use them as motivation and inspiration. The latter is exactly what I'm doing this year. I follow a few extremely successful authors on Instagram. Last year, I zoned in on one indie author in particular. She’s pretty and peppy, she writes great books, her Instagram feed is gorgeous, and she has a picture-perfect family. She publishes every three months like clockwork, and all of her books zoom to the top of the Amazon bestseller charts. Basically, she seems to have it all and have her life together. Of course appearances can be deceiving, especially on social media, but she talks often about how she makes things work and keeps things running relatively smoothly. Another popular author I follow is a hybrid author (some of her books are self-published and others are published through a traditional publisher). At the time I discovered her Instagram (I was already following her on Twitter), she had been in Italy for several weeks. She seems to travel more often than she’s home, and she too publishes several books a year. With every new picture these two authors posted - every trip, every new success, every little orange bestseller sticker on Amazon, every week on a bestseller list, every hundred reviews for their brand new books - jealousy crept in more and more. I kept thinking ‘Why her and not me? What am I doing wrong? Why do some people have all the success?’ As of January 2019, I’ve been self-publishing for seven years. It’s been a rollercoaster ride in many ways - plenty of ups and downs, plateaus, and times where I felt like I was stalled on the track trying to get the mechanics of the thing going again. I’ve hit ‘publish’ a total of twelve times in the last seven years, ranging from novellas to novels to short stories, Young Adult to New Adult to Contemporary Romance to Women’s Fiction. I’ve had varying degrees of success with each of my books. I’ve tried many different approaches to promotion, again with varying degrees of success. I was examining my feelings of jealousy and inadequacy one day last autumn, and it hit me: the big difference between these two authors and me is they’re putting in the work. They’re writing and publishing consistently. They both have busy schedules and lives outside of writing and publishing, but they still make writing a priority. When I realized that, instead of continuing to let jealousy eat away at me, I decided to turn those feelings into something positive: a learning experience. Inspiration. Motivation. Something to aspire to rather than allowing other people’s successes to make me feel bad about myself. Besides putting in the work, these two also have a few other things in common: they love what they write. They write the books they want to write, regardless of the market. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen so-called experts say that to succeed you need to a) write series, and b) write to market. These authors don’t do either of those things. That was a big lightbulb moment for me because I don’t write to market either. I write the stories that take hold of my heart and mind, even if they don’t fit the current trends or whatever the hot tropes of the moment are. Speaking of which, and still on the topic of jealousy, I was recently talking to a good friend who’s also a writer, and she told me how frustrated she is with writing and publishing. She’s poured a ton of money into promos and advertisement, giveaways, award and recognition submissions (like Kirkus and awards that require entry fees), and she hired a big PR company to promote her books. For the last year or two, I’ve watched as she seemingly had all these incredible opportunities, got her books in the hands of the right people, built a loyal following of superfans, and so many of the other things I’ve struggled to do. And she did it all within a couple years, while I’ve been at it for seven. But then she confessed that even with all the money she’s spent and the outward appearance of success, all those things haven’t actually influenced her sales much. Many of the ‘right people’ who have her book haven’t even bothered to read it. I was flabbergasted. All this time, I’d been wishing I had the kind of budget she appeared to have so I could hire people to do all the things I’ve either been doing myself or that are currently out of my financial reach (like making paperbacks for my books and running regular ads). This eye-opening conversation proved how deceiving appearances can be and that we can’t really know what goes on behind the scenes a lot of the time. For a long time, I didn’t make writing a priority. I had some things happening in my life that threw me off track and I found it difficult to get back into a routine. I’m still struggling with it, but it’s getting better. Something I talked about last year with a few writer friends was the concept of working smarter, not harder. I wanted so badly to embody that, but I didn’t. I felt like I was spinning my wheels a lot of the time, remembering the long-ago days when I was able to focus better and write more consistently. If I’m completely honest, I simply spent a lot of time making excuses and procrastinating. You can’t expect the results if you don’t put in the work. It’s that simple. Now, if only it were as simple on the flip side: put in the work and see the results!

Even though I do still feel that green-eyed monster creeping up from time to time, I’m flipping those negative emotions and turning them into fuel. Fuel to write consistently, write what I love, and publish more consistently. And even if I never quite reach the bestselling, tens of thousands of followers, hordes of megafans level of success of the two authors who initially made me examine my own jealousy, that’s okay. Everyone is different and everyone’s journey is different. It doesn’t mean I’m doing anything wrong, it just means my path is different.
And who knows, maybe someday I’ll be sitting pretty on the bestseller lists with those same two authors. A girl can dream, right?

Do you experience jealousy? How do you deal with it?

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1 comment:

  1. I've definitely gotten jealous from time to time. Then I notice differences between me and the writer in question and realize we're on different journeys, so there's no way my path will be like theirs. The only common thing is we both want to produce books of some kind.

    This year I've taken a new approach to my writing. I made myself a work schedule like I would at a day job. It gives me times to clock in and out. Given I wrote 33K words over a bunch of stories last month I think it's working well.


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