by Caren Gussoff
In my last post, I tried to shake out our dirtiest secrets about professional jealousy, based on my personal experience and some conversations I’ve had with colleagues. Here, I’d like to list out my last five of ten truths about professional jealousy (as I see it), which concern how you can deal with the green-eyed monster when it will not simply be slayed.
• There is, actually, plenty of “doing well.” There is not a single saucepan of success from which each ladle to someone else means less in your bowl. It simply isn’t true. We are a community of storytellers hoping to seduce readers into delving into our worlds of future, past and never-was. Anytime one of us gets through, we get another reader…who, one day, may be our reader too. Spend ten minutes at a fannish event if you don’t believe.
• You can’t win it unless you’re in it. You need to produce work, and send it out, enter contests, give readings, and so forth, in order to even be considered for anything, anyway. This isn’t rocket science. Each time you send out into the world, it is a risk. A risk you will win. And a risk you may lose. Forget the saucepan: the doing-well fairy will not ring your doorbell because they heard you may have a cool story. Show up.
• Their path is not yours’. It’s not going to happen on your schedule. This was the hardest, personally, for me to come to terms with. I’m entering my 40s, and have been writing seriously, professionally, even, for nearing-on twenty years. There are writers whose works have reached levels of recognition and acclaim on a faster track or who are much younger than I. This can make me feel quite discouraged when I compare myself to them or when I try and ape the routes they have taken to get their work out there. I have to sit myself down, sometimes daily, and remind myself that my path is my path, and, as long as I am producing and sending out work I am proud of, my feet are, indeed, planted on the right one.
• Shut it down and motivate. The way I deal, as I said, is to produce and send out work I am proud of. If I want to get to that next level, and the fairy doesn’t know my address, then I have to take my envy and use it to get my butt in the chair and work. I will allow myself five straight minutes of wild jealousy. Then, I shut it down and use that energy to draft, or revise, or find five new markets. I am not perfect at this and nor would I expect you to be, but it’s the hard truth. To be a writer, you have to write. To be successful, you have to keep writing.
• Someone is jealous of you. Right now. It may be me. You are reading this because you are a professional, or seriously aspiring to be a professional science fiction or fantasy writer. That means you take your work seriously. You sit down and do it. You’ve had success — of not publication, then by writing a great scene or giving useful feedback. And one of us, pinky swear, has thought: “I wish that were me.”
How do you deal with jealousy? Did I miss a solid coping tip? Please share.
Next time, I want to spend a little time talking about what success means for us, as the ways people read change so drastically and the publishing industry flounders around, trying to figure out how to keep up.
Science fiction writer Caren Gussoff lives in the Pacific Northwest with two cats and an artist. She’s trying to sell her third novel, a post-pandemic apocalyptic little story that actually has a car chase. Publications, awards and mutterings are available at www.spitkitten.com