Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Riding the Writing Roller Coaster: Professional Jealousy

In honor of last week’s Romantic Times conference (and the upcoming RWA conference in July), I thought I'd talk about professional jealousy.

"But Barb," you say, "what does a conference have to do with professional jealousy?"

Plenty, my friends.  In many ways, conferences are hyped-up versions of social media where everyone - and I mean everyone - is putting their best spin face forward. Editors don't just request pages, they love the pitch and can't wait. Books aren't only selling, they are flying off the shelves.  You get the picture.  Insecure writers that we are, we can't wait to share our good news in the best possible light.

Oh and don't forget those authors who aren't spinning, but rather are legitimately bursting with success:  The breakout category writers, the contest finalists, the indie authors who scored big paydays.

Everywhere you look you see success, success, success.  Eventually, even the best adjusted author can find herself turning a little green.

Conference attendees or not, sooner or later we all have to deal with professional jealousy. That we will envy another author's success is inevitable.  (By the way, those authors who claim they are always thrilled for others’ success are either deluding themselves or saints. It’s only human to feel at least a twinge when a colleague achieves something we want. What counts is how we deal with those twinges.

Jealousy can either cripple you or make you stronger.  The choice is yours.  Personally, I vote for stronger.  I’m also realistic enough to know that the choice isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Especially when you’re staring at a crappy first (or second or third) draft while a new chapter mate is bouncing giddily over her new publishing deal. (Or requested manuscript.  Or the fact she wrote ten thousand words over the weekend.  We don’t only envy contractual success.)

What should you do, then, when confronted with the green-eyed monster?  After over twenty years of battling professional jealousy, I’ve developed a strategy.

1.    Acknowledge you’re jealous. The worst thing you can do is try and force yourself not to feel.  It’s like trying to hold a fist full of Jello. Better to admit the truth.
2.    Ask yourself what it is exactly that you’re jealous of.  Be brutally honest with yourself.  For example, are you jealous because your colleague is finding success faster than you?  Or perhaps she’s producing more books a year.  There’s a reason for your jealousy.  Once you root out the cause, it’s a tad easier to let the jealousy go. (Note, I said tad….)
3.    Smile and congratulate your colleague.  Sincerely.  That you’re jealous is your problem, not hers.  Failing to recognize her achievements only makes you look small.

Remember: Jealousy Flows Both Ways

You may not believe it right now, but there will come a time when success rains down on you, and when that happens, you’ll find yourself on the other side of the fence with colleagues jealous of you.  Most will smile and congratulate you anyway.  But a few will pull away, either out of frustration, or another reason unknown to you.  Same way your jealousy is your problem, their jealousy is theirs.  Don’t let them get to you. 

Simply smile back, and keep the spinning to the minimum.

Barbara Wallace is definitely not jealous of her fabulously talented colleagues at Entangled and Harlequin.  She is, however, busy promoting her latest releases – the re-release of THE BILLIONAIRE’S MATCHMAKER ANTHOLOGY (with Jackie Braun, Susan Meier, and Shirley Jump) from Entangled Publishing and the debut of SWEPT AWAY BY THE TYCOON from Harlequin Romance.  She’s thrilled to say that SWEPT AWAY  recently because the number one downloaded Harlequin Romance on Kindle this past weekend.  (Go ahead, be jealous.)
You can follow Barb Wallace on her own blog, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook and Google +


  1. I can really relate to this post. I found two lovely critique partners who are both very supportive of my writing and think I have real talent. The three of us started out together in October during So You Think You Can Write as unpublished newbies. Now both of them have contracts and are getting far in competitions, and I still feel like I'm stuck in the blocks, not even beginning to run. It's frustrating even though I'm happy for them both. I've felt like the weak link in the chain of late.

    I'm learning more and more that publishing is subjective and everyone's path is different, but that doesn't stop the frustration when I keep getting requests only to end up with rejections. I'm entering a few contests to get some feedback and see where I'm going wrong from "successful pitch" to rejected manuscript and trying to shake things up a bit. Hopefully I'll be able to feel only happiness at my CPs success. May we all be in the published circle together someday.

  2. Oh yes, it's so frustrating when your friends are moving ahead. You want to be happy for them - you know you should be happy - but at the same time, you can't help thinking Why Not Me?

    Keep on Plugging MzZeyZey. And make sure you take time to celebrate your successes, no matter how small (finishing a book, getting a good rejection letter, writing a great scene)

  3. I have to remind myself, when the frustration sets in, that success, like love, is not a finite quantity. There's enough room for all of us, and I hope we all make it. That way, I get more to read.:)