Why Can’t I Have What They Have?

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Stressed Woman

Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Professional jealousy…in a word, it sucks.

It’s so easy to look at someone else’s accomplishment and feel envy. To wonder, why can’t I have what they have? Especially when you’re talking writers and publishing contracts/bestsellers lists. But it’s a dangerous emotion to have. Why?

Well, for one, a lot of these things are out of our control. The market is ever-changing and retail space for books is shrinking. This is bound to create disparity between authors who are already well-established and those who are newer to the industry. Sure, the digital revolution will probably change this up to some degree, but things are still in flux. Who knows how they’ll shake out?

Secondly, we are all different. Our writing, the way we think, our worldbuilding. These are all factors that go into determining our professional successes, along with a healthy dose of luck. And let’s face it, some of us have more of that than others. 

I have more than my fair share of frustrations and jealousy over the success of other authors. Whenever I’m feeling that way, I try to remind myself that they probably had a good amount of failures too. Everyone pays their dues, at one time or another.

(Updated Note: This blog post is my overall reflection on the industry, not a personal indicator of anything going on in my life right now. I have actually have some major things in the works that I can’t wait to SQUEE about! 🙂 )

Do you ever have moments of frustration, moments of jealousy over others’ professional successes? How do you handle it? Do you ignore it? Get wasted? What? Winking smile


31 thoughts on “Why Can’t I Have What They Have?

    Kathryn Scannell said:
    April 20, 2011 at 8:37 am

    I think what I suffer from is more like moments of professional inadequacy. I hear see someone talking about having 3 books coming out this year, and I look at my backlist and it looks totally inadequate. Then I go beat myself up over it because the first step in that is under my control – make time and motivation to get more stuff written. I can’t publish things I haven’t actually written yet.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 8:44 am

      Very true, Kathryn, but every author has their natural writing speed. Some people can create at the speed of light, and others take more time. What matters is quality.

    Desmond Haas said:
    April 20, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Jealousy and resentment always works against you. It causes loss of self-esteem, which affects your writing and then you have a self-fulfilling prophecy, which causes more negative thoughts.

    In interviewing well over thirty authors, I could have succumbed to negative emotions. Instead, I want every writer I meet to succeed and will do anything I can to ensure that it happens. Remember, a rising tide lifts all ships.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 8:48 am

      Such a good point. Instead of focusing on others’ successes we need to celebrate them, and focus on our own path.

    Kay Springsteen said:
    April 20, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I do have my moments but it’s not so much envy about the successes of others because I love a good read as much as a good writing session. But every once in a while, I run across something that’s so great, so unique, that I wish the particular IDEA had been mine.

    Elise said:
    April 20, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Great Blog! I think everyone has a moment or two of this. I’m happy for everyone’s success but I want a chunk of it too lol. I know it will come and all the hard work will pay off but it’s hard to be patient sometimes 🙂

    Please stop by my blog when you get a chance http://gladiators.pen.blogspot.com

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 10:44 am

      You’re right, sometimes it’s really hard to have patience!

    Bellakentuky said:
    April 20, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I’m new and have no books published. I try to concentrate on the fact that writing brings me joy and hopefully the rest will follow.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 11:07 am

      It’s so important to keep that in mind, because playing the comparison game with other authors isn’t any fun.

    MM the Queen of English said:
    April 20, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I feel more like Kathryn. I see authors getting a three-book deal. I can’t even finish ONE manuscript. I think I need a therapist. 🙂

    MM the Queen of English

    Rachel Firasek said:
    April 20, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I think we all do. It’s how you handle it that counts. I try to push the green monster away at the first stirrings of life, but usually I’ll just shut down when that happens. I don’t give him a platform. It’s better if I just step back, stay away and wait until he’s under control. Love this topic.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 11:12 am

      Thanks, Rachel. I’ve been thinking about it because I think it’s natural to compare yourself to others, especially in this industry. But so much is subjective and luck-based.

    Julianne said:
    April 20, 2011 at 11:09 am

    I try to remember we’re all different and have different paths to follow to get where we all want to be–some bumpier than others. But we’ll all get there, if it’s meant to be. If that makes sense.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 11:13 am

      Makes perfect sense, Julianne. I agree.

    Mona Karel said:
    April 20, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Envy? You betcha. Especially when something goes to the top, and I can’t figure out HOW the heck that happened. Fortunately I have nearly forty years into showing dogs, an endeavor that makes even less sense. I learned I have control only over what I take into the show ring (or what I write) and not over anyone else’s decisions. Win or lose, I get to take my dog home with me to enjoy. If I couldn’t take joy in writing, or in living with my dogs, then I wouldn’t take the next step of putting either out for the world to see.
    Taken to the the next logical step: Books are MUCH easier to fix than dogs.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      Ha, I love the comparison, Mona!

    Traci Bell said:
    April 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I concur with Rachel. I believe that what you feel is hard to control – I don’t know many people that would choose to be jealous. It’s what you do with the jealousy that can be good or bad. If I feel jealous over another’s success and then use that emotion to commit myself to working harder, then the jealousy can be productive. If I feel jealous and let that demotivate me or use it as an excuse to be nasty to others, that’s wrong.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 2:00 pm

      So well put, Traci. You can’t choose your emotions but you can choose what to do with them.

    Laura Kaye said:
    April 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Great topic! To me, this relates more broadly to the highs and lows of being a writer. Because the highs can be SO high, but the lows can make you question everything. And it’s easy when you’re in those lower moments to look around an wonder why you aren’t having the same kind of success as the next person. I always just try to remind myself 1) what the good times felt like, 2) what I COULD BE DOING to bring about more of those good times, 3) that it’s not (completely, at least) a zero-sum game–that is, someone else’s success doesn’t negate my chance of success too. When we do have these moments, though, I think it’s totally natural, because it’s born from a place of wanting this so much!

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm

      So true, Laura. I have to laugh b/c in this industry I’ve experienced those high highs and those low lows all within the same week! “Contest readers didn’t like my work? That sucks.” 😦 “I got a full request? Yay!” 🙂

    Julia Rachel Barrett said:
    April 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Oh gosh, don’t beat yourself up, it’s normal. We all want to succeed.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 2:03 pm

      Oh no, I’m not. This blog post doesn’t reflect anything personal going on in my life right now, but rather a reflection on the industry as a whole.

      Actually things are going pretty good for me. A few awesome things are in the works. More on that soon! 🙂

    Marie Andreas said:
    April 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    LOL- great blog! I think even the most confident positive person in the world is going to feel that way from time to time. I still growl when I start reading a book and realize I write better than they pubbed author. But overall I think if we view it as a journey instead of a destination we’ll stay a bit more sane. I write because I love it- and while I want a great agent and a great book contract (followed by great book sales ;))- those aren’t why I write 🙂

    Great blog Rosalie!


      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      I remember Nora Roberts saying once that from an author’s perspective, every other author is doing better than they are. I guess that’s true. Grass is always greener and all that. It’s easy to see someone’s elses successes, but we never see what they had to go through to get there.

    mary abshire said:
    April 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Good post, Rosalie. I often think, man, I’m really behind other authors. But I don’t let it stay in my head for long. Too much to do. (smile) And why waste time on jealousy when you can be writing? So I tend to ignore it.
    I do so enjoy writing, and sometimes it helps to hear reminders (wink) when we’re down in the dumps. Especially if we don’t have much of a support group. One thing I have to say is I enjoy hearing about the accomplishments of other writers, especially first contracts, first whatever. And when our friends/authors are doing well (smile), I get really excited for them!! Gives me chills sometimes.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      Such good points, Mary. Why waste the energy on feelings of inadequacy when we could be writing? 🙂

    Jordan K. Rose said:
    April 21, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Hi Rosalie. I think every writer has that moment of “I wish that was me.” Though, I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve learned to enjoy every moment of my writing experience- from developing that new idea into a theme, character or plot to querying and pitching to rejections and requests. My feeling is that even the rejections are part of the process. As we each move through the process to publication we have to determine our path and glean something positive from the whole experience.

    With the changes in the publishing industry so many more writers are having great successes. We’ve joined the ranks at the best time. 🙂 Jordan http://www.evaprim.com

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 21, 2011 at 8:11 am

      So true, Jordan. It’s perfectly natural for us to have moments of envy. Every low I’ve had has been accompanied with a very big high. And you’re so right, this is a great time to be a writer! So many wonderful opportunities out there. 🙂

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