Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Envy in Writing

Our guest today, writer Leesa Freeman lives in Connecticut with her husband and two daughters. A native Texan, Leesa escapes the chill of New England by setting her stories in the places she loved growing up. Some of her favorite moments are the ones where it’s just her, her Mac, and the people who live inside her head whose lives she shares with those who take the time to read her stories. Leesa is also an artist, avid baker, a self-proclaimed music snob, and, in her own words, a recovering Dr. Pepper addict.  Her debut novel, The Wisdom to Know the Difference, can be found at www.amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com . To find out more about Leesa, visit her blog at www.leesafreeman.com. Welcome to Book Blather, Leesa.

 Not too long ago I drove to the airport in the middle of the night to pick up a friend. It was about eleven o’clock, and I still had a couple of hours of driving ahead of me, and while I desperately wanted coffee, I’ve given up caffeine and decaf just doesn’t do it. Instead, I turned on NPR and they were talking about jealousy and envy.
 The distinction being that jealousy is rather benign, personally insidious maybe, because it’s ultimately a fear of losing something or someone, but it’s envy that is truly painful. Envy is coveting what someone else has. It’s bitterness for their good fortune and not just wishing you had what they have, but almost wishing them ill for getting what you want.

What stuck with me, though, was there is an underlying belief that there isn’t enough of something for them and you to get what ever it is you want. If I’m envious of someone else’s success, then that means I don’t believe there is enough success in the world to go around. 

As a writer, I struggle with this occasionally. Even as I congratulate a fellow writer for getting a short story published, a small, mean part of me sometimes asks how come they get that honor when I don’t? It’s childish, I know, but also a very human emotion. One that I’m sure most writers can relate to. Perhaps we need to heed the words of Buddha: "Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind."

We’re told the publishing world is shrinking. We’re told only the best of the best can get anything published, and even then it’s a one in a thousand shot. We’re told we must be perfect, and then turn around and read some of the drivel out there, certain the whole system is broken.

Well, maybe it is and maybe it’s not, but what I’ve also heard is in many cases it’s the best writers who submit the least, while the mediocre ones are often tenacious, sending out hundreds of submissions. If this comes down to a numbers game, then statistics will tell you it’s tenacity that gets the publishing contract.

My point is this: rather than allowing that envy to hold us back as writers, rather than letting it be a detriment, allow it to be a fuel to push you forward. Let it be a challenge to you to find your own success, because there is plenty to go around. Humans are a story-telling species. We need fascinating, delicious, imaginative stories to disappear inside, and that’s not going away. Ever. No matter what happens in the publishing world.

Success is out there and available for anyone willing to work for it, seize it, and claim it as their own, but not if they allow a sense of resentment to freeze them in their tracks.

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