Using jealousy to fuel your own ambition

Recently I seem to be seeing a lot of discussion about jealousy of other writers and how to overcome it. When someone we know – be it in person or via social media – publishes their work I think it’s natural for us to think ‘I wish that was me’. The key thing, I think, to remember when we feel that twinge of envy is that the reason we are experiencing such an emotion because we still want to acheive that goal. The trick is to find a way to use jealousy to fuel that ambition, rather than waste it by focusing on the success of the other writer.

jealousyThere have been numerous articles/posts written on how to deal with jealous feelings toward other writers. My favourite, due to the practical and down-to-earth tips, is on the Writer’s Relief blog. There are lots of sensible suggestions as to how to confront the reasons for your jealousy and how to combat it.

I used to find myself in a position of envy on a frequentΒ basis. This was before I was a regular writer and only dabbled in my desire to write narrative fiction. As a result, when a debut novelist got rave reviews, or someone I vaguely knew got published, I thought ‘Why can’t that be me?’; ‘Aren’t I good enough?’; ‘Why do they deserve that and I don’t?’

And you know what? It couldn’t have been me, I wasn’t ready; I hadn’t worked hard enough and I didn’t deserve it. It still can’t be me; I haven’t finished my WIP yet, I haven’t yet put enough work in to make that novel my absolute best and, when it comes down to it, those who have succeeded in publishing – either traditionally or digitally –Β do deserve it. Just because their book gets placed on the bookshelf that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another. The thing to focus on is that new books are still being put out there and there is an appetite from readers for more literature.

I’m less envious these days. Not only do I know how hard some people have worked for their success, I can also relate to their efforts because I am working harder myself. Writing a novel, redrafting and revising and then going through the publishing process is immensely challenging. The law of averages suggest that it is much easier to just give up. If I don’t give in to the temptation to put aside my dream then why should I envy those who also refuse to be beaten?Β I should be celebrating their efforts because it proves to me that it can be done.

Not only that, but those questions I used to ask – about why it couldn’t be me – have quietened down. Because, one day, it will be me. If I put in the work, do my research and improve my craft, I’ll get there; just like they did. We might not take the same path, but we’ll end up side by side on the bookshelf before long. And not only can I use the experiences of others to learn but I can practice my skills by supporting them and promoting their success – just like I’m sure they will do for me when my time comes.

So yes, jealousy will happen. It’s a natural response. The key is turning it inward and not projecting it onto the writer who has the success you covet. The emotion says more about you that it will ever say about the writer you are jealous of. It can highlight that you aren’t working as hard as you can, that you aren’t ready or that you have higher expectations than you can meet at the time. Just remember that we all come to things by different routes and that, no matter how similar your journey appears to another writer, there are differences that you can’t see.

all roads


Do you ever experience jealousy? How do you tackle it? Does it put you off your stride, make you despondent, or fuel you to try harder?
Let me know in comment or Tweet Me.



16 responses to “Using jealousy to fuel your own ambition

  1. Jealousy is one of those emotions that leads to no good, so it’s one I don’t really allow to fester. When other writers find success, especially writers I know, I can’t help but feel excited and happy for them. It may not be happening to me, but the success of others always gives me hope that my turn is just around the bend. πŸ™‚

  2. I love this post because it’s so true and has excellent advice. l’m not published yet because l’m not ready; that’s a good way to look at it because it’s so true.
    I know someone who self-published a book because she knew l wanted to be an author. We were best friends at the time (needless to say we’re not friends anymore for other reasons than the book). She wanted to “beat me” at publishing. So, she wrote a book in about two months and self-published it without editing or researching then proceeded to brag about how it was going to be a best-seller and she was going to be famous and on TV for it. She didn’t even market it so the only people who bought it was her close friends and family. To this day she doesn’t understand why it hasn’t sold.
    I have to admit l was jealous when she had something published, but after reading this article l’d like to think that my friend’s story is the result of being jealous and publishing when not ready.

    • What a strange friend! It’s good that you’ve managed to see it for what it is though and put it behind you. I would agree that she probably wrote that book initially because she was jealous of you and your aspirations and wanted what you had. A little part of me admires her guts just to get it done, but as you say she didn’t realise the work involved beyond the writing (including redrafting and editing, not to mention marketing) so it was unlikely to be a success.

      I don’t know if I’ll ever feel ready to publish – I’d like to think I’ll know. But one day I’ll take that leap and give it a go, I’m sure. At the moment though, I’m enjoying learning the craft and I find it interesting to examine other writer’s success and see what I can pick up for the future.

      Good luck with your own writing. Keep that hope alive that you’ll be ready someday – in the meantime, ‘keep writing’.
      Thanks for commenting.
      Take Care, Cat

      • That’s really the best way to learn, really…observe other writers in their successes and failures. Not to mention reading. πŸ˜‰

        I wonder if any writer it truly “ready to publish.” My writing professor way back when used to work for a publishing company before he taught and after some of the manuscripts he read he told us that even with his e-mail, he edits it about five or six times before closing his eyes and hitting the send button. It didn’t matter whether the e-mail was formal or informal, to a friend or a colleague, he was always cautious and wanted us to do the same.

  3. I thought I was the only one πŸ˜‰ I’ve never read anything about writer jealousy and I’ve always felt petty and guilty when the green-eyed monster stalked me.

    • There’s a load of advice for tackling it. It’s a natural reaction sometimes, so you shouldn’t feel petty or guilty unless you can’t reflect it back on yourself and see it for what it is: a sign that you want something and need to work for it.
      I suspect that you know that, so pack away those guilty feelings and keep on writing and then we’ll be jealous of you. πŸ˜‰

  4. This is a good post, Cat. I hadn’t thought of people who were yet to publish being jealous of those who have; the only thing I’ve come across is jealousy between published writers. Beware of that when you DO start – especially if you do well, and if your book is of the ‘popular’ rather than the more literary or avant garde type. Or, don’t beware of it – just ignore it! As for the people who you might envy, I think the best thing to do is study why they are successful, and pick up tips!

    • Great advice. Even though I’m not published, I still feel a negative vibe because I don’t write literary fiction. It’s ironic because it’s so difficult to sell literary, but it’s what everyone’s supposed to aspire to write.

      • I wouldn’t say you should aspire to write literary fiction – you should aspire to write what you want to read. I have huge respect for authors who can write popular fiction and do it well – each genre has it’s own niche and skill required. They also all have their own audience – whatever you write, as long as you write it well I’m sure you’ll be fine. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for the advice about avoiding jealousy between published writers: hopefully I will have a use for it some day πŸ˜‰

      As for picking up tips from successful writers, you’re bang on. That’s not to say you need to copy them, but if you can apply their hard work and tactics to your own benefit then you should.

      Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚
      Take Care,

  5. Fair play to you Cat for your honesty. When I’m famous after writing some monosyllabic drivel that Richard and Judy can’t get enough of, I’m going to ring you up and shout “In your face loser!!” and then go to the launch party of my latest bag of crap.

    It’s gonna be ace! πŸ™‚

    p.s. I’ll tell Richard and Judy that you’re a better writer than me. Which you are.

    Off camera of course, as I don’t want to do a Ratner. xx

    • Hahaha! You definitely have the wit to be a writer πŸ˜‰
      I better get one of those bags of crap…that’s what I live for! As for being a better writer…I can’t presume to reach the lofty heights of your magnificence. No one writes zombie massacre and shoot outs like you. πŸ˜‰

  6. This is such an honest post from a writer who has got this burning passion to make to the top one day . I can relate to this post so much because I am kinda traveling on the same road . At times I get damn envious when I see some amazing bloggers and writers achieve so much . And that instant my faint heart fails to see what all they did to get to that position, and when I realize that , that definitely turns out be my biggest motivation as a writer .

    • Exactly – knowing that others are struggling on ahead and getting on with things rather than stewing in their own ‘bad luck’ (i.e. not working on developing themselves) can be a huge motivator if you can see it that way.

      Thanks for your lovely comment. πŸ™‚

  7. I have been struggling with the green eyed monster recently. I had a set back in my day job and this combined with illness lured the monster out of its cave. All I could think about was how much others had achieved compared to me.
    Fortunately common sense prevailed and I focused on my children and the other good things in my life. As you so eloquently put it I started to focus on my own blessings rather than other peoples.
    On the writing side I sometimes get overwhelmed when I hear indie authors talking about the number of books they have out and other things. I have to remind myself that they are years ahead of me on their journey and started from exactly the same place as me. Then I go and write for a bit; which helps.

    • That’s the thing with writing – it’s all done behind closed doors and we rarely understand the stuggles other writers face. It’s gotten much easier to relate and understand writers as a group since the internet provides us with a means to share and communicate. Still, that doesn’t mean we’re immune to the emotional turmoil that comes with jealousy!

      I’m glad you found a way through it, by focusing on what you do have and realising that others may be much futher along on their journey than you. Writing through it – even better. πŸ˜‰

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It’s good to hear I’m not the only one πŸ™‚
      Take Care, Cat

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