I Was So Jealous of My Friend’s Writing Success

Have you ever read a book and thought I can do better than this?? Or maybe a friend got published and you thought her book sucks and how did it ever get published when yours isn’t?

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(Photo from The Atlantic)

I have been jealous of a friend’s writing career. But it hurt me more than them.

Creative jealousy is a horrible feeling and hurts your own creativity in dramatic ways.

It keeps you from accessing your true original creative and brilliant moments that happen in writing when you’re in flow. I know this from experience.

I’ve felt these corrosive feelings many times, not just with one friend, even after my novels were published and did well. It continues the whole way along the process and it hurts us (and our relationships with other writers) in a big way.

If you’re a writer, I think it’s essential to do whatever you can to stay in flow and to keep your mind off of what others are doing if it’s too hard to be a cheerleader at that point in your growth. And then work on yourself so that you can celebrate others.

Before I had my first agent, there was a period where I couldn’t enter a bookstore without feeling a gut-twisting physical pain. I couldn’t even read those books. I’d been working consistently for ten years toward my dreams. Why couldn’t it happen for me?

Then it did. And it was really great. But then I saw other debut authors getting more publicity push despite the fact that my novel, Trafficked, was getting some critical success and I felt that anger/jealousy rear up again.

It’s super bad for creativity, let me tell you.

For a few reasons, despite writing consistently, it took forever for my next novel to be published (six years). In that time, many of my writing friends had two books published.

Jealousy! Anger! Despair!

I also got jealous of writers’ relationships with other writers and how that helped their careers. It hit my insecurities. Do you not like my books? Do you not like me?

Right after my second YA, This Is Not A Love Letter, was published, I was about to do a panel with a good friend and I got some very good news about a list it had made, and my friend started crying because she wasn’t getting the same things. It was sad, and hard to hear. But I understood, because I’d been in that place for quite a few years. And even after this book seemed to be doing alright and I was invited to a few conferences/festivals, I wasn’t invited to most of the “cool” festivals, and I felt bummed. Again, those feelings rose up.

Then, I had a family crisis and a physical health crisis which led to a mental health crisis. And I realized I cannot let jealousy/competition bring me down ever again. I have to write that which brings me joy. If people want to read it, great. If not, I’m joyful.

Now I’m on sub with a new middle grade novel. I have learned a lot of this business is luck and privilege, not talent. Did your book land with the right person at the right time? It’s a lottery. We can’t control that.

All we can control is our own joy and the process. The middle grade I wrote gave me a lot of joy, and nurtured the broken kid inside. That gift was giant.

The YA I’m writing now makes me laugh out loud every time I sit to write. Dark humor. Pervy. Snorting laughter. That’s-so-wrong laughter. I’m allowing myself the freedom to be a total dork and write all my embarrassing fears and secret weird things with this character and it is SO much fun.

No idea if either book will get published. But this writing game is like life, it’s a relationship with yourself and your own feeling of joy and then that spreads out to how you embrace others. I’ve found that if I can have a lot of dorky fun writing, I don’t read Goodreads (any published or unpublished author should only write raving positive reviews imo, btw) and I celebrate my friends’ successes honestly and whole-heartedly.

I think we have to take care of ourselves and our creative hearts and love ourselves through those bad feelings. Then, we also need to cheer on our friends who publish books – we need to preorder their books, attend their events, buy extra copies, post on social media, write glowing Amazon/Goodreads reviews immediately (even if you’re not finished their book) and tell them how much you loved it in person (lie if you must) because that’s what friends do. Then, when it’s your turn, and it will be, they’ll do the same for you.

Author of TRAFFICKED (Penguin, 2012) and THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER (Disney-Hyperion, 2018), creative writing teacher and mom of two fabulous girls.

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