Confession time. But first, a clarification. Jealousy is a word that gets tossed around a lot, writers being jealous of others. I don't think that's really so true, though. Envy, sure. Jealousy? Not so much.
When emails were flying during Julie's getting an agent and then selling her book, I spent some time evaluating how I felt. Was I happy for her? Absolutely. Think she and her book deserved it? Without question. Was I jealous? Nope, not a bit--meaning, I did not wish her success on me instead of her. But envious? Well...
Scholars have apparently now divided envy into two distinct camps. The first traditional envy, the deadly one, is invidiousness--basically, the hateful, harmful, closer to jealous form of envy that movies and fiction often recount. The second form is benign envy, which has the benefit of being a positive motivational force.
For the most part, I have to say I wasn't envious. Sure, what Julie was going through was exactly what I'd hoped for in the past, what I hope for in the future. But at the moment she was getting representation and a book deal and foreign sales, was I truly envious? Did I wish it on myself, for myself? I can still say not really. Not because it's something I no longer want, but because I knew I hadn't yet done the work that would get me what she was getting. Not yet, not this time.
I've completed two manuscripts, submitted to agents, sent off a good number of fulls, and as I like to brag, I've been rejected by some of the best in the business. Often personally, always kindly. I still think both complete projects have merit, and maybe I never hit the right agent on the right day--who knows? At our last dinner together, we spent some time wondering about those manuscripts several of us were sending out into the world two or three or four years ago; publishing is a different animal now, and if those babies were trying to fly in this market, would they take wing? There's no telling, but I do wonder.
But I don't envy.
Well, I didn't. But now, I do, some. Not so much Julie's success, but now, her place. I envy the fact that she finished up her latest and was able to send it out. Not that she found it a home, but that she'd already done the work I've yet to complete and was therefore able to reach this first heady plateau.
The past few months I pulled out an old project, polished the dust off, and got to work adding to it. At our retreat, I worked on structure, which led to revelations about the story itself, which meant a deeper telling but also a lot more work. So far this year, more time has been spent inside my brain than with a pen, and that has engendered some of the envy I now find I harbor.
I wish I was done with this draft already. I envy those I know who have already completed the first draft and are into edits, the part of the show that I find easier to work through. Weirdly, I've learned I enjoy editing more than writing, though writing has its own unique satisfaction (and it also has to be gotten through to get to the fun-for-me part; and hey, I love dinner, not just dessert).
So envy, as a motivational force, to finish this draft and get on to the next step. The envy is there now, that's something I can't hide from myself, and am admitting here. Like it or not, to be cliche. And for another, this: I can use that envy for motivation to get the draft done, or I should lose it. The former sounds better, doesn't it?