Professional Jealousy

Let’s play pretend for a moment. Two people you know have recently sold – you can decide based on where you are in your career whether or not these are first sales or big multi-book, several-digit sales.

  • Author #1 – She’s not someone you know terribly well, but you’ve seen her at workshops and other events and frankly you don’t like her. She’s loud and rude and wears obnoxious perfume, not to mention she’s tall, thin and beautiful. In workshops she knows all the answers and tends to act as if she’s giving the workshop herself rather than merely participating in it. What’s more, she doesn’t eat chocolate and let’s face it, you can’t trust women who don’t eat chocolate. You don’t like her. Outside of the writing world this woman is never someone you would associate with. How you do feel about her sale?
  • Author #2 – Your critique partner calls you up screaming and crying in your ear with her good news. Not only has she made her sale, but it’s to your dream publisher. But she’s one of your favorite people. You’ve worked together for years and you’ve become great friends in addition to critique partners. You worked with her on the book that sold, from idea to polish you were there. How do you feel about her sale?

There are other elements we could play with. Either of the above authors might not have been writing as long as you, or maybe they don’t study craft the way you do, or perhaps they’re total boneheads when it comes to the business end, or the worst – maybe they’re not as good a writer as you are. Does any of it matter? Does it affect the way you feel? Perhaps. Probably. Let’s be honest, absolutely! We all feel it. Professional jealousy is something we will at one time or another (or many) have to fight. Let’s see what Webster has to say …

  • Jealous – Suspicious of a rival or of one believed to enjoy an advantage. Vigilant. Distrustfully watchful.
  • Envy – grudging desire for or discontent at the sight of another’s excellence or advantages.

Neither of these words or definitions evoke warm and fuzzy feelings, but professional jealousy or envy is a part of our business. I know that most of you did not attend the National Conference this year, but Suz Brockmann touched on this in her luncheon speech. She referred to us as “Team Romance” and said that we should rejoice when other romance writers sell or make a bestseller list. Why? Because it improves our genre and paves the way for the rest of us.

Not only is jealousy bad for “Team Romance” it’s bad for the individual writer. When our emotional energy is spent resenting someone else’s success or lamenting what looks like a lack of success in our own careers, we lose.

However, jealousy and envy are real emotions and the truth is we all feel them – we can’t really control that. What we can control is how we respond to the feelings. Acknowledge the feeling, wallow in it if you have to but then move forward with your own career. Take those feelings of jealousy just as you would feelings of sadness or fear and channel them into your characters to make their emotions real and concrete.

The important thing to remember is to not let our negative emotions get the better of us. Rejoice in your fellow teammate’s success after all don’t we want people to be happy for us when we succeed?

Robyn Ratliff has been a member of RWA since 1996. She currently serves as President and Webmaster to her RWA Chapter, San Antonio Romance Authors. She writes historicals set in Victorian England and is currently dividing her time between writing her next book and Agent Quest.

Copyright © 2007. Robyn DeHart. All Rights Reserved.

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