Bradley P. Beaulieu
Do I experience envy? Um, need you ask? Of course I experience envy. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
First of all, for me, it’s inevitable. Most wouldn’t know it from talking to me, but I’m very competitive. Strangely enough, this may stem from not playing enough organized sports when I was a kid. I played, you know, neighborhood stuff, and in school gym class and such, but not much beyond that. I did, however, get a high from getting good scores on tests. I wasn’t a die-hard when it came to studying, but man I loved getting A’s.
That translated to my adult life, not so much in my career in software programming, where things are hard to measure, but certainly here in the writing world, where it seems things are all about measuring. At least they are nowadays. Back before Bookscan, who knew what other writers’ numbers were like? You were lucky to get royalty statements that made a lick of sense for your own books, much less someone else’s. But now? Well, you hear about sales being made. You know, the Publishers Weekly nice deals, very nice deals, major deals, and so on. And now you can see (in stark relief) such things as Amazon rankings and number of reviews on any number of sites. You can look at their Facebook followers, Twitter followers, Google+, Pinterest, and on and on and on.
It’s numbing to the point that if you allow yourself to fall into the pit of envy, you may never come out again. That’s one of the things I had to be careful about early on. I’m a numbers guy. I wanted to know how well my books were (or weren’t) doing. So I would compare and analyze and try to rank myself in some way. In the end, it’s is a pretty useless exercise. It fed my “want to know now” urges, but little else. It was without substance, like trying to fill yourself up on lettuce alone.
And yet I began this post by saying that envy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you experience envy, I think it’s important to channel that into something else, and for me, it’s trying to make my work better. But let me first differentiate between a couple kinds of envy. The first (and most self-possessed) is the kind in which you look at someone’s success and it feels (to you, anyway) unwarranted. Maybe you don’t like the person. Maybe you don’t respect their work. Maybe you feel like they’ve jumped the line. It’s very much like the feeling I get when I see a movie franchise like the Transformers succeed the way it has when movies like (picking a recent favorite out of my hat) Melancholia hardly got any play at all. There’s no use in paying attention to this sort of envy. In fact, it’s counterproductive. It saps energy, and it takes your eye off the prize. (more…)