I have a confession to make. I’m green with envy over the success that woman – can’t bring myself to say her name - who wrote 50 Shades of Grey. I’m irritated and baffled by this envy. Baffled because I can’t see what she’s done that’s new in the romance/erotica genre. Irritated because I’m thinking ‘Damn, why didn’t I think of it first?’
And I know I’m not alone in wrestling with that acid-green monster. I had coffee with a writer friend last weekend. ‘I always get a bit envious when I see other writers succeed,’ he said. ‘Of course you can tell yourself that their success is an example of what other writers can achieve; or that there’s room for all of us as writers, but it still gets me in my gut.’
With a guilty grin, I told him I felt the same way sometimes. OK, a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m genuinely thrilled when someone close to me succeeds in writing. There may be a couple of shades of envy, but it’s usually erased by the genuine pride and excitement I feel that a friend or fellow writer has made it. I get over it pretty quickly, but when a stranger in sweat pants writes the next publishing phenomenon, I don’t feel I have to restrain myself. Emotions are seldom rational – they may not be pretty, but we have to acknowledge them, don’t we? Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to call ourselves writers!
Of course, it helps to remind myself that the difference between envy and pure jealousy is one between possession and loss. Envy, after all, is an emotion related to wanting what someone else has. Jealousy is fearing that something you have will be snatched away. We all have our own unique talents, our inimitable voices and styles, our own personal ambitions. And no one can really take that away from us, can they?