February 18, 2011

After The Call: Dealing With Envy

"After the Call" is a new feature on my blog! It chronicles what happens after an agent offers you representation: how to choose the right agent, how to communicate with your new agent, what the revision process is like, etc. For previous posts in this series, please see the "After The Call" sidebar to the right.

When I was knee-deep in the query trenches, I often lurked on the blogs of other writers who were knee-deep in querying as well. I'd poke my head in from time to time (okay, every day) to check out how they were doing. Did they get any requests? Any rejections? Any offers of representation?

I'm not proud to say this, but I'd get a serious case of the envies whenever these writers landed an agent. Sure, I was happy for them too--after all, many of them had worked very hard for a very long time to get representation. But that didn't stop the green-eyed monster from perching itself on my shoulder.

I often thought to myself, "Man, if I ever get an agent, I promise myself that I won't feel envious anymore. That's all I want. An agent! I just want someone in the industry who believes in me."

Fast forward a year...

Um, yeah. That didn't happen. When I finally did get myself an agent, I was elated and excited and ecstatic. (Had to think for a minute for another "e" word!) But, of course, the feelings of envy started to trickle in eventually. People went on submission before me. People got interest before me. People got book deals for me. Harumph. Now all I could think was, "Man, if I ever get a book deal, I really won't feel envious again. That's all I want! A book deal!"

It has taken me awhile but I've finally realized that envy is simply part of the writing process. There will always be someone who gets more agent offers than you. There will always be someone who sells more books than you. And there will always be someone who makes a whole lot more money than you. This is an extremely competitive industry. It's inevitable that we'll compare ourselves to others, even when you have a great agent on your side.

But envy doesn't have to rule our lives! Here are three steps that I've taken to help combat envy:

1.) Be grateful.
Some writers get book deals in a matter of weeks. Or days. And some of these writers get deals for lots and lots of money. I am incredibly envious of these people!

Whenever this feeling trickles into my bones, I try to focus on the good things I have on my side: a supportive husband, great friends who push me along, and a fantastic agent who's enthusiastic about my work. Sometimes, I replay the moment in my mind when I signed my contract with DGLM. I was so giddy that day! Giggly, happy, joyful. Whether or not my book sells, I got a great agent out of it. That's something to be grateful for, right?

2.) Get to know the writers you envy. 
There are some writers who seem to have it so easy: they land an agent in a matter of weeks, they get a book deal in a matter of days. *Envy Alert! Envy Alert!* It's really easy to become jealous of them, isn't it?

Whenever I start feeling envious of a particular writer, I try to read her blog and to follow her on Twitter. Once I get to know this writer a little more, I often realize that she is so nice and so funny and so willing to help others. *Envy Alert Subsides* How can I be envious of someone who truly deserves all of her successes? (This is when I start to feel guilty, a known side effect of the envies.)

3.) Take a break.
Sometimes envy mixes with a little bit depression. Maybe your agent doesn't dig your second manuscript. Or maybe you have to finally shelve your book on submission. Either way, this is a very bad combo.

There have been a couple times when I've felt this way and I only know of one good remedy: STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. Take a break. No internet, no writing. Just enjoy your life. (Sometimes I wonder: Do I even have a life outside of writing?!) Cook a nice dinner. Watch a movie with someone you love. Basically, regenerate!

I can't believe I'm saying this but here goes... Writing isn't everything. There are times when I think it is---when I'm willing to trade my left arm in order to sell my book---but writing isn't everything. I love writing, but I love my husband more. I love writing, but I love my mental health more. So if writing is turning you into a depressed green-eyed monster, take a break for a few days. Or weeks. Or months. You can't be a good writer when you're not taking care of yourself.

So there you have it! Don't be envious! Beat that green-eyed monster with a stick!

Have a great weekend! 


  1. Caroline, this is some of the BEST advice... in writing, and in life. I keep thinking about what I want to add to this discussion, but you've pretty much nailed it. You rock.

  2. Haha, does this have anything to do with our chat yesterday? Lol. But this is great advice. There's always someone doing better than you, and always someone doing worse. I try to be grateful every day for everything I have, instead of dwelling on what I don't.

    And yeah, getting to know people who seem to have it made always shows that they worked really hard for it, and suffered their share of disappointments and setbacks. So in the end, their success is an inspiration :)

  3. Good post CAroline! It reminds us all that working towards being published isn't a one step process. . . good lord sometimes it seems like everything has to be in perfect alignment for it to happen! Love the honestly cause we know we've all felt this way:)

  4. This is a great post. Now I don't feel so bad about being envious of other writers...thought I know I mostly am just glad for them.

    It's also very true what you say about the process. First it's "If I can just get an agent," Then "If I could just go on submission," and "If I could just get a book deal." Think striving in small steps is a good way to go.

    New follower...glad I found your blog.


  5. FABULOUS post!!! Really honest and right on with how to deal with it. :D

  6. Fantastic post, Caroline! There are so many ups and downs and such a deluge of information about how/what everyone else is doing. I think #3 is especially helpful for me, stepping back and AWAY FROM THE INTERNETS when I start feeling too cray-cray. Priority check!

  7. Lovely post, Caroline! Envy is something that all writers struggle with, no matter what stage they're in -- because there's always somebody who you think has it better than you. These are really great advice to combat the envy monster. :)

  8. I like the advice #3 - getting to know the writer who you envy. It reminds me of when you automatically hate someone else just because she has perfect hair or is rich or something, and then when you get to know her you can't hate her because she's just so cursedly nice. :)

  9. I'm loving this series Caroline. And yes No 3 is such great advice.

    Although I wonder who J K Rowling is jealous of :)

    Have a great weekend

  10. Great post! I also get the case of the envies. Once I signed with my agent, I thought that they would leave me, but they return whenever I see a new deal in Pub Marketplace. I like your ideas for how to get over them, though. :)

  11. Green-eyed monsters SUCK. But yeah, it's totally normal to feel like this. Your advice will literally save a ton of lives. And YOU WILL accomplish your goals.

    Nuff said :D

  12. Isn't writing fun?;)

  13. Wonderful post, some great advice here. I'm bookmarking this one for sure.

  14. Wow, I step outside to enjoy the sunny weather and I come home to all of these lovely comments! Thanks so much, guys!!!

  15. I love the honesty of this post. I'm in the "if I can just get an agent I'll be happy forever" mindset now, silly as it is. And the envy... it's so strange to be thrilled for someone, yet completely jealous too! I try to always keep in mind that writing and the publishing process are a journey and no two journeys will be the same. Great post, Caroline!