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!