Artistic jealousy gets at the pit of what scares us the most: will my work last? Yet, a little cocktail of jealousy, fear, and ambition is one heck of a way to get your pen moving.
At varying times in our lives, we struggle with a particular emotion or vice. When someone mentions it, that word carries so much power, conjuring up all the things we’d prefer to hide about ourselves.
For me, the word is jealousy. Jealousy. A word with an unparalleled ability to force me to look right into the depths of myself, in exactly those places where I feel most vulnerable. It’s an excellent teacher, a terrible friend. Oh Jealousy, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
I’m a huge fan of the writer Esme Wang. While she’s written novels, stories, articles, and more, I primarily come into contact with her through her blog, where she writes incredibly sincere and insightful essays on what it means to be a writer, an artist, and an entrepreneur with a mental illness, amongst many other impressive themes. However, since I read Other People’s Success: On Artistic Jealousy, a blog post about envy within artistic circles, I haven’t been able to get her words out of my head.
I often hear this about jealousy: it’s a healthy and useful tool that points you in the direction of what you want. If your friend’s been picked for first chair in your city’s orchestra, and your stomach sours in the same moment that you’re buying her a congratulatory dinner, the idea goes that you, too, now know that you hope to receive an accolade of that caliber.
Where the idea stops being useful is that most of us working in creative fields know what we want. We know it in a way that burns. I don’t give myself self-awareness points because I feel jealous of a friend who’s been published in Harper’s; I well know that I want to be published in Harper’s.
Artistic jealousy gets at the pit of what scares us the most, especially creative types: will my work last? Yet, as with any emotion, it’s only useful to think these things in as much as they help us to motivate ourselves. Let’s face it, a little cocktail of jealousy, fear, and ambition is one heck of a way to light a fire under your, well, pen.
As you pick up the pen, or open a New Post tab, think of an emotion that defines you, one that you’re afraid to talk about. Then, make it work for you. You’re the boss, after all.