Ugly emotions

Here’s a post by Mindy Klasky at Book View Cafe: U is for Ugly

There are some ugly truths about writing, things no one wants to talk about, no one wants to admit. I’m talking about the emotions we all try to hide away.

I’m not sure “hide away” is quite right. How about “acknowledge and set aside”?

Mindy singles out anxiety, despair, guilt, jealousy (and envy), and sorrow. The one that to me seems out of place on that list is sorrow. There is nothing ugly about sorrow. When a loved one dies and therefore never sees your much-anticipated book on the shelf (an example used in the post), that is legitimately sad. You would be right to grieve for that person — for everything they are missing, including a book you might have dedicated to them.

The ones that are ugliest, imo, are jealousy and envy.

Jealousy (and its fraternal twin, Envy): Many (Most? All?) authors are envious of more successful authors; we want to have their success in creating a number of books or selling those books to a wider audience or making a bestseller list or any other marker of success in this crazy field. We may also feel jealous, fearing that another author is going to supplant us in sales rankings, or that a new author might lure away our readers with a shiny new book in our genre.

I think “all” is right, to a near approximation. I think it’s inevitable that practically every writer will envy . . . not necessarily more successful authors, actually, but authors who *look* more successful right at that moment, in a particular way that the writer wants for herself.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no need to hide this feeling from yourself, but certainly no need to give it free rein. It’s not shameful to feel envy or jealousy. That’s just natural. It *is* shameful to let it go on. Here is the take-home message from Mindy’s post:

[Rational writers] consciously shut down the whispering cycle of ugly thoughts and turn back to writing again, and again, and again.

I think this is exactly right. I think envy is a feeling that can eat you alive if you let it. I think it should be stomped underfoot and ground into the dirt and left writhing behind you … is this metaphor getting strained? Consciously rejected, then, and consciously replaced by a deliberate “Good for them!”, as sincerely felt as possible. That way you can go back to enjoying your own successes, and write without bitterness contaminating your work.

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