I love AC/DC – that explains the title – but this post isn’t about them. It’s about envy.
My dictionary defines envy as a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. Envy is not the same as jealousy, which is characterized by intolerance and hostility.
I am envious of other writers who have achieved something that I have yet to reach. That’s normal, I think. In my case, the envy is not resentful, just painful. I’m happy when any writer, whether it’s James Patterson or an indie author, wins an award, gets a film deal, or sells a truckload of books. But it’s painful. It reminds me of what I have yet to achieve, or may never achieve.
Envy doesn’t have to be a negative thing, especially if one acknowledges that it’s a human foible that can actually be useful if it serves to encourage and motivate a writer to persevere, to work harder, to set his goals higher, and to celebrate what he has achieved rather than bemoan a level of success that remains elusive.
It works both ways for me. I tend to be stimulated and encouraged by the success of my peers. Oddly enough, the work of some highly acclaimed authors that I read has a tendency to tinge my envy with a black patina of despair. Many of my favorite writers have won Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, and even Pulitzer prizes. These are not just good writers. I’m a good writer. These are REALLY good writers. I get goose bumps when I read their work. I read what they write with joy and admiration for the seamless prose, the multi-dimensional characters, the intricate plotting, and the flawless pacing. I read what they write with sadness for the same reasons. I can’t do what they do…not like that, anyway. God, I wish I could.