The Little Green Monster
Only a few years ago when someone I knew announced a bit of good news, a new book deal, a movie option, or a short story sale just to name a few examples, my immediate reaction would invariably be happiness for them. That kind of news always inspired me, affirmed my heartfelt belief that hard work does pay off in the end. It gave me reason to believe that if I kept it up the same would happen for me. These days, the good fortune of others (by which I mean the culmination of their hard work, constant diligence, and shear stick-to-it-ness, in the form of the kind of deal I still only dream about) brings about a stew of reactions that I don’t like to spend much time acknowledging, let alone talking about.
These days it seems the success of people who I consider (or had once considered) my contemporaries stirs up the worst in me. When I read a message board post by someone I have met/chatted with/drank with/given a cigarette to and or bummed one from/shared an elevator ride with/etc, that they have just made a multi-book deal with an editor I can’t get the time of day from, the happiness I do feel for them is dwarfed by jealously and a sense of failure. More often than not I find myself steering away from those communications, pretending those message board threads don’t exist, not reading the happy press release sent out by someone who damn well deserves every success they can get, and wishing they would just shut the hell up about it. Sometimes I’m able to squash the little green monster inside and offer my sincere congratulations, but mostly I can’t.
Sometimes I experience an actual physical reaction. I feel cold inside and all over, the same feeling I get when I realize I have screwed up some thing very simple, but very important at work or at home. The feeling that I have once again proven my incompetence through failure, and that even though I might not receive a good solid ass-chewing, I deserve one. You might know the feeling, the ice in the belly, oh-shit-I-just-fucked-up feeling. It’s funny that another’s earned success should make me feel that way, but we can’t always help the way we feel, or why we feel that way. People are strange and irrational, creative people doubly so.
Or maybe I’m just extra screwed up. I haven’t completely rule out that possibility. I don’t think that’s the case though.
I am going to make an assumption now. If it turns out to be an incorrect assumption I’m going to come out feeling very stupid. I don’t think I’m wrong though.
What I think is that this is common, and that most who experience this irrational jealously just don’t want to talk about it. It’s embarrassing, and it makes us feel like the assholes we’re afraid we might be.
Worse than that, this kind of stupid, groundless jealously is destructive to the creative process. It is anti-productive.
That little green monster will happily gobble all of your hope if you let it. Trying to ignore it won’t help you. The little green bugger doesn’t give a shit if you pay attention to him or not, as long as you keep him well fed.
I’m not fishing for sympathy or encouragement. All I want to do is drag my little green monster out into the light for a while. I have a feeling he may be familiar to some of you now reading this. I think recognizing the little devil for what he is could be the first step in dealing with him.
I do know he’s not fond of being in the spotlight. He prefers a nice dark place in which to lurk and feed. I know my little green monster doesn’t like being called out, and I have to add that dragging him out like this was not a pleasurable job. I’m glad I did though. I’m feeling better already.