Seeing friends and acquaintances getting book deals isn’t all love and joy and congratulations. Jealousy is sometimes not far behind. The trouble is, not enough people write about it.
Many years ago when I worked in the music industry, there was a publicist in the US whom I got to know. Her name is Kim Kelly. She has always been a hard worker, whether for her label, or the bands she was on tour with as the merch manager, or in her freelance work.
Over time, she came to fame because of her work. Back when I was on Twitter, Kelly was working as a music journalist for Vice, while building her freelance journalism profile—and getting good bylines—in a very different space.
These days, Kelly’s journalism focuses on labour issues, and she has by-lines in publications like the Washington Post, Teen Vogue, and others.
Importantly, she has worked long and hard to get where she is. Along the way, she was involved in the unionisation of workers at Vice, and in all of the struggles that freelance journalists often face (like no money).
The whole time, she has stayed laser-focused on what is important to her.
This is why I was genuinely excited to see this week that Kim Kelly has gained a six-figure book deal for her forthcoming book Fight Like Hell.
From Publishers Weekly:
The book, the Atria imprint said, is a “marginalized peoples’ history of labor in the United States, focusing on workers who have made crucial contributions to the labor movement but whose stories have often been overlooked.”
So before I move onwards: Huge congratulations to Kim. I’ve seen you work so hard to get to this point, and I hope you get time to party as a result!
Moving on, though, this genuine excitement wasn’t always my default emotional response to this kind of thing.
And you know, I see a lot of other writers who also publicly celebrate the works and achievements of their peers
But for years my first reaction was frustration and jealousy.
Without a word of a lie, much of my life has been characterised by a green-eyed monster known commonly as envy. Rather than seeing others’ great news as an opportunity to celebrate for someone, seeing news of acquaintances who achieve great things tended to fill me with a kind of ache.
The ache of, why not me and how the fuck.
I say it unashamedly, because it’s the kind of thing few people are transparent about.
You and I, darling reader, must be more transparent about these things. When we aren’t, it cause a ripple effect out there in the world. One that creates the false impression in others that their feelings are somehow dirty.
Eventually, and after thirty-something years of life, I realised that my attitude was what was holding me back.
Instead of seeking others to commune with, celebrate with, enjoy achievements with, I’d isolate myself even further. I’d see them talk about themselves and just get annoyed. Instead of allowing myself to feel the good feels on behalf of others, I would shut it down. The the net result was that I began working in complete isolation, without a community, and just wishing really hard.
The truth is that community is what helps lift you and your work. It’s what celebrates with you when nobody else cares. It’s the thing that helps you improve yourself, your art, and your life.
A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say.
These days, I obviously see things differently. That is why, even though Kim Kelly’s politics and views of the world are radically different from my own, I can still genuinely congratulate her for this awesome milestone in her career.
The thing is, jealousy is normal. So if you’re the kind of writer who gets a touch of the green eyes, please don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, ask yourself what it is about the situation that you’re sore about.
If it’s the fact that someone else got a deal and you didn’t, remember that you and they are living totally different lives. Their opportunities will never be your opportunities.
If it’s the fact that someone you know has fifteen books published and you’ve been working on your own for ten years, and you feel hopeless in comparison, remember that their pathway isn’t yours. Everyone’s lives are wildly different. We’re all here for different reasons. Your art is just as valid, even if nobody has seen it yet.
Sometimes—perhaps most often, I venture to suggest—jealousy rises because we know in our hearts that we want the result but aren’t willing to be the person who will do what it takes to get the result.
Have I been one of those people?
Hell, yes I have. It has always come from striving towards one goal while wishing I was achieving something else.
The simple fact is, if you want it then you have to be the person who is willing to do it.
Like Kim has been. And her story in this space hasn’t been easy; she’s been trolled to within an inch of her life. But she pursued her dreams anyway, and it’s paying for her.
Therein, I believe, lies the lesson for all of us.