The Practice of Creativity

Who Is In Your ‘Envy Hall of Fame’?: Envy and Jealousy as part of the Creative Process

Posted on: September 21, 2015

Envy is a vocational hazard for most writers. It festers in one’s mind, distracting one from one’s own work, at its most virulent even capable of rousing the sufferer from sleep to brood over another’s triumph.–Bonnie Friedman, ‘Envy, The Writer’s Disease’ in Writing Past Dark

What role does envy and/or jealousy play in your creative life? It’s an important question that we often wish to avoid. For a long time I struggled with the sting of persistent feelings of envy and jealousy toward other writers and creative folk. I felt I was the only one. And, for many years I felt ashamed of my feelings and kept silent about them. As a culture, we rarely seem to acknowledge envy and jealousy in a healthy way.

Two writers have recently provided excellent discussions on envy:

All creative people have to contend with feelings of envy. The question writer David Ebenbach asks is: Can we push with envy instead of against it? He calls his approach envy jujitsu.

Nina Badzin through her advice column on the HerStories Project tackles a question about envy, friendship and success.*

Years ago, when I came across the musings on jealousy by creativity author Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (SARK) in her book, The Bodacious Book of Succulence, I felt seen and witnessed:

“I wish we would all have more clear, truthful, jealous outbursts. We all feel jealousy. I feel it often, about both odd and common things…Jealousy only points the way towards where we might like to go. It is a gift (an oddly wrapped gift)…Practice saying loudly and firmly I AM SO JEALOUS.”

She notes that most of us believe that we’re inferior if we feel jealous yet when “jealousy is shared consciously when felt, its power disappears”. She also says we try to protect others from being jealous of us by sometimes denying our own good fortune. And that our silence and a sense of scarcity is what “feeds” jealously. Agreed!

This brings me to the ‘Envy Hall of Fame’ exercise. I came up with the exercise, many years ago, in the midst of doing a 40-day yoga practice for anger, grudge holding and jealousy. I came to realize that intense envy and jealousy are often our inner critics’ favorite weapons.

The idea is simple—write or collage your ‘Envy Hall of Fame’ and then move on!

Writing and/or making a collage of folks that one is truly envious of can be therapeutic and can help redirect our inner critics. And, once you release that energy, you can move on. It’s not like you’re never going to feel those feelings ever again, you will, but your inner critics can’t beat you up in the same way.

Over the years I’ve found the best antidote for envy and jealousy is good self-care, a return to my own creative work and creative community. The work waits for us in all its possibilities and imperfections, to be settled into and explored.

Do you admit to your envy and jealousy? Do you write about it? Confide in friends? If you were going to create an Envy Hall of Fame, who would be in it?

 

*I found these two wonderful authors through the incredible ‘Practicing Writing’ blog maintained by Erika Dreifus. An excellent resource for writers!

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10 Responses to "Who Is In Your ‘Envy Hall of Fame’?: Envy and Jealousy as part of the Creative Process"

I think that foremost we have to be honest with ourselves: if we envy someone, why do we envy? Once we recognize those feelings we can see more clearly which traits do we miss and focus our time and energy on developing them. In other words, to move from envy to admiration is a better place and a real creativity impetus.

This is so true! We always have to ask the deeper question about the inner source of envy.

Thanks so much for the shoutout. Glad to introduce you to the posts from David and Nina–and glad to be introduced to *your* blog!

Hi Erika,
It’s so nice of you to stop by. I love the resources you provide on your blog. I look forward to reading it during the week.

There’s always someone better than you, that sells more copies than you, right? I think it’s natural to have a certain amount of envy of other writers. The key is not to let it consume you or be the only impetus to your writing. Interesting topic, Michele. Thanks for bringing it up.

Thanks Karen, for stopping by. Yes, that is the trick, not to get consumed by envy and to keep focusing on one’s own work.

I think that is such a great idea for conquering envy. Probably has to be done quarterly! 😉 And thank you so much for including my column.

Hi Nina,
Thanks for stopping by. I loved the post that you wrote and am looking forward to reading more of your work.

It’s normal to feel envious or jealous of our peers, especially when they receive another contract or has another book released. It’s even good when that envy helps fuel our work productivity. Nice post, Michele!

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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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