my friend sarah wrote a memoir last year & she had some copies made & sent me the manuscript as a PDF so i could download it on to my kindle & read it & offer her some editorial comments. because i have been doing that for people lately. another friend is working on a queer YA novel (one of literally at least five people i personally know off the top of my head currently writing or recently finished writing a queer YA novel–ramona is going to have A LOT of queer YA to choose from in about twelve years) & i gave her some editorial feedback. anyway, sarah sent me her manuscript over a month ago & i FINALLY got around to reading it over the weekend. just in time for her to announce her to have it published. it’s worth checking out! i thought the book was SUPER-GOOD. like a queer mary karr. that’s high praise!
anyway, reading sarah’s book made me think about all the weird conversations people have been having lately in some of the blogs i read about jealousy, being jealous of people who have done things like publish books, people being jealous of people that have published books…or other things. jealousy around living situations or perceived status or babies or whatever. but especially the book thing. because…WHY?
i don’t really run in an established literary circle, but i know probably dozens of people that have published books. if i was going to be jealous of something like that, i would just do nothing but be jealous. & instead, i am not jealous at all because it’s not exactly difficult to publish a book. i think it’s a lot harder to find the time & the internal commitment to sit down & write a book. i’ve written a lot of zines, & if i printed out all the blog posts i’ve written over the years, they would probably run to millions of words, but i have never finished an entire book manuscript. if i did, it would be no trouble whatsoever to self-publish or find some friend/acquaintance with a micropress to publish it for me. & then i too could crow over being a published author. big deal, man.
i’m not even jealous of the people i know who have written books, because i feel that they just had more stick-to-it-ive-ness than i do. i have a harsh internal critic & by the time i’ve pounded out 75,000 words, i usually hate about 70,000 of them. i thought about anthologizing “a renegade’s handbook,” which probably would have been a prety well-received project at a certain point in time, but i couldn’t get over how much i disliked those zines with all the years that had passed since they were written. i even thought about editing & revising them, but the only way i could see to do it was to just erase them altogether. so i dropped the idea.
i am kind of rambling here, but my point is that i really don’t get why anyone would be jealous of someone who published a book. particularly a self-published book. i say that not to shit on self-publishing (i am, after all, a zinester, which means i self-publish). it’s just that writing the manuscript is the accomplishment. self-publishing it is the easy part. possibly if someone i knew was the subject of a bidding war & wound up with a seven-figure advance from a major new york publishing house, i would feel a twinge of envy…but i’d probably just be proud of them. but apparently i am an outlier because the blogs seem to indicate that jealousy is a pretty big thing.
i am very rarely jealous of other people. not because my life is so fucking awesome, but just because i don’t see the point. i feel like i could get anything i really wanted if i just tried, & anything i want that i don’t have is just because i haven’t made enough of an effort. this is perhaps easy for me to say since i don’t really care about money or material possessions. i mean, i really don’t think i could just will a million dollars into existence, so it’s a good thing i don’t care about that & don’t really give a fuck if someone else has a million dollars.
recently someone i know announced that she is pregnant with her second child, & i felt a little twinge of jealousy about that. i would love to have another baby. but rationally, i know that i don’t really want to be pregnant before the baby i already have isn’t even a year old yet. maybe (hopefully) i will have another child someday–when the time is right. i can be patient until then, & just enjoy ramona.
allow me to reiterate: what on earth is there to be jealous of when it comes to a self-published book? literally almost anyone could do the same thing if they have a manuscript in hand. if i feel any jealousy at all, it’s directed toward the time people have to write, because they don’t have babies (or they have help with their babies, enabling them to write, or they have some incredible time management system worked out where they can spend several hours a day writing while caring for their babies without having their brains melt). i definitely have a book in me about my whole conception/pregnancy/NICU/baby situation–that’s basically what the “ella funt” series is all about. of course i’d love to just sit down & knock it all out in 100,000 words & publish it as a book, but i’m doing it in smaller pieces because that’s what is practical for my life, time-wise. hopefully once i have enough to anthologize, i’ll still like the writing enough to anthologize it. or maybe once ramona is a little older, she’ll be less brain-melting/time-consuming & i’ll be able to do the book thing. or maybe i’ll become a time management wizard & be able to write it. in any case, it’s the writing & the time/energy involved with that that impresses me much more that someone utilizing the services of one of the eighty gazillion self-publishing platforms out there. i mean, right? am i missing something?
& i mean, not to dismiss the fact that plenty of people struggle with jealousy…i don’t think that i’m somehow a better person because i don’t particularly. in fact, maybe it makes me a worse person because it’s just another of the weird little ways that i’m like an android that just doesn’t really think that much about other people. i think the trick for me is that i got into riot grrrl when i was really young, like twelve years old. & one of the first things i learned was “jealousy kills girls”. i was internalizing that slogan & figuring out what it meant for me before girl jealousy was really a part of my life, just because i was so young. so when that fucked up girl dynamic did start happening in junior high, i was able to recognize it for what it was & kind of let it roll off me. i’ve definitely had the experience of people being jealous of me for various reasons, & i’ve just shrugged it off as something the jealous person is going to have to work out on their own. because come on. jealousy is almost never about the person you’re jealous of. it’s about some kind of perceived lack within yourself. it’s not about, “oh, that person wrote a book & i wish i could write a book” or “that person is having another baby & i want another baby.” it’s about “that person is more organized/devoted to their craft/serious about their dream than i am”. “that person has a real family & her child is going to have a friend for life.”
maybe i’m not phrasing myself well because i’ve been on baby duty all day & i’m a little fried. this is just some shit i’ve been thinking about for a while. i will say that i know a few people that are just absolutely awful, vile excuses for human beings, & they have published books. i don’t even get jealous of them! i sometimes feel fucking baffled that other people don’t see through them & understand what terrible people they are. they are such despicable people that i sometimes wonder who the fuck is reading their books because i feel that their despicableness is apparent from space. but they still took the time to write a book & publish it/find someone else to publish it. big fucking whoop. just goes to show: ANYONE can do it. even total scumbags! all you have to do is put your ass in a chair & do it, & even scumbags sometimes have asses & chairs, little as they deserve either. doesn’t that give you hope?