who the fuck is jealous of authors?

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?

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

4 thoughts on “who the fuck is jealous of authors?

  1. So, I understand what you’re saying here, and in a lot of ways I agree. I also think that part of my particular brand of crazy spends a lot of time comparing myself to other people. Obviously I am proud of the work I do, or I wouldn’t continue to do it. I also think it’s possible to use your jealousy to drive your ambition without tearing other people down. So I’ve been trying to acknowledge the talent and hard work of the people I envy, even when I feel myself edging towards resentment. Also, thank you for your kind words. I’m so lucky/grateful that we’re friends.

    1. i tried to link to your indiegogo thing, but it doesn’t seem to have worked. wordpress redesigned their site to make it look & act more like tumblr, & now it’s a total pain in the ass to include links & photos & stuff in text posts. hello, wordpress, if i wanted a tumblr, i’d just use tumblr. let me use what little HTML i know, please.

      do you think it’s really jealousy if it inspires you to work harder on your own stuff? i don’t know. i don’t really see anything positive in jealousy. it seems like such a toxic feeling. if looking at what someone else is doing or accomplishing spurs you on to up your own game, maybe it’s something else? maybe not. maybe i’m just splitting hairs.

      i think it’s worth considering that i’m 33 years old (almost 34) & i’ve never published a book–not even a self-published book. & part of that is because i have had feelings of thinking that other people had already, like, “beaten me to it” (not publishing specifically, but like specific topics i wanted to write about or approaches i wanted to take toward subjects), so what was the point? it’s hard to explain. it’s kind of like, when i was a kid, i wanted to be better at drawing. but my younger brother was SUCH a talented artist right out of the gate. he didn’t draw things that interested me, but he had such an eye for detail & shading & just all this stuff that was totally beyond me. i’d look at what he was capable of & he was capturing on paper things i didn’t even see with my eyes. so i just kind of gave up because i figured drawing wasn’t where my abilities lay. i think my biggest mistake in life has been falling back too much on natural ability instead of making the effort to hone my talents & interests & go outside my comfort zone. i don’t really know what my point is here. i guess i just didn’t want to come across like i was being all superior about “not feeling jealousy” or whatever. because i certainly have not been above comparing myself unfavorably to others & making limiting decisions as a result.

  2. I struggle with jealousy feelings sometimes. Most recently with my sister in law (who I adore, she’s one of my favourite people) who got pregnant before I did and of course had a baby before I did, a month ago today in fact. But I have sort of learned to deal with it without dumping it on the person I am jealous of because you’re right, it has nothing to do with my new niece and everything to do with me. It’s about not having my baby yet because I am impatient and a little bit about how I am competitive even though I know that it’s stupid and irrational to be competitive about a baby.

    Because I love my niece my sister in law and I also know that I love my baby and that my baby will come at the perfect time for us and will be our baby who is perfect for us. Usually if I find these feelings of jealousy getting overwhelming, I can make it go away by distracting myself for a few hours and perhaps eating something since I get WAY irrational when I need food but I don’t always get “hungry”.

    I dunno. I guess I am just saying I can relate to the feelings but I try my hardest to control what I say and do because my stupid irrational feelings are not anyone’s problem but my own.

    1. i think my biggest area of jealousy/competitiveness in the last few years has been around babies. i have totally found myself feeling jealous of people who have babies just a couple of months older than ramona, because they have more parent experience, & thus, knowledge, than i do. i’m kind of getting over it now that ramona is, like, a real baby that is really alert & social & rolling over & sitting up & stuff. i don’t know if i’m finally getting the hang of this mom thing or if ramona is just in a developmental stage that is especially easy for me to handle, but we are in the baby/mommy zone right now. but i think one of the best-kept secrets about parenthood is that there is this weird hierarchy based on how old a person’s kids are. the older your kids are, the more superior you are–unless your kids are so old that you’ve completely forgotten about certain developmental things (like if your kids are in their 20s & you’re talking to someone with a 4-year-old). i’m not saying i approve or subscribe to this necessarily, but it’s a thing & it’s weird. & it applies to pregnant ladies too. the more pregnant you are, the more superior. “oh yeah, i remember my first braxton hicks contraction…i’m just used to it now, whatever.”

      word on staying busy though. i ALWAYS feel better when i have a project. right now i’m finishing one zine, starting another, & taking on a couple of sewing projects & i’m way too happy & busy to care about what other people might be doing better than me!

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