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The Blinding Power of the Green-Eyed Monster

It’s one thing to talk about celebrity authors or authors that we’ve been in love with since childhood. Madeleine L’Engle, Stephen King, Neal Stephenson, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov. There are few quibbles about their right to be in the hallowed halls of fame.

But what happens when a “nobody” rises to fame? What happens when somebody much like yourself (or — horrors! — even less experienced than yourself) becomes popular or is touted as great by those around you?

Have you ever heard that little voice whispering, “Why are they getting all the attention? What about me?”

The Plight of Boromir

Boromir fell into this trap. From the beginning, he was envious of Frodo’s assignment as the Ring Bearer. He could not believe that this inferior little person was being given this enormous responsibility and the much-desired Ring of Power. Why was this fluffy-footed little halfling getting all the attention?

boromir-council-of-elrond

Eventually, his envy (which was really rooted in his pride — another dangerous thing that twists our view of the world) caused the breaking of the Fellowship and the departure of the Ring to Mordor in the hands of two unprotected hobbits. His blind desire for the Ring and contempt for the chosen Ring Bearer put the world into more danger than ever. Instead of protecting and supporting the one who was chosen to carry the burden, he drove him away and into the grasp of the treacherous Gollum.

Envy clouds your view

Envy has never ended well for fantasy characters. The Queen step-mother of Snow White was obsessed with being the most beautiful and it twisted her into the most wicked. Whatever you focus on and give attention to will loom larger in your mind. The step-sisters of Cinderella were terribly envious of her beauty and overall sweetness. They mutilated themselves, trying to fit her mold (the slipper). They could have had a wonderful life as the sisters of the new Queen, but instead their eyes were pecked out by vengeful birds or they were relegated to servanthood, depending on the story version.

When you are busy envying someone else’s success, you are wasting energy. Not only that, but envy leads to blindness and poor decision-making. Two common pitfalls: either you will try to copy the other person’s success (without considering whether it fits your own brand and personality and goals) or you will reject their entire approach (missing out on some excellent tactics because you simply Will… Not… Be… Like… Them).

The cure for green-eye disease

The next time you see someone promoted for something they’re doing well, and you get the greens, try this recipe for a cure. I have it on good authority that the success rate is over 95% if applied consistently whenever symptoms appear.

First of all, remind yourself of the truth. Put it on a post-it note: “Envy is ignorance” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. “There are enough readers for everyone.” Bookmark a few statistics or articles that remind you: today’s marketplace rewards cooperation, not competition. Return to them when you need a reminder.

Next, take positive action towards the other author. Congratulate them. Learn from their success. Share their story on social media. Celebrate with them. Don’t let the green-eyed monster climb onto your back and wrap his long, slimy fingers over your eyes.

Envy isn’t new and it isn’t just you. Here are some articles that may help:

We are stronger together

One of the core values of the #SpecFicCollective is that we are stronger together than we are apart. Today’s publishing landscape is not the same cutthroat situation that it was when a few publishers had only a few spots each year for a few books. There was a time when authors might have been rewarded for acting competitively instead of cooperatively.

But today is not that day.

Today, an individual author may have what it takes to succeed alone. But a Fellowship of authors will always do better — if we are working together with the shared understanding that success for one contributes to the success of all. Acts of generosity, mutual promotion, shared readership and collaborative marketing are exponentially more effective in today’s world of social media and book marketing.

Action Items

  • Search online for an author in your genre who received an award or recognition. Someone who is being interviewed on a big name website. Now promote their book. Say something nice about them. Celebrate their success.
  • Think back to the last time you were attacked by the green-eyed monster. Write a private journal entry stating what happened and why you envied the other person. End the entry by saying something nice about the person and with this statement: “Their success does not detract from mine. There is enough success for both of us.”
  • Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Do you agree that we are stronger together than apart? Or do you see other authors as your competition? Why or why not?

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4 Responses to The Blinding Power of the Green-Eyed Monster

  1. Janeen Ippolito November 2, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    Good post! I agree that envy is a real creative buzz-kill. I read through some of the scarcity posts and they had a lot of good content.

    That being said? This whole talk of “abundance” and everything isn’t the only mantra out there. How many times has an agent or publisher said

    -There isn’t room in the market for this.
    -We don’t have space for this in our line-up.
    -You came too late. The genre is full.
    -There isn’t a place for this. Period.
    -This voice/style/concept is too (insert word). It won’t fit.

    Now, people have their on freedom of speech. But this idea of abundance is ignoring that in some respects, there IS scarcity. Publishing houses do have limited space. Agents have a limit to the number of clients they’ll take on. Both need to go for projects that they believe in, and also that will make them money, because they are in a business too. They have mouths to feed and bills to pay and in order to do both of those things, they need to take on clients and people that they not only respect, but that they feel have a chance of succeeding. This isn’t being mean. This is part of life.

    As far as it not being a competition–then what are writing contents exactly? I mean, there absolutely needs to be good sportsmanship and fair play, but those are competitions.

    That being said? There is self-publishing. There are indie presses. There are a number of other ways to find success as a writer. All of those tend to cost money, especially at first. Which is partly what leads to the complaint. Blood, sweat, and tears hurt after a while. 😉

    It’s important for the writer/author to define what success is for them. Why are they writing? What’s their vision for the future? It goes back to the beginning of marketing. What is the heart of the artist?

    If you need a book deal to be satisfied, then a book deal won’t be enough. If you need ten thousand followers to be satisfied, then it won’t be enough. Readers will sniff out both of those in a heartbeat (and marketers prey on those ideas, as one blog post said).

    As you mentioned in your comment about Zachary D. Totah: be a genuine, authentic fan and passionate about what you are doing–and then be passionate about what other people are doing. And then go ahead, with humility, determination, and openness to change.

    Okay, rant over. Thanks for reading. 😉

    • #SpecFicCollective November 2, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

      Fantastic points, Janeen. Thank you for voicing what many (I’m sure) are thinking. Great opportunity to talk about one of the elephants in the room: There IS competition. There ARE limited opportunities (when pursuing certain goals). What do we do about that?

      In a way, this boils down to a very basic psychological choice. What will we choose to focus on? The very real limits on certain opportunities? Or the very real unlimited opportunities of the new publishing world? Both things are true. Both things are out there.

      Focus is powerful. Focus determines direction of energy. Focus determines scope of sight and direction of thought. When we focus on the negative, we expend energy that does not empower us or improve our plight. It blinds us to opportunities and ideas for improvement.

      When we focus on the positive, our energy is directed in ways that improve our situation. We notice the potential for opportunity and try new things. We expect to eventually find something that works, which keeps us trying. The longer we do this the more likely our success.

      The concept of abundance absolutely does require first that one chooses a particular (positive) outlook on life and publishing. It will be true of those who choose to embrace it.

      My hope is that the #SpecFicCollective will attract authors who are willing to make the conscious choice to embrace the positive outlook. Authors who want to keep trying until they find the combination of things that results in success.

      What then? Are only abundance-thinkers welcome here? No! You don’t have to be like that when you start. Many authors carry wounds and burdens and experiences that have resulted in a less than optimistic outlook. Like you said, Janeen, “blood, sweat and tears hurt after a while”. The pain is real.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I’d love to hear what others think about this. Speak out bravely, friends! This Collective will be more helpful to its members if we share where we are and wrestle together with the monsters we face.

      Regardless of where we are when we first join the Collective, I hope to share not only branding and marketing strategies that work, but also encourage deep paradigm shifts that give authors a more robust outlook on their work. An outlook that will enable authors to have hope during disappointment, to have strength during grueling challenges, and the ability to “never give up, never surrender!”

  2. J. L. Mbewe January 4, 2016 at 7:27 pm #

    I do not see authors as my competition. I blogged a while back on the topic of Book Soul Mates. I think as readers we are looking for the next great adventure that connects deep with us like a soul mate. Some books will do that, but not all. We all have different tastes and preferences. Some books I have LOVED and I marvel at how some of my writerly friends can’t even stand them or let alone finish the same books that I have loved. Once a story is read, readers want to read another one, and so on and so forth. If they loved mine, then they’ll come back. If they haven’t, then I need to either grow as a writer or my story wasn’t for them. No big deal.

    I think with contests and all, it’s way for us to gauge where we are at in our craft. Reading is subjective and I’m sure that comes into play a little, depending on the contests, but there is no doubt when an author has a good handle on description, plot, character-building, world-building, etc. So….even then I don’t necessarily see it as competition, but an opportunity to learn how to become a better author or appreciate someone else’s craft.

    I do believe we are stronger together. Writing is quite a lonely and long journey, so it is nice to be able to come along side and encourage those who are starting out as well as learning how to do it ourselves. But not with just the writing aspect and learning the craft. There is so much to learn in this field and not a very clear cut way of doing it.

    Thinking about the publishing aspect, since I’ve gone indie, I’ve been toying the idea with how we authors with different strengths can help each other out to reach our goals. Cover design, editing, formatting, etc. Perhaps it’s finding the people we connect with similar desires and similar commitment levels. I don’t know. Perhaps the industry will level out a bit in the years to come and we’ll have more clarity in the pursuit of publication and such.

    • #SpecFicCollective January 4, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

      It’s a great idea to partner with folks who have complementary skillsets. One of my hopes for the #SpecFicCollective is to see people connecting with each other over some of these concepts and forming those kinds of collaborative groups.

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