Hey Jealousy

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 8th, 20122012-11-09T04:45:08Zl, F jS, Y at 8:45 pm2012-11-09T04:45:08Zg:i a

Recently, I received a heartfelt email and I thought I would share:

Dear Julie,

I have something that is eating me inside.
How does one deal with jealously when friends and enemies option/sell their script?
In my circle of writer friends this jealousy thing is getting ugly….
People are saying bad things and” beating” each other on blog forums.
Jealousy, its so difficult to control…
Is this part of the human condition as writers?
How does one deal with it?

Signed, Jealous in Jakarta

Ah, jealousy among writers. I know it well. Believe me, I’ve felt that green-eyed monster rise up with me more than once, and I’ve seen it affect writers I know personally and infect anonymous writers online. It is a terrible feeling to have and it is a terrible feeling to have directed at you. Why can’t we all get along?!

Jealousy is a naturally occuring side effect of having a scarcity mentality – if YOU have experienced a success, that must mean there’s less success to go around for me! You got the last one! It’s Lord Of The Flies! Gimme that coconut or I will smite the crap out of you!!

Jealousy raises terrible questions. Am I talented? Am I important? Am I sexy? Will I succeed? If SHE got repped at a great agent, does that make me lesser? If HE sold a script, does that mean I no longer can hang out on this message board and be taken seriously? If SHE won that competition, is she a better writer than I? Why do I suddenly feel stupid and inadequate? Have I been wasting my time writing all these years? Boil, boil, rumble, rumble – and out comes that monster, dead set on defending your ego at all costs.

Jealousy knows no boundaries and takes no sides. If my friend gets married, I fear maybe there’s less love in this world for me. If you buy a new car, I worry that I won’t be able to do the same and my car will break down. If my cousin gets a dream job promotion, I get scared I’ll never get out of my crappy job, which I hate.  And because we humans will do just about anything to avoid feeling bad, we turn that fear outward – into bitterness and jealousy. We gossip, we attack, we judge, hell – we’ll juggle fighting weasels with machetes in their paws before we’ll just sit with the terrible feeling that maybe we can’t have what we want or need.

But here’s the thing – you can. Yes, there is enough love, validation and value for each and every person on this planet. What? Love and validation? I’m talking about cold, hard dollars! I’m talking about Beemers and red carpets and golden trophies! Waitta sec, sister, a scarcity mentality is exactly what you should have in the entertainment industry! There are hundreds of thousands of writers trying to break in and only a few dozen slots available – ever. That’s scarcity!

Well – yes. But that’s not the attitude to take. Because I’m not talking about whether or not you will experience “success” as a writer as defined by a sale, option or produced film.

The ugly truth is maybe a fraction of 1% of the readership of this blog will EVER option or sell a script. EVER. That’s the truth. And that’s being generous. But does that mean you are not a “successful” writer? I heartily think not.

Success is taking pride and joy in what you do. Success is the journey, it is the effort, it is your arc as a writer and how that writing adds depth and beauty to your life. Ahhh baloney! A sale is a sale, you new age hippy mama with a macramé butter churn!

Okay. You can define success for yourself. But know ahead of time that defining success by “winning” is a losing proposition. There are plenty of sold writers and highly paid producers and actors in Hollywood who are living up in the hills in their mansions right now who are absolutely miserable, lonely and lost. Sounds great, huh?

If someone has a success – a competition win, an option or a sale – take that as a sign that it can be done. Use the success of others to inspire you to work harder, finish that script, follow that dream. Because bathing in the poisonous stink of jealousy will indeed eat away at you inside. It will corrupt the very creativity that flows in your veins and splashes out onto the page when you write.

Go back to the central nature of why you write. Is it to impress other people online? Is it to show your folks, friends or spouse that the time you spend writing is valuable? No. You write because you can’t not write. You write because you have been seduced by the medium of the cinema and you dream about having your story grace the silver screen. You don’t write for anyone else, you write because writing is an expression of joy, passion and vision. Eff everybody else and their successes. Good for them. Raise your cup of coffee in salute – and get back to your own writing.

So my advice, Jealous in Jakarta, would be to 1) not hang around with angry, bitter, jealous types  because their bile will infect you, 2) do not hang around on message boards where these people hang out, and 3) do not fall under the tempting spell of the crazy-nasty-red-hot-gotta-scratch-it urge to be ugly and jealous yourself.

It feels sooooo good for a few minutes. Or maybe even a few days. That script sucked! That writer isn’t really that good at all! That’s not a REAL option! That manager isn’t that great! I heard that producer is a loser from Serbia! Okay. Do you feel any better now? Probably not. You probably feel like your heart is just a couple of sizes too small.

If you feel jealous, take a deep breath and sit with the feeling for a moment. Articulate it. Shit, Bob got an option, and I suddenly worry I’ve been wasting all these years and I’ve GOT to get a real job one of these days and [insert random, stream-of-consciousness worry here]. Okay, those are all valid feelings. So what are you gonna do, quit? Become an angry, bitter, ugly person and throw some coconuts at Bob? Or how about sit your ass back down and get back to work like a pro and maybe make some of your killer spaghetti sauce later?

If someone attacks you and tries to tear you down online, don’t take it personally. It’s truly, truly not about you. Anybody with a computer can sit in the privacy of their very own damp basement and hurl insults anonymously. But remember this – actual, thoughtful, intelligent, reasonable people do not act in this way. Online bullies only exist insofar as you choose to focus your attention on them – they are in the ether – quite literally. And the minute you turn off your computer and walk away, their pointless ranting drifts into nothingness.

Where would you like to choose to put your attention and focus? On all the great things about your writing and your life? Or (irrationally) on how someone else’s success could undermine all that? On online bullies who are lost in a sea of anger and futility? Or on mentors and friends and blogs that inspire you and make you a better person?

When one little fishy swims over the dam, give a cheer because that fish just proved it’s possible. But don’t forget – there’s a big scary lake on the other side of that dam and no guarantees. So don’t idealize success either. It’s all relative – dams, fish, success, happiness. Do what you have to do to be happy and wish others well. That kind of generosity of spirit and fearlessness will come back at you like a boomerang – you just watch.


  • J.J. says:

    I’v always thought of writing, all the rejection, the jealousy, etc., especially in this town, as just another version of high school. You’re in the click (you’re hot, everybody wants you); you’re the geeky one locked in your tiny writing garrett torturing yourself for your art; you’re the jock, all the cool chicks say they want to sleep with you, but the reality is none of them are sleeping with you, it’s all talk; you’re the working class slob slugging away, getting your name out there, building a career, slowly, step by step.

    You get the idea.

    And like high school, writing has you on an emotional roller coaster until you figure out none of it really matters, because you’ll either make it or you won’t. And much of what happens (like people taking about you in high school) with your career is out of your control and you just have to roll with it.

    Some people have success early, some not at all, and some after years of struggle. Whatever happens, being envious of someone else is natural, but fretting about them doesn’t help you at all, it’s just wasted effort. All you’re left with then is to focus on what you can control–and that’s your work. The rest will take care of itself.

  • Patti says:

    Excellent post — never looked at jealousy that way before or realized how much of it is based on fear. (Thank you — amazingly encouraging).

  • Ed Naxel says:

    There is a great line in ADAPTATION, when Charlie Kaufman is talking to Robert McKee:

    The characters must change, but the change has to come from them.

    He is of course, talking about how Kaufman can improve his screenplay, but it wouldn’t be in the film if there weren’t a clever subtext to it. This is a very important line in film for me, out of context it may not seem like much, but it almost summed up how I wanted to live out my career, whatever happens in it. The change must come from me.

    I’m a bit of a staunch atheist, (take it or leave it), so I don’t believe in much. What I do believe is that I am in control of my own life, and only I can make something change, and that is through hard work and determination.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that jealousy is a perfectly valid emotion, but learn from it and try and overcome it. Jealousy won’t change anything, and although it is a natural reaction, it isn’t a useful one. Acknowledge it, think practically about what you can do, step by step to alter your situation, and make each step achievable. Once you have achieved each of your simple steps, then you will find accomplishment, and will be able to disregard everyone else.

  • Kole McRae says:

    Think of it this way. Look at all the most famous people, have you noticed the people they hang out with (Jud Appatow, Seth Rogan and friends) tend to be just as succesful?

    Successful people hang out with successful people. Your hanging out with someone who just sold a big screenplay, there’s a chance your just as driven and talented as them and will sell yours.

  • Jimmy says:

    Love this post Julie.

    This can be stressful.
    I had a friend who I never thought
    would talk behind my back about my
    screenplays on a negative level. This friend(not anymore) was nasty.
    When I overheard him, I was depressed
    for months. And when I confronted him, he
    did admit that he was jealous. But
    that did not stop his hatred from my
    genre and style of screenwriitng.
    Careful guys, jealously and negativity
    and insulting others on blogs and forums
    can lead to loneliness and waste of time.

  • JS says:

    “Raise your cup of coffee in salute – and get back to your own writing”… Love it.

  • Trina says:

    Thanks for such a wise and insightful post Julie. I’m bothered when I see evidence of the jealousy thing too. I am always glad to see other people experience any form of success. I know that it doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t experience it someday too. Bottom line is, life is not fair. Never has been and I don’t expect it to be — it’s just the way it is. Complaining about it isn’t going to change it. Bad movies and TV shows get made all the time, they just got lucky. And maybe they didn’t start out bad, they just went off the rails. Taste is such a subjective thing so you keep going until you find someone that gets you. However, of course it helps to take an honest look at your work, get input, and do what it takes to make it better. Continuing to do the same thing, wondering why it’s not working, and blaming it on everyone else is the definition of insanity. If you keep doing what you did, you’re gonna keep gettin’ what you got.

  • Désirée says:

    Great post, Julie. Jealousy might be dangerous. It can eat you alive.

  • David Duval says:

    Oscar Wilde said something about hatred that I think is just as applicable to jealousy.

    “Hatred[jealousy] is a form of atrophy that binds, consumes, and destroys everything but itself.”

    Well that’s mostly he; I tinkered with it some.

    Anyway, if you’re in the company of such a person, walk away and find a better human being.

  • Brian Burke says:

    Good on pointing out the toxicity of many people.

    In defense of message boards, I moderated a popular arts-related message board for many years. I, and a few other moderators, took our job very seriously, we helped many people with advice, especially newcomers to the business, it was very rewarding for both sides. However, we had to stay vigilant against vandals and the “toxics” in defense of our well intentioned users. It was consuming, but we owed that much to our followers, defending them against open attack.

    Visitors to boards where attacks take place should notify the moderator, and make clear that it’s unacceptable for them to allow such behavior on a board they host. If that’s “modus operandi”, void the space, and encourage others to leave.

    A sure way to kill a board is to decrease its population, then start your own board, with strict guidelines concerning non-acceptable behavior. It’s ashame to pass on the technology and cameraderie just because of a few jealous people.

  • JulieGray says:

    What a lot of great, thoughtful, insightful comments! Thank you everybody!

    @Brian – you said it. It’s all in the moderator. Some moderators are pretty hands off and implicitly condone a wild west atmosphere online. I think it a shame.

  • Tom says:

    Nicely written.
    Success is being able to live your life the way you want.
    (Which means I’m still failing.)
    And I loved the way Dylan spelled it in the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” video:

  • Rob says:

    Wise words Julie :) I’ve been feeling a similar way on occasion but you just did a little to make me think it’s not all bad. So far my writing has got me 0 results and it would be so easy to fall into the trap of jealous or similar negativity but I keep telling myself that every word, even if it fails to earn a cent, is a learning experience. I can still sit back at the end of the day and I’ve gained something that’s hopefully useful. Every completed work is something to be proud of. Jealous can get lost.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

Leave a Comment

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree