Jealousy is a green-eyed monster. I have always envisioned my jealousy like a green-skinned Medusa, with eyes that glow in the dark and poisonous snakes for hair. Jealousy hisses at me. Jealousy will break my heart. She will turn me to stone. But it can also be a powerful motivator. It is what we do with our jealousy that matters. Does it make you sulk and feel bad? Or do you step up and reach for whatever you a jealous of? I’ve done both. Now I am using my jealousy to fuel my creativity. I am jealous of other artists and other writers. I cannot quell my jealousy. But I can make it work for me.
I have thought too many times, “I could do that.” But not if I did not try. I could not do “that” if I didn’t write it. Eventually I just had to tell myself, “Put up or shut up.” I told myself those very words, I spoke them aloud. If I was a better writer than some of the people who were getting paid, prove it.
I have gotten a few paychecks, so now I’m all legit. I am doing it! But my jealousy hasn’t gone away. I am jealous that I didn’t believe in myself sooner. I wonder what it would like to have always believed in myself. Are there people really like that? I’m jealous of that. I can’t let my art-jealousy pull me down. It’s just a mire of self-doubt and loathing. I know that feeling. I was feeling that way last just week. It ebbs and flows.
I am inspired and full of hope today. One small paycheck can do that. My lifelong dream of becoming a writer has come true! All it took was sitting down and forcing myself to write. Every single day. Even if some day it sucks, I still have to write it. That’s what I’m doing “write” now. (God, I love puns!) I’m sure not how this is going to turn out, I might scrap it. Nobody might read this. But I still have to write it. It’s hard sometimes. I don’t mean to suggest that it is not work. It’s damn hard. Some days the words will not come. Other days the words come but they are all wrong and don’t make sense. Some days I write thousands of words in a few short hours. Other days I can hardly string together enough words to make a complete sentence. But I write it down anyway. Maybe I can salvage it later.
I cannibalize my own work. Something that I began as an essay might end up in my novel or vice versa. So far I have cut over nine pages out of my novel. Not all of that is lost. Some of it might end up in my blog or a short story. I have to just sit down and write it out. Every day. I cannot stress that enough. I have to do it every day or I won’t do it at all. It gets easier the more time goes on. I can write something every day even if I don’t like what comes out and I want to throw it away. I’ll edit it later. Or not. I just keep writing and eventually I write something that impresses me.
I like to think that I know good writing when I read it. I’m an avid reader. It is not unusual for me to read an entire book in one day. “The Magician’s Assistant” by Ann Patchett currently holds the most recent book in a day position. (By the time I finished editing this I also read “The Mammoth Cheese” and “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” in a day each.) I read enough to have a good sense of what I like. And when I read something that I have written and it rings true, it’s like a Christmas present.
One of my favorite lines that I’ve written lately was, “Marie watched Sarah like she was making change.” Think about it. How intently do you watch someone who is giving you your change? Good imagery, huh? It’s like Christmas morning for me! Take that Jealousy!