Lisa Burstein

This Be Where I Blog

Writing and Jealousy- Why you can’t compare oranges and unicorns

on July 16, 2012

People are a jealous lot, probably because we can think. In the wild, if an animal has something another animal wants and that animal is bigger they just take it. If it’s smaller sometimes they pee on it, so the bigger animal doesn’t want it anymore. But people, we think, we obsess, we covet.

Before I had an agent and was published, I felt the pang of jealousy a lot. I was part of an author and writer bulletin board and would see posts each day about an author getting an agent, getting a book deal, getting two agents who wanted to fight over them in a boxing ring, getting twelve publishers wanting to fight to the death for their masterpiece. When I saw this, I would at first feel happy for the author, but then quickly my mind would travel to, “Why not me?”

I guess I thought this kind of thinking might stop once I was published, but unfortunately, I still have that voice in my head when I see an author who even though I am happy for–thrilled for– is doing “better” than me. What does better mean? It could be better sales, better exposure, better reviews, a better website, a better cover quote. It could really mean anything that my crazy human mind is deciding to use as a point of comparison.

So yes, I admit I feel  jealous sometimes. I think it’s unavoidable.

Here’s something interesting though. I know an author on the NYT Bestseller list and in conversations with her I have learned that she gets just as neurotic about sales as I do. Even with her thousands and thousands of sales a day she is still worried about sales.


So this made me think. Her life seems worry-free to me. I would *kill* for the sales she has. Her admission helped me realize that there are probably some people out there who are jealous of me. Of my “success” that I am undermining by feeling jealous of others. I felt shame in how shocked those people would be that I also felt jealous, in the same way I was shocked that she worried about her sales.

This author’s book is different from mine, so I could never expect to have the same sales she does. Just like every writer has a different path and can’t expect an agent, book deal, success overnight.

Books are different, because people are different and we want them to be. We want to hear different voices. We want to be able to see different perspectives. Not all books can be the next Hunger Games and we shouldn’t want them to be, or every book would be like the Hunger Games.

Feeling jealous about our writing is like trying to compare oranges to unicorns. Sure unicorns are special and beautiful and magnificent, but you can’t eat a unicorn (unless you’re one sick puppy), you can’t smell a unicorn and think about sun-drenched citrus groves.

No one’s work is just like yours. No one’s path is just like yours. It’s all about finding your path, your readers, your voice. If you feel jealousy you are denying your contribution, you are saying that it is not as worthy as someone else’s.


There is only so much in this business you can control, so try not to let jealousy control you. Next time the little green monster comes calling tell him to take a hike because you’re writing about sun-drenched citrus groves.




12 responses to “Writing and Jealousy- Why you can’t compare oranges and unicorns

  1. GREAT post, Lisa. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!!

  2. Annie Quinty says:

    From wherever you are you must have read my mind 🙂 It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past few weeks. I’m still unpublished but I have some finished maunuscripts and WIPs. I keep submitting and rewriting. Being on Twitter and Facebook is helpful and sometimes discouraging. It’s good to be reminded by wise words like yours that each path and each voice is different.
    Very inspiring!

  3. Nely Cab says:

    This is a wonderful post. I know that a lot of authors –unpublished, self-published, traditionally published — deal with this on a daily basis. It’s just human nature, I guess. We can’t help it, but we can learn to be patient for when our time comes to shine brighter. Who knows, maybe we already shine and don’t know it.

  4. Great post. This is something I’ve been working on – in writing and in life – and it’s nice to hear I’m not alone 🙂

  5. Chloe Jacobs says:

    Very cool way to think about it!

  6. MTG Reviews says:

    WOW. I am so proud of you for laying ti all out there. This is such a truth to being human, not just in the publishing industry, but also elsewhere. As a hopeful author, I am more jealous of those who have the guts to do what I haven’t yet, and that is to seriously make an effort to become published. Thanks for the kick in the rear! 😉

  7. June says:

    As you implied, jealousy is such a part of human nature, but I suspect a lot of this that we see today is directly exacerbated by social media. Every breath that someone breathes is known and data that you would have had no idea about in the past, becomes known instantaneoulsy. It pressures people to feel they have to keep up, they’re getting left behind, etc. It’s important to have a firm sense of self and remember, no one’s success, affects your own—but it can still be tough! Thanks for an honest and down-to-earth post, Lisa 🙂

  8. Lisa Kessler says:

    I think our society pushes us to all “be the best” too… Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight that there’s room for everyone and besides…

    Every tiny step is a step closer to World Domination!!!!! Muahahahahahaha!!!


    Sorry the green monster got my keyboard… LOL

    Great post Lisa!

    Lisa 🙂

  9. Karen Akins says:

    Such a good post. So true. I feel so blessed in my career so far, fledgling as it is. But it’s easy to forget those blessings when you start comparing them to others. And that’s a hard (and pointless) way to live life.

  10. I think we all meet the green-eyed monster at times, especially when we see others doing better. We need to remember that the journey is different for every writer. There’s no right way, just “our” way.

  11. Rachel Schieffelbein says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing, and reminding us that we all feel this way sometimes. And to knock it off. 😉

  12. Awesome post. I am so with you on that we just need to stop and kinda run our own race. It’s not good to compare yourself to others because everybody is different and their journey is different from yours. SO yea, rock on and good for you for being so honest and thanks for sharing this with us. 🙂

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