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ACAB | ♠️ | A teacher, student, writer, and opinionated reader. Responsible for cleverpun's Critique Corner. | Donate via Ko-fi

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Writing 101: Jealousy · 12:54am Aug 2nd, 2020

Before we get into today’s blog topic, I just want to quickly revisit some of the political stuff from my second-to-last blog post.

Bad news: there’s still feds running around kidnapping people. They've retreated from Portland, but are explicitly being sent to other cities.

Good news: the backlash and outrage to it continues. And this includes several organizations suing the Department of Homeland Security about it.

I would highly recommend that anyone interested check out the American Civil Liberties Union and their website.

Oh, and six more people unfollowed me after I posted that. So :shrugpony:

So let’s continue on, shall we?

On my writing journey, I’ve interacted with a lot of people. Both as an editor and a writer. And one of the stranger emotions to encounter in writing has always been jealousy.

I’ve had people express jealousy of my writing. I remember one time, I was helping someone edit their pony fanfic. It was a post-apocalyptic affair, heavily atmospheric and moody. And I wrote some suggestions/examples in my notes. “This is a good skeleton, but you need more description. Here’s some examples of details you could add [two paragraphs of prose].” They reacted by lamenting they would never be able to “write as well as that.” It almost caused them to abandon the entire story. And a similar thing happened again not long after. This is about the time I stopped putting prose examples in my fanfiction critiques.

And I’ve been jealous too. I lost count of how many times I would look at the feature box, and lament the presence of a particular story or author. “They don’t deserve it,” I would think to myself. Just recently, I started going to a writer’s meetup IRL, where we swap writing samples and give feedback. One of the authors there has actually been published: their first drafts are often so polished, that I only find a few typos worth commenting on. When I first went there, it was my turn to lament how I could never write that well. To wallow in self-pity at how much better these writers were than I.

But these feelings are not healthy. Jealousy is a combination of many different emotions. Anger, resentment, insecurity. Jealousy is not a productive emotion in writing. Even as a motivator, it is an emotionally draining and destructive state to be in.

We are only human. We feel feelings and emote emotions, instinctively and reflexively. So I’m not gonna sit here and type that you should never feel jealousy, never dare to feel a certain way.

But when you do feel jealous—be it of another’s writing, or editing, or follower count, or whatever else—recognize it. Accept it. Don’t run away from it. But don’t let it control you. See it for what it is: a dangerous, self-destructive emotion.

Especially in the world of writing, jealousy is unhealthy. If someone is better than you, then that means you can learn from them. Look at the gap between you and them, and discard that anger. Replace it with the desire to learn and do better.

I know this is easier said than done. I’m as human as you are. I’ve been jealous of others. I’ve experienced the jealousy of others, and felt strangely proud. But when those authors expressed jealousy of my edits, I was quick to point out that all I did was build on their writing. I added flesh to a skeleton that they made.

Writing is a strange hobby. It requires work and effort and evolution. And not every emotion involved is always pleasant. But we can recognize those emotions and react to them appropriately.

Thanks for reading.

Comments ( 20 )

At first glance I thought this was going to be about how to write jealousy effectively in a story. It's at least transferrable knowledge!

Whenever I start to feel jealous about someone else's writing, I remind myself that my writing is not necessarily worse—just different. Sure, some authors are objectively better at the craft than others, but I think once you reach a certain skill level, it becomes a much more subjective thing.

All writers have strengths and weaknesses, and all readers have preferences and deterrents. Sometimes those overlap in ways that lead to jealousy. For instance, I really enjoy a well-written action sequence, but I'm mediocre at writing them myself, so whenever I see it done well, I can't help but feel a twinge of jealousy. Contrariwise, I know that I have a solid grasp of how to differentiate character voices and have a talent for slice of life, both of which can be stumbling blocks for a lot of authors.

At the end of the day, I think it's important to recognize where your skills lie and to accept that you're never going to be the best at every aspect of writing. Once you come to terms with that, it makes it a lot easier for that jealousy to evolve into admiration.

Wydril #2 · Aug 2nd, 2020 · · 5 ·

Stormtroopers? Cool, which armor version were they using? The scout armor is my favorite, and the snow-variant was also pretty well done. Some of the later ones from the EU like deep-space armor were pretty neat too, with miniature proton torpedo launchers. Once Disney got control of it the armors went to hell though, way over-designed and unnecessarily specialized into too many different roles while still trying to slap the "stormtrooper" label onto them. The Empire had tons of different types of units, and the stormtroopers were a specific unit with a specific purpose, not a catch-all term for every single soldier they had.

I'm not going to try adding anything, because this is so very well said. Thank you for this.

Wait, are there pro-Gestapo people? Like, in real life? How?

5326979 Haha. I did consider giving this a longer title. Or perhaps labeling it Creation 101 instead.

That's a healthy mindset to have! Indeed, the subjectivity of writing often means that jealousy is misplaced to begin with. I used to think of myself as being good at dialogue and bad at action scenes. Yet when I brought an action scene to that aforementioned writing group, they all complimented it highly.

Our estimation of our strengths and weaknesses can often be incorrect, and not in a positive way. The best we can hope for is to improve over time. And, as you said, to try and redirect our jealousy towards admiration and respect.

5327070 The American government is the pro-Gestapo people. The Department of Homeland Security has been using inflammatory, propaganda-style rhetoric to demonize the protestors and justify all sorts of brutal and illegal tactics against them. Including federal agents—wearing no markings—taking people into unmarked vans and driving them around for hours. Some more details are in my previous blog post, though it is by no means comprehensive.

While these agents have—so far—released the people they kidnapped, the parallels between the SS and Gestapo are impossible to ignore.

And that's not even getting into all the right-wing militia who are doing equally dangerous things, while the police ignore them.

5326990 Unfortunately, this is ill-timed and in poor taste.

Federal agents disappearing people is not something worth joking about.

I wasn't joking, it's an allegory. Why did you think it was a joke?

Oh, I've felt this more times than I can count. But I think it really did push me to become better, still does really. :ajsmug:

5327131 Then the woosh is real. :raritydespair:

Despite reading the whole thing, the parallels were not explicit enough.

5327163 I specifically mentioned this in my post. Aspiration is a healthy motivator. Respect and admiration can be inspiring. But jealousy is all those emotions twisted into something self-destructive. Instead of "how can I get to this level?", jealousy often becomes "why am I so bad?" or "I'll never be this good."

Jealousy is the enemy of self-esteem. It has no place in a writer's toolbox of emotions.


While these agents have—so far—released the people they kidnapped, the parallels between the SS and Gestapo are impossible to ignore.

Clever, I love ya, but invoking Godwin's Law like this is kinda reckless (and arguably in bad taste). For one, these tactics are not unique to the Nazis; these tactics predate the Nazis, and would be used after the Third Reich fell, including by powers supposedly very much anti-Nazi. Also, if someone asked you, "Aw jeez, what're these federal agents doing with the people they kidnap?" and you respond (correctly) with, "Well... they release them," that's not a convincing argument for the melodramatic Nazi comparison. The feds are a bunch of spooks, but the worst I've seen them do is pick up people who're peacefully protesting (and this is only some of the time, some of these protestors are violent shitheads) and then release them. One thing they're not is genocidal maniacs who send off queer folks and the disabled like myself to concentration camps. Like the actual gestapo? We are nowhere near that point and you know it.

5327337 I am possibly being melodramatic. Possibly. But when I first heard this news, it scared the shit out of me. It shook me, to my core and beyond. I'm still not entirely sure the shock has worn off.

There are countless others besides the Nazis who have committed atrocities, yes. I used the Nazis because they are the clearest and most memorable example from recent history. Russia has done it, is doing it. One of the posters on a previous blog post brought up Argentina. I could go on and on with historical examples.

I don't want to be alarmist. Alarmism and paranoia can be just as dangerous as other types of propaganda. And really, this overly strong, reflexive reaction is just what they want.

I know—rationally—that you're right. But it's really hard watching my country do these despicable things and not reacting strongly to it...

I know how you feel. I've had to wrestle with this kind of vitriol for the past couple months. I've gotten into some pretty heated arguments, including with my own parents. One of my best friends lives in Chicago. Big cuddly guy, like a teddy bear, usually doesn't get involved in politics. He called me up one day and told me he was worried about the feds being sent into his city. What happened in Ferguson some five years ago seems like child's play compared to what is happening now.

Listen. You're a teacher, a writer, an avid reader. I've known you (at least in a cursory internet sense) for years. You're a smart cookie. It worries me when someone as knowledgeable as yourself starts throwing around Nazi comparisons like confetti, because I know you're much better than that, and I also know that we need voices of reason in this trying time. Help people by being that voice of reason.


5327356 As I said, you're right. Thank you. Sometimes it's easy to get stuck in the internet echo chamber and let fear overtake reason. TitaniumDragon gave me a reality check on my last blog post, but it seems I needed another. I'll surely need more, before the year is over. :trixieshiftright::derpytongue2:

With that in mind, I edited the post to remove the Nazi comparison. I'll leave my comments unedited, so that future people can witness my minor breakdown unaltered.

It's strange times, when FIMfic is the place I go to for reasonable takes on politics.

It may not be, but it is a human emotion that can push us to do better. It's not a healthy one to focus on, of course not, but it must exist for a reason. :rainbowwild:

Might be more focused when someone is younger and far more immature, but I can imagine a young child or young adult feeling jealous of someone enough to push to be better. Trying to get to a target they think they'll never reach. Maybe they pass it one day and forget all about their less mature emotions?

Well now my stormtrooper post just looks totally out of place and deranged.

5327661 Well, more out of place and more deranged.

Sorry. But based on the downvote count, I am not the only one who got wooshed by it. :derpytongue2:

5327659 But other emotions can spur development and improvement. We as creators should strive to do better for ourselves.

Yeah, negative emotions exist. And yeah, they can be leashed long enough to do something useful. But there's always the (very likely) chance they'll run out of control and hurt you.

There's a common narrative that bad things make for better/more creativity. Hard drugs, depression, addiction... Jealousy may not be as extreme as any of those, but it's the same idea.

You can create without hurting yourself. And jealousy is one of many things that can hurt you.

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