It had been a long day of kid-wrangling and housekeeping. And by “housekeeping” I mean trying to keep the house from being destroyed by a couple of running, wrestling, snacking, spilling boys/superheroes/pirates/ninjas.
The new issue of one of my favorite magazines had arrived in the mail, like a gift from the God of Overworked Moms. (Or do we have a patron saint?) I had just settled onto the couch with a big ol’ glass of wine to relax and read it. Then I saw her.
Right there, grinning from the contributors’ page in full color was another writer I know. Knew. I’d crossed paths with her enough to know that A) she was successful and ambitious, B) she wasn’t particularly nice, and C) she didn’t seem to care about B and it certainly didn’t hold her back from A.
In an instant, my mood turned from happy anticipation to resentment and envy. How had SHE gotten an article published in that magazine? What was so great about HER? And why wasn’t it ME?
I have read that you should pay attention to what triggers your jealousy because that’s a clue about what you really want in your own life. I’m not jealous of people who score the newest designer handbag or a perfect game in bowling because I don’t care about those things. I don’t want them. But a byline in a major national magazine…
The tricky thing about jealousy is that it stirs up all kinds of other emotions, too. I felt animosity towards this writer – who, for all I knew, had experienced a spiritual awakening on one of her jaunts overseas on assignment, and was now the most gracious and pleasant person on planet Earth. But let’s be honest: it’s easier to hate someone who’s a jerk, right?
I also felt like a loser, frankly. It’s been a long time since my byline graced the pages of a major magazine, not to mention the contributor’s page (!) To put it in non-writer terms, imagine having a Facebook friend whose status updates about her fabulous Disney vacations or impossibly adorable, photogenic children are consistently “liked” by no less than 128 people. Then there’s you, who’s lucky to get a “pity-like” from your mom or best friend on any given update.
I tried to console myself with the reminder that this writer is not married and doesn’t have kids and therefore has LOADS of time to network and hobnob and write her way to publishing fame and fortune. And THEN I berated myself for making excuses because, after all, there are plenty of prolific, successful writers who have spouses and children. It’s so exhausting being me sometimes.
But here’s an interesting little fact: I have never even pitched this magazine. Never sent in my writing, never queried them, never even looked into which editor to contact with submissions. So it’s not that this other writer succeeded where I failed. I had never even TRIED.
I have infinite reasons for this. Partly, it’s because this magazine is the Holy Grail for me, and I want to be sure I’m bringing my A-game when I do pitch them. And for that to happen, I need a big block of time to work, in a quiet place where I won’t be interrupted by pirate-ninjas demanding fruit snacks, and I have to be well-rested and mentally alert and creative and confident and prepared and brilliant. I’m still waiting for that day to arrive.
And partly, of course, it’s the fear of failing. Of going through all that, only to hear “thanks, but no thanks,” or worse: no response at all.
I don’t know if this other writer pitched the magazine a dozen, 2 dozen times before she got an assignment. I don’t know if she met someone at a party and they handed her the story. I don’t know if she’s sleeping with someone on the masthead. (Not that I’m implying anything!) What I DO know is that my jealousy is telling me something. And I can only succeed if I’m willing to try.
SHOUT-OUT O’ THE DAY: Speaking of success, and in case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to instead of sending my writing out, 2 students from my most recent essay class contacted me with good news. One sold her essay to a national mag (the first one she sent it to!) and the second has an essay under consideration at one of her top-choice publications. Congrats, ladies! I’m so proud.
If you’ve been considering taking one of my classes, Personal Essays that Get Published Level 1 or Level 2, I should tell you that I’m about 90% decided that the next session, starting in Sept., may be my last. I love teaching, but I’m a mom first, then a writer, then a writing teacher, and I want to focus most of my time on the first 2. At least until my youngest is in school full-time. For more info and to sign up, go here.