Spend any amount of time in this business, and you’ll encounter professional jealousy. Sometimes, you’re the target. Other times, you’re the sniper. As a parent, I’ve always told my children that envy is a wasted emotion–unless it spurs you to improve something about you. This advice is doubly appropriate in publishing.

Writing is not a foot race: there is no real winner, no clock that winds down, no finish line. We all arrive at our goal via different methods, at different times, and in different ways. Yet, every time a new author hits it big, writers around the Internet indulge in the Why Not Me game. Why did she get that big publishing deal? Why not me? Why did that agent like his work? Why not me? Why is she on the NY Times bestseller list? Why not me? Why does he have so many books published? Why not me? Why are his books in the brick & mortar stores? Why not me?

This is a natural reaction and will occur any time someone else wins the lottery, gets his/her big break in the majors, or receives that promotion you wanted. It’s part of our genetic makeup: our competitive edge. When used to spur improvement in yourself, envy can be a good thing. Play the Why Not Me game with an eye toward figuring out how you can propel yourself to that vaunted status. What did that author do differently that you can emulate (NOT plagiarize!) Figure out how to improve your odds by strengthening your weaknesses.

Envy becomes a problem WHEN YOU LET IT. How? By minimizing someone else’s success through insults or full-frontal attack. If you find yourself saying things like, “That writer sucks and doesn’t deserve that new book deal,” or, “Only morons read his stuff,” take a step back. Worse, if you use your energies to sabotage, insult, or impede another’s successes, take a good long look in the mirror. Why on earth would you expend time and attention on someone else? Are you so lazy that you prefer to drag someone else through the muck, rather than admit you don’t have what it takes? Do you feel better by diminishing someone else? If so, your ugliness is showing.

So what should you do if you find yourself the target of such destructive envy? Don’t sink to your attacker’s level. Remain true to yourself, keep your eyes focused on your goal, and continue to succeed. That’ll shut ’em up.

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