Writes And Wrongs: Shiloh Walker On Overcoming Professional Jealousy

Best-selling author Shiloh Walker pens this column of online advice for writers. Walker is a full-time author who is published in both e-book and traditional print formats. Now she shares her experience and advice to help aspiring and published authors figure out the "Writes and Wrongs" of the writing world.

There’s sometimes a belief that making it as a professional writer requires ‘something’.

What is ‘something’? Well, for some who haven’t quite gotten the ‘something’, it’s ‘knowing’ the right people.  For others, it could be luck. The ‘something’ could be that you have to be somebody to get published. It could involve that ‘publishing’ lotto, when you write a book that just hits the mark and becomes a cultural phenomenon.

That indefinable ‘something’ is one thing that inspires professional jealousy. Seeing a fellow writer from your publishing house get ‘backing’ that you’re not getting, that’s another. Seeing somebody hit a list when you haven’t done it…yep.  

For the record, some of these things are like Bigfoot for me…I don’t quite believe in them. After all, I wasn’t anybody when I got published. I worked as a nurse, in a doctor’s office, and I didn’t know anybody. I just wrote a book. I submitted it. And somebody who I’d never met wanted to publish it.

But they can still inspire jealousy.

I think many writers deal with professional jealousy at one point or another.

The question is how well do you deal with it. Do you let it eat you alive? Do you let it turn you bitter? Do you let it get in the way so that you can’t be happy for your friends’ successes? Do you sit down and gripe about how your publisher has never given you anything Do you secretly make voodoo dolls of other writers that you see as your competition and poke them red-hot needles…okay, that last one was an exaggeration.

It’s one thing to feel a little bit of twinge when you see something happening for others that you’ve been pushing for—you can feel that tug and still be happy for your friends. You can feel that tug and still sincerely congratulate others on their successes. Or you can let it become something ugly that controls you.

Professional jealousy can too easily control a writer. If you’re still struggling to sell and you see your friends do it, and it throws you into a spiral that keeps you from writing for days, weeks, or longer…jealousy is getting in the way. If you see a fellow writer’s good news and instead of congratulating them, you decide to get all snarky online and post about how that writer was getting a free ride, how they were getting all this special treatment while you were struggling to do this, or that…it’s getting in the way.

You can’t control what happens with other writers, or their careers.

The only thing you can control is how you go forward with yours. You can write the best damn book you can. When you see a friend getting good news…even if you have that little sting of jealousy, you can be happy for them. Because that kind of good karma finds its way back around. (As does the bad…) Any good friend should be happy for a friend’s successes.

If you see a fellow writer getting what you think is ‘special’ treatment…well, it’s not your book, it’s not your career. If you spend all your time obsessing about what others are getting, and what you’re not getting…that’s a pretty good way to make certain you’re never going to get it. You’re spending energy on the wrong things.

- Shiloh Walker

Check back for the next installment of Shiloh Walker's column. Seeking more specific advice? You can ask the author any questions about the "writes and wrongs" of online behavior here. Your question might even get featured in an upcoming article. And of course, you can also follow the Shiloh Walker online daily at her website, on her Facebook page and via Twitter.