I am frequently disturbed at the gap between what I’ve observed or experienced and what I’m able to remember about it. Short-term memory, long-term memory, it doesn’t seem to matter: If I don’t feel consciously invested in remembering, I probably won’t. It’s so ridiculous at times that my tailor switched my nickname from Danielle-of-Opinions to Danielle-of-…um-…uh-I-Forget. So the fact that I’m about to build a blog post around an article I read all the way back in September ought to tell you something right there.
All those many, many months ago (read: ~Four), the Gotham Writers’ Workshop newsletter featured a piece entitled “Writer Envy” by Kerry Cohen. To convey some of the main idea through an apropos quote (no, not from memory, are you kidding? I’ve got the link up, yo): “I… know what it’s like to feel green with envy as a writer, to feel envy worm its way through my consciousness, slippery and unforgiving. Let’s face it: Most of us know this feeling. No need to remind anyone that envy is one of the seven deadly sins—with good reason. It makes us act in terrible, irrational ways.”
And if I hadn’t been hanging my head already, at that point, I sure was then, because I knew exactly what she was talking about. Confession: I have been known to suffer from “a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another” – both in relation to writing, and in other spheres.
As Cohen points out, envy is indeed known as one of the traditional seven deadly sins. Name them all, Tailor!
“Pride, wrath, sloth, lust, greed, envy, and gluttony,” Edgwyn recites.
Very good. A question on the subject comes up in the “Anything and Everything Character Questionnaire”, you see, readers, and I thought we’d have better luck remembering the list if Danielle-of-…um-…uh-I-Forget didn’t bother and just made Edgwyn do it. He knows the combined two sets of the seven virtues, too! Indulge us, sir?
“Just write your blog post,” he mumbles, embarrassed that I’m trying to show him off. He’s right, though, I digress…
I’m not sure what my opinion is on feelings being sins, but I know beyond doubt that feelings left to run amok can quite easily lead to poor choices, and thence to regret. In the article, Cohen recalls a friendship ruined due to envy on her part. Sad to say, I can relate to that, too. (There was a boy, I was a fool… Fill in the rest.) She also makes mention of someone posting a nasty review of her writing out of envious spite. (That doesn’t sound like anything I’d ever do, but it just goes to show the potential fruits of what began as just a feeling.) And at the very least, sitting around in a stew because someone else has something you want is making you unnecessarily miserable, so congratulations on being your own victim number one.
In the interests of being a better and more content person, I’m trying to put a check on my reflex to sneer at others who’ve done no wrong other than appear to be coming out ahead of me somehow. It can be hard. Bitter thoughts crying, “Foul! Foul! It should have been me!” seem all too natural a part of my internal makeup, particularly when it comes to writerly accomplishments. Why is that? Cohen suggests, “Perhaps for writers especially, envy comes from a refusal to fully see other people. It’s about being caught up in all the ways we were wronged in our lives, or all the things we haven’t yet gotten. It keeps us from compassion and honesty, and from genuine connection.”
She may have a point. I’ve noticed that, for all I’ve been reading more about fellow authors doing their authorial thing through their blogs since starting Ever On Word last fall, I’ve actually spent very little time and energy in resenting them for having already published or having tons of followers. I supposed maybe it was just me suddenly deciding to mature, but no, I think there’s more to it than that. I think it’s because, in reading their blogs and trading comments and all that jazz, I stopped seeing them as “People” (y’know, the world full of dubious Others), and started seeing them as persons. Persons like me, who like writing, and who want other people to see what they’ve written, and who hope that they like it. Well, how am I supposed to stay irrationally angry at persons like that? What, should I go out and kick a puppy, next?
To review, then: Envy is, at best, hurting only me, and most of the people I might be inclined to envy aren’t worth that kind of fuss.
Eyes laughing, Edgwyn offers, “Would you like me to remember that for you?”
I’ll make a conscious investment, thanks, and I think we’ll be good.