“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.”
Let’s face it, now that almost every artist and their creative brother are online showing off their handiwork, it’s easier than ever to become jealous of …
I mean, sometimes it’s enough to make you want to crawl back into your creative little hole and hibernate until the coming zombie apocalypse.
Let’s not kid ourselves here. Ten years ago, we all knew that these over-achieving creative folks were out there, but at the same time, we didn’t have to sit there and stare at their virtual trophy shelf every single day.
Not that I’m blaming any of these artists for their success. After all, kudos to them for working their tails off and achieving some level of success in their creative field. I certainly don’t begrudge them that, but that doesn’t necessarily change the fact that sometimes I’m jealous as hell of them.
It’s been said that one of the requirements of being an artist or writer is to fully immerse yourself in your art. Not just diving into your own work, but also the works of others. For writers this means reading the great works of literature, for musicians listening to the classics in your chosen genre, and for visual artists this means studying the masterworks of those who came before you.
That’s fine. I have no problem with that. After all, everyone needs someone to look up to and model themselves after. I don’t have a problem with studying the old masters. What I seem to have a problem with, is studying the work of my contemporaries.
You see when it comes to the old dead masters of our craft, I can usually rationalize their success. After all, maybe they received a better education, perhaps they had more time to practice their craft, or maybe they had some wise old mentor who shared some ancient secrets with them. Whatever may have been going on there, they all ended up doing very well for themselves and that’s great. And if nothing else, at least I can take comfort in the fact that since they’re dead, they are not very likely to steal my really great idea for that book that I’ve been meaning to write.
I’m talking about the regular old artist/writer/musician that you just met on Twitter who seemingly has it all together. You know the one I’m talking about here. That artist who just booked that big show, that writer who just published their first book, or that photographer who just published a coffee table book the size of Texas [Editor: for our international readers, that’s pretty darn big]
Damn, I wish I would have thought of that! ~Me
Please don’t get the wrong idea here. It’s not that I dislike these creative contemporaries for their success. In fact some of them are the nicest people you will ever meet, but I still can’t help but feel a little jealous of their success.
Now is this just some kind of flaw in my character — probably. Look, logically I know that we’re not out here competing with one another and I realize that another artist’s success in no way diminishes my own chances of achieving my goals.
I get that.
Now having said that, I still find myself getting jealous every time I read a really good book. I still feel a bit envious whenever I see a younger writer being featured in some magazine article. And I still get upset when someone else comes up with a really good idea that may have been sitting right there in front of me the entire time.
In the end, of course, it’s not about any of them — it’s about me. It’s about me not living up to my own expectations. It’s about me having a vision that seems to be constantly just beyond my reach and ability. It’s about me not always feeling worthy of the path I have chosen for myself. And it’s about me feeling as if I have wasted so much of my time by not starting sooner and getting distracted by endless shiny objects along the way.
The author Julia Cameron put it this way in her extraordinary book “The Artist’s Way“:
“Jealousy is always a mask for fear: fear that we aren’t able to get what we want; frustration that somebody else seems to be getting what is rightfully ours even if we are too frightened to reach for it. At its root, jealousy is a stingy emotion. It doesn’t allow for the abundance and multiplicity of the universe. Jealousy tells us there is room for only one — one poet, on painter, one whatever you dream of being. . . The biggest lie that jealousy tells us is that we have no choice but to be jealous. Perversely, jealousy strips us of our will to act when action is the key to our freedom.”
This constant sense of fear, inadequacy, and jealousy is certainly not something I’m proud of, and the only reason I’m sharing any of this with you is because I suspect that I’m not entirely alone.
Please tell me that I’m not the only one who feels these things!
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.