CREATIVITY & JEALOUSY: STORIES
Have you ever felt so jealous you thought you might puke and/or cry? Because I have.
Jealousy has been a pretty big problem in most areas of my life for most of my life, and it’s only been within the last couple years that I’ve begun working on those feelings. When I was a kid, I had a hard time going to birthday parties because my friends’ families had more money than mine, so they got fancier gifts that I knew I could never have, and then I grew up to be jealous of lots of people for lots of things, one of the most notable being jealousy/envy of people who make good art, write good things, and especially people who can make a living doing that stuff. It used to be so bad that it would actually incapacitate me; I would simply read a good zine or blog entry or even a single sentence, and then just freeze (and even become angry at someone for creating something so beautiful).
I’m writing both as someone who has experienced a ludicrous amount of jealousy for my friends & acquaintances and their “artistic successes”, and also someone who has been told by others that they have felt jealous about the things I write and the things I do. I still have a hard time creating & sharing; it’s scary on so many levels.
My friend Clara Bee recently asked how we deal with jealousy in the realm of creativity. She said, “ATTENTION ARTISTS: Do you suffer from ~*professional envy/jealousy*~? Does it make you feel like an unproductive, talentless jerk? How do we combat envy of others’ work (and the petty in-fighting it can lead to)? What are your strategies? Should we be gentle with ourselves? Firm? Both? Like tofu?”
The journey to even begin trying to understand my feelings of jealousy started with this:
1. Riot grrrl politics, especially these two parts of the riot grrrl manifesto: BECAUSE we are interested in creating non-hierarchical ways of being AND making music, friends, and scenes based on communication + understanding, instead of competition + good/bad categorizations and BECAUSE we are unwilling to let our real and valid anger be diffused and/or turned against us via the internalization of sexism as witnessed in girl/girl jealousism and self defeating girltype behaviours.
2. Realizing I was quietly & secretly jealous in my relationships and that my jealousy was destroying my self-esteem and mental health (and my crummy self-esteem was creating more jealousy / feelings of I’m not good enough, etc.).
3. Knowing that if I don’t create, I can’t live, and that I am writing to take care of myself and tell stories and become the person I want to be, and that this is not a competition (and that, in fact, competition is boring & destructive & embarrassing).
Sometimes it wasn’t the art I was jealous of, but the fact that somebody seemed to be having more success than me. This especially bothered me when I felt that what they were doing was mediocre and boring compared to what I was doing (I know that might sound arrogant, but I need to say it). The thing is, I hadn’t figured out what “success” meant to me yet (hint: it doesn’t always mean money & fame & adoration and all your dreams magically coming true at once), and I hadn’t yet learned that the way I perceive somebody else’s life is not necessarily the way it really is. I was really good at projecting all my fears and insecurities onto other people, and letting it wreck me. It’s important to remember that a lot of artists choose to document publicly only the more positive things going on with their lives and their art, and it’s easy for us to forget that they’re also going through a lot of shitty days, times when their self-confidence has disappeared, days when they are feeling stuck and unable to create, days when they are too broke to eat and too sad to make things, etc.
I remember the exact moment I realized my jealousy wasn’t killing me anymore. It was last March, looking at so many zines & books on the shelves at Quimby’s in Chicago when I was there for the Chicago Zinefest, and just knowing that all those wonderful things people were writing & doing, I could do those things, too (or different things), and I didn’t feel like they were better than me, ahead of me, more interesting than me, cooler than me, blah blah… I reached a point where I realized my life was finally coming together the way I wanted it to, and I suddenly felt inspired, capable, and determined.
CREATIVITY & JEALOUSY: HOW TO DEAL
1. Write down what your jealousy feels like, why you feel jealous, who or what you feel jealous of. Be disgustingly honest. Nobody else has to read it.
2. Write down ways you feel inadequate in your art. Now write down the opposite.
3. Allow yourself to feel jealous and make art anyway.
4. Learn how to be inspired without emulating somebody else’s style. Be more like yourself, not more like somebody else.
5. Ask yourself why you are making what you’re making. Find reasons to keep on going regardless of jealousy, envy, frustration, etc.
6. Know that there is no limit to your own creativity, and that there is more than enough room in the world for all of our art.
7. Know that you have your own voice, and that your voice is valuable and necessary.
8. Understand that creativity is more about process than outcome. Learn to love the process at least as much as the result.
9. Know that somebody else (a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger) succeeding does not mean that you are failing. What you do might seem less visible or less popular than what somebody else is doing right now, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthwhile or valuable.
10. Talk to artists/writers/musicians/whoever you’re really into. Talk about how you’re feeling, ask them how they deal, ask them about their processes, tell them about yours. Maybe some of them are actually jealous of you! Share stories and encouragement, work together, organize together.
BOOKS TO INSPIRE YOU
What It Is by Lynda Barry
The Sound of Paper: Starting From Scratch by Julia Cameron
Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg
Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day by SARK
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev
Do you ever feel jealous of other zinesters, bloggers, writers, musicians, illustrators, and artists? What is it that you feel jealous of, and what do you do when your feelings of jealousy get particularly bad? Have you found ways to move through your jealousies and make art anyway? How do you react to your friends’ & acquaintances’ perceived successes? What are your current strategies for dealing with jealousy & envy? Would you like to change those strategies? How did you come to believe that the things you make/write/draw/play/sing aren’t good enough? Are you willing to do the hard work necessary to unlearn those beliefs? What books and zines and websites and artists inspire you? What art are you going to make today?!
P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!