Help! My Jealousy Over Other Writers’ Success is Destroying Me
In our first Tarot + Craft column, Sarah Elaine Smith gives advice to a bitter writer
I am a writer with some decent successes to my name, but I’m so destroyed by professional jealousy that I can’t work anymore. I’m so jealous that I can’t even read others’ work, I can’t participate in the community, I can’t even get on Instagram without spinning out over the prizes that I haven’t won, the books I haven’t written, and the ways it seems everyone else is thriving. It feels shitty not to be able to truly celebrate others’ successes. And I’ve actually had it pretty good. I have no right to complain.
How do I deal with this? How can I get less bitter?
’t so ambitious. The Chariot is not a card of “it’s an honor just to be nominated” participation. It’s battle. It’s war. You have a plan for your presence in the world, and in the pursuit of it, you are willing to harness the opposites of your nature (black swan, white swan) to pull you forward.
’ve ever made a custard, you know that in order to mix heated milk with egg yolks, you have to introduce the milk slowly, raising the temperature by tiny degrees so you don’t end up with a pan of sweet milk and scrambled eggs—a process called “tempering.”
’s a time and place for integration, but it sounds like what you really want is power.
’s an upstroke and a downstroke in a piston. Riding a bicycle, your feet go up and down on the pedals. Your lungs expand and empty. No power operates through expansive “positive” force alone—dynamism is the source, and for that, we also need to allow for contracting “negative” force. If you don’t alternate forces, they cancel each other out, and that’s what you’ve been doing. You have tempered your desires with rules about what you’re allowed to want or how you’re allowed to feel.
spiritual’s just as spiritual to want what you want.
’ve disavowed the competitive part of yourself; you feel bad about not being able to support other writers through the cloud of jealousy and you’re using your previous successes to deny your feelings. The problem is you’ll probably feel them anyway, whether you approve of them now or not. Things like that can do a lot more damage under the surface than above. And if you’re truly, seriously committed to not feeling them, you’ll also be inclined to numb or sideline yourself.
’s the ideal outcome? Aries is the first sign in astrology, corresponding with the first house, that of the self. As such, Aries energy can be kind of bratty . . . but have you noticed how much shit bratty people get done? Have you noticed how often they get their way?
——’s interesting to see such a somber card among the fiery others. In the Six of Swords, you’re leaving a familiar shore, turning away from what you know. The journey to the unknown doesn’t exactly look like fun.
’t a simple and lighthearted matter for you. It requires a shift in your thinking. And when you say “I have no right to complain,” it indicates that you were trained to invalidate your thoughts and feelings. If we’ve had an idea like that deeply instilled and reinforced from an early age (which nearly all of us have), going against such training can feel like denying the very laws of nature.
’t get what you want. Notice the places where you try to cancel out one part of your nature with another. If you think back, can you remember who taught you this?
’s fun. You might have temporarily mistaken the thrill of desire with the ache of disappointment, but it’s easy to switch mindsets again.
’t turn into a Heather or anything, but at least let the brat pick out some of your outfits.
Bad Bad by Chelsey Minnis
Thanks for reading, and welcome to this column! Each installment addresses a craft question with a tarot spread and interpretation.
I know that “craft” usually means diction or dialogue or some other mechanical aspect, but here’s the thing: Writing is actually the art of risk. It’s a risk to write anything down, a risk to let anyone read it, and a risk to say what you really want to say.
As such, there are lots of little wars we all have to fight on our way to the blank page, not to mention the doubts and fears we battle when we get there.
Do you have a question for Braindoggies? We would love to hear it! Please send your writing conundrum to Eliza Harris at email@example.com with the subject line, “Dear Braindoggies”
Sarah Elaine Smith was born and raised in Greene County, Pennsylvania. She has studied at the Michener Center for Writers, UT-Austin (MFA, poetry); the Iowa Writers' Workshop (MFA, fiction); and Carnegie Mellon University. Her work has received support from the MacDowell Colony and the Rona Jaffe Wallace Foundation.
Smith is the author of the novel Marilou Is Everywhere (Riverhead Books, 2019), as well as the poetry collection I Live in a Hut, 2011. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she teaches Here Be Monsters, an online novel-writing and creativity workshop.