I’m mostly good at sharing. I don’t have a lot of attachments to things. But make no bones about it, I’m a veritable wicked witch when it comes to talent and ideas.
This is not a good thing. This is not okay. In fact, it’s downright embarrassing and occasionally mortifying. I merely think that I should be upfront about my own flaws, especially when they’re connected to my writing, and one of my major ones is that I can be fiercely jealous.
I try to inflict it on other people as little as possible, but it’s hard to get around the intense flares of baseless anger and how it hurts. It hurts me far more than it hurts others, I’m pretty sure, because it’s an ugly, poisonous emotion and it’s something I’m working on constantly to keep inside. No one else needs this shit.
Jealousy and envy are often used synonymously. However, envy is wanting something other people have. Jealousy is not wanting other people to have what you have out of fear that it can be taken from you. This actually makes more sense for physical objects and people in your life, since they’re more likely to be taken. When it comes to talent and ideas, however, it’s probably one of the more impractical jealousies a person could have.
I battle my jealousy particularly with people who write well (or write similar subgenres) and people who sing beautifully, as though the fact that they write well or sing beautifully means that there’s less talent or opportunity available for me, when that’s not the way the businesses work. They don’t siphon off my talent in order to be better than me. For most school classes, someone else getting an A on an essay doesn’t mean that there are fewer As available for you. (And believe me, when I was still in school, that was a thing for me, too.)
I think the reason I get possessive is that I’m afraid that things that I’m good at will mean less to other people and to me if other people are as good or better. It’s normal, I think, to want to be the best at whatever you’re good at, but I take it to a rather unhealthy level. It’s a reflection on my own insecurities, I know. I feel sometimes that I have so little to offer that I’m frustrated when I can’t even offer the best of the few things I feel I’m capable of doing. I fear being overshadowed and mediocre at My Things, and so I’m the only one who’s allowed to have them.
Yeah, let me know how that works out for you, missy.
Take, for example, the subject of fairy tale remixes. Now, there’s some legitimacy to worrying about trends watering down your chosen subgenre. I try to remind myself that fairy tales stick around more than many other kinds of trends. They always come back because they’re our childhood, and childhood fancies reframe themselves in our adulthood with the old magic and a new perspective.
But then when I was planning to write FTR1, along come two fairy tale remix shows: Once Upon a Time and Grimm. Then after I wrote FTR1, I learn about the graphic series Fables (ETA: which is set to become a movie now … thanks for the flare). Then about a month ago while writing FTR2, an author I deeply respect and enjoy reading, Seanan McGuire, announced that she was starting an episodic fairy tale remix novella serial, Indexing. Of course, I can’t read it until I’m finished with my FTR series, just to avoid issues of unintentional copying that cannot be attributed to homage (which is also why I don’t watch OUAT or Grimm, in spite of being right up my alley). I’ll probably purchase the print version when the serial is complete, but it’ll stay on my shelf for a while.
(I try to keep abreast of the broad strokes that the TV shows take so I can deal with any plot similarities and then go in other fairy tale directions if I feel I’m getting too close. It means that I really can’t touch the characters of Rumplestiltskin or Captain Hook [ETA: Okay, no promises on Hook; he’s still a possibility], no matter how well they’d fit, but that’s okay. There are plenty left.)
But my first reaction to hearing about all these lovely fairy tale remixes is tinged somewhat greenish. Instead of relief that fairy tales are public domain and free for such a variety of different worlds by different writers with different visions, I immediately respond as though there’s less room for me. Even if that might be true in the short-term – after all, think of all the vampire novels that have to be postponed for a while until the biting craze settles, lest everything be painted with a Twilight brush – it’s certainly not in the long-term.
I also fear that I’ll be accused of following trend or riding other people’s coattails or – and this is my biggest fear – plagiarism.
I constantly have to tell myself that I’m writing these FTR stories because I have my own vision, my own direction, my own drive, my own voice, and my own spirit to offer in that realm, and that there’s enough room for everyone in the vast fairy tale sandbox. I don’t have to hog all the apples in order for them to mean something. Just because other people are doing it doesn’t mean that they’re taking something away. Just because other people have talent doesn’t mean there’s not enough to go around for me. Just because other people have similar ideas doesn’t mean that what we write ends up the same – especially when a person realizes how little originality there is, how much mental overlap between people who have never collaborated at any time in their lives.
What’s more, it’s utterly ridiculous I’m getting worked up over characters and stories that other people have already been telling and retelling for centuries. They weren’t in any way mine to begin with. I’m already playing in someone else’s sandbox.
See, I know it’s ridiculous. I know that these flares of jealousy are my problem and no one else’s. That’s why I try never to take it out on anyone and instead try to be Encouragement Girl. It sometimes bleeds through, but I have a good grip on the diva most of the time.
I was born with these green eyes, and I have to live with them. I just need to make sure that I can live with everyone else as well. There’s room for all of us.