Ask Winston

Trust me — I have all the answers

A question popped up in my inbox recently (well, in Two-Legged Writer’s inbox — she won’t let me have my own email account) about how to handle professional jealousy. Since this particular emotion isn’t something dogs are very familiar with, I didn’t want to bark up the wrong tree in hunting down an answer for the inquiring writer.

I sniffed around on Two-Legged’s bookshelves and found something interesting under the Ls: A book called Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Despite the bad title — why not call it something really fetching like Dog by Dog? — there was some food for thought. In a chapter aptly titled “Jealousy,” Ms. Lamott writes, “But if you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with [jealousy], because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know — people who are, in other words, not you.”

Novelist and memoirist, Joan Didion, has said, “To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self.” I know I’m only a dog with limited experience with the green-eyed monster, but Ms. Didion’s thoughts gave me something to chew on. It seems that if I am jealous of my neighbor dog, Myla, for her beautiful Beagle bay, that’s my problem. Maybe I need to remind myself of all of my wonderful doggy-ness (the list is quite long!). And if Myla’s jealous of my long silky fur or expressive eyebrows or ability to polish up my dinner in three minutes flat, well, I can’t do much about that. As two-leggeds like to say, that’s her problem. And I don’t mean that in a flip way. I just mean that I can bring her a chewy toy or play chase or share my kibble but I can’t help her untangle herself from being jealous of me. That’s something she’s got to work on.

Ms. Lamott tells of ending a friendship for her own mental health when jealousy issues got too potent. That’s certainly one way to handle that kind of situation. But I know there are lots of smart two-leggeds out there who probably have ideas to share with the writer who contacted me this week. I won’t be jealous if you come up with more ideas than I did! Dog’s honor.

No Responses to “Ask Winston”

  1. kcushman

    “…some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know”–thankfully this does not seem to be the case in the children’s publishing world. Wonderful dazzling successes have happened and are happening to wonderful dazzling people (wag your tail, Winston, if you live with one). There’s not a dog (pardon!) in the bunch. Well, maybe one or too but that’s ALL.

  2. Kjersten

    That part of Anne Lamott’s book always has troubled me. I guess I’m not immune to tinges of jealousy but mostly I feel overwhelming happiness when good things happen to writers around me. I always want to jump up and down.

    The selfish bit comes in when I think, “Wow, this really can happen to real people! (and maybe something good will happen to me one day too)” I love seeing success.

    I once had a friend essentially quit talking to me over what I think was jealousy. It happened when my son was born. She had been aching to have a child for years, and was thus far unable. I felt sad for her, but sadder still that she felt she had to discontinue our relationship over it. We all have our own pains. Assuming someone out there with a certain visible joy has no pain, isn’t seeing the whole picture. The key is to be grateful for our slice of the joy, and to seek out our own slice of joy, whatever the flavor. And to focus on joy. Attitude is everything.