Competition and Camaraderie

running-573762_640I’m always finding connections between running and writing. Recently, I was listening to an episode of the Runner’s World podcast, in which they talked about the recent attempt to break two hours in the marathon.

Around 30-minutes into the episode, they talk about how the pacers in this attempt were special in that they were all elite athletes–ie, runners who are used to focusing on their own goals and winning races. For this race, elite athletes were running to support someone else’s goal, in the hopes that one of the three competing runners would break the world record. Runner’s World columnist Alex Hutchinson, who was there for the attempt, talks about how the pacing runners were so supportive of the competing runners, and how this isn’t unusual for the running community. One particular thing Alex says about this:

“Everyone wants to be the best, but everyone wants everyone else to be their best, too.”

This really stood out for me as a great way to frame the idea of professional competition and camaraderie, particularly in the writing world. As much as I love to support my fellow writers, I’m also totally guilty of feeling jealous of other people’s successes (mostly because all you see on social media is SUCCESS SUCCESS SUCCESS over and over and over).

runners-752493_640But I also want other writers to be writing the best books possible–the world would totally suck if only one person got to be the best writer, and everyone else wrote meh books. I’d way rather live in a world where I’m always striving to write the best books I can, and in which everyone else is doing the same. We all end up pushing each other and challenging each other and inspiring each other.

And unlike professional running, there doesn’t have to be one winner per race. Okay, so only one book can win some award every year, but every book can be someone’s favorite. The more awesome books out there, the more everyone wins.

Everyone Has Green Eyes Sometimes

I feel like I should preface this with the fact that pretty much every YA/children’s writer I’ve met has been so friendly and enthusiastic. It’s easy to get excited for them and feel like the world of children’s lit is a big, squishy cheer-fest. But of course, it’s just like any other career and it’s easy to feel weirdly competitive with your fellow writers.

Robin Black has a fantastic post up about dealing with that inevitable writerly jealousy. One suggestion I like in particular:

“Ask yourself whether feeling jealous, at the moment when the green-eyed monster strikes, is actually helping you avoid some more uncomfortable anxiety you might feel….Envy can be oddly comforting. Figuring out why can be a powerful tool.”

I like the introspective approach to jealousy. It’s often a response to feeling vulnerable and worthless in your own career, when really it’s almost impossible to compare any two artists, even at similar ages/career stages/etc. When someone gets an agent or a five-star review or a Printz, it can be a reminder of how you didn’t get those things, which is really tough. And it’s okay to feel a little bitter, as long as you realize that this feeling comes from your own hurt and shouldn’t affect how you feel about the other person’s success–especially if that’s a person you actually know.

Honestly, I really like being supportive. Cheering people on at the Boston Marathon is one of my very favorite annual traditions. When someone gets good news, I love blogging about it. And I still get jealous all the time.

It’s not easy to wrangle the green-eyed monster. It’ll happen to everyone at some point. (If it never happens to you, please tell me what wizardry makes this so.) But you can help how you deal with your response to jealousy, especially in how you respond to other people.

(H/T Debbie Ohi)