The thing about envy is …

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The thing about envy is …



The thing about envy is, it steals your joy.

Let me back up a smidge.

It’s been almost two years since I published my first novel, Ten Days of Perfect. What was supposed to be a stand-alone book turned into a 5-book series, inspired two spin-off novellas, and has kept me writing other books in between.

When I first started writing Ten Days, I was working very part time at a preschool in the town next to where I lived. I worked 12-15 hours a week. It was enough to get me out of the house, slightly increase our super-tight income, but allow me to still be home most of the time. In April of 2012, though, I broke my leg. Not a handy injury for a basically SAHM. Completely bedridden for 6 weeks and very light duty for another 6 allowed for the birth of Bo and Ember.

When Ten Days was actually published in September of 2012, I was back on my feet (literally) and working almost full time at said preschool. I was putting in nearly 35 hours a week and my husband at the time was working nights, meaning once I got the kids to bed, I’d write. I wrote Reckless Abandon largely between the hours of 8pm and 1am. Wine at night, coffee in the morning (530 am came awfully early in those days).

In January 2013, my then-husband and I moved with our kids to Massachusetts, where I’m from. We were shacking up with my parents for a while while he started his job at a nearby college and I continued to write. In the Stillness was the work in progress (WIP) during that time.

Things went a little awry around March 2013. I’d just published Reckless Abandon (which I’d finished in December, but was waiting in line at the editor) and it was widely well-received. In the Stillness was on deck, I went to my first book signing as an author, and …

I left my husband.

That’s a whole other story for another day and I’ll probably never tell it in a public forum. If you’re my friend, you know the nitty-gritty.

Still at my parents’ house once the now-ex husband moved out, I was filled with peace and joy about my vocation.

“I get to write full time and still support my kids!” I exclaimed to myself. I was fully able to start looking for places to live (despite the lovely hospitality of my parents) and continue with my fabulous career.

In the span of the next several months I moved out of my parents’ (for the second time in history), got my own place with the kids, fell in love <3 (hey, Love), he eventually moved in, and I kept writing. Jesus, I felt blessed. 100500{43d0d1614ecc8ec385b3ea9940a88627e26eaf9be88a0641399e0be0c80ef276} blessed. I got to do the thing I've been doing my whole life and get paid for it. I got to live with the love of my life who has the same job as me and for the first time in any recent memory I was fully happy. Just so happy.

I had amazing fans who would send me emails, letters, cards, hug me at signings and drink with me! People were begging for the next installment. I developed this amazing camaraderie with fellow authors, readers, bloggers … you name it and they were there. Me and my author friends were cheerleading for each other and I just wanted to kiss and hug everyone all the time.

IT was Joy. JOY (see, we're working back to the point of the post).


….then. For reasons I'm sure I'll never understand because my brain doesn't work the way it would need to for such understanding, I had a few less-than-stellar book releases. It wasn't just me. Several of my author friends, from newer authors to those who've been around a long time and had much stronger sales than I ever did also felt the squeeze. In a year, the number of self published books on Amazon doubled, or something ridiculous like that. Suddenly, it seemed, I was thrust in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane and it was all I could do to keep my head above water.

"Chin up," I'd repeat to myself. "This is a storm and it will pass. Keep doing you".

The problem with envy is … it sneaks in. The crack in your self esteem? Yeah, it slithers in there. The hole left from a dip in motivation? It's an opening, too. Then, rather than keeping my eyes on my goals and my work, I started looking around. Then, the icky thoughts took over.

"How in God's name did that book with that title and that plot get to the top 100 on Amazon when In the Stillness didn't even get there" (See what was starting to happen?)

"They're new! This is their first book! Who are they and how did THEY get in the top 100?"



That explosion obliterated the joy that had carried me for more than a year. The joy that kept my eyes on me and my goals and my work. Suddenly I was doubting my worth as a writer. Looking at the books and authors that made it big and trying to decide if I had what it took to get there.

Depression. This past winter was dark, y'all. I sobbed when Sweet Forty-Two bombed. Spent hours crying in bed at night — just ask my author boyfriend. He was there, holding me as my shoulders shook and I cursed myself for ever believing I stood a chance. How stupid could I be, I asked.

Once the bitterness of who and what was "making it" passed, the envy stripped bare and took the lead in my thought process. I'd smile and try to be happy for those who I didn't know and those who were my friends. In my head I truly WANTED to be happy for them. We're all on the same team, right? Team Books! But, you see, the envy had bled to my heart and made a meal of sucking the joy from every crevice of my being. I could no longer tell where I ended and envy began.

I prayed about it. That's how awful and misrepresented in my soul I felt. I took this to God. I didn't want the envy, but it was there. The moment I looked around and said "why not me?" it was too late.

The thing is, making a list or hitting the top 100 on another, it's not all about hard work. Let me tell you, anyone who puts out a book (well maybe except the dino-porn folk ….. ) digs in and DOES WORK. You can't write a story from nothing, edit it, bleed as it's critiqued then publish it without working, and quite hard. Some people have jobs outside the home, as I have had during this career. That makes the work harder. It does. There are literally only so many hours in a day.

So, it's not just about hard work. It's not just about pricing or advertising (which can cost thousands of dollars depending on the platform) or swag or "who" reads your book and talks about it. It's not JUST about any of those things. It's about all of them and about some things that are intangible. The things my brain can't understand. Maybe it's a little about who knows who and who can afford advertising or whatever but, no, don't let people tell you that's all there is. If they tell you that they are as bitter as I was last winter.

Finally, last month — yes JUST last month — it broke. I kept writing during all of this, you see. I didn't quit and didn't walk away. Nor did I hit any list or cut any deal that broke the spell of envy. I just realized, you know what? Maybe this is God's way of telling me I couldn't handle it. Or can't handle it yet. Not everyone handles a big success with grace. But the people I respect do.

Colleen Hoover … ever heard of her? She's a damn rockstar and has handled the 180 her life has done with class that should be studied. And she's ACTUALLY nice. She's met eleventybillion people in her life, but I'll never forget the first time I met her in Chicago of 2012. I just got teary thinking about it because she is just so gracious and down-to-earth and kind. No not everyone is like her. In fact, most people aren't. But if I had to "work" at being something like Colleen, it wouldn't be being the NYT bestseller piece of her. IT would be the 100{43d0d1614ecc8ec385b3ea9940a88627e26eaf9be88a0641399e0be0c80ef276} raw real funny honest ME just like she's the 100{43d0d1614ecc8ec385b3ea9940a88627e26eaf9be88a0641399e0be0c80ef276} HER.

Tarryn Fisher is another one. This dark angel has touched my life in ways no one will ever know … because she'd kill me if I told you. But honestly, it's her tenacity and spirit I admire (not envy) over her book sales. And her talent, dear sweet Jesus she needs to write her version of "On Writing." She's a sorceress of words.

So, my point is … "it" might never happen for me. I could put out 4 books a year from now until the day I die and never have national attention. I could have to get a part-time or full-time job again, or I could be blessed enough to have this career continue to support me. Every book I put out could sell less than the previous, or the next one could knock it all out of the water.

I look around at this life, though. The friends that sprang up from "what are we doing" author groups, critique groups, and the like. At the amazing partner I get to share my life with who was my critique partner while I was writing In the Stillness and he was writing The Last Hour. At the people who WANT TO READ MY BOOKS! They WANT. TO READ. MY. BOOKS. The bloggers who support me no matter WHAT I'm writing. The readers who have taken the time to personally contacted me and thanked me for the book that helped them escape, or the one that helped them find themselves.

When I stand back and look at that paragraph, you see, it seems "it" has already happened. And is happening, everyday.

The stresses of this life will remain, as it does for anyone living their passion as an artist. But the joy? The joy has returned, and that's what's fueling me forward.



6 Comments so far:

  1. Viv says:

    excellent post. I think you are right, to pass it to the divine author, and leave it there. I’d like my own joy back, too.
    Well done.

  2. Carrie says:

    <3 you!!

  3. Who cares about NYT lists…..In the Stillness is still one of my all time favorite books. And I have shared it with family and friends and they agree. Who cares about NYT. We are Boston strong. 🙂 All you need is to keep on keeping on. You have loyal followers that are growing. <3

  4. Kelly Chittenden says:

    Your awesome Andrea!

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