I got to thinking about professional jealousy recently. I’ll admit, it’s a stiletto slid between my ribs from time to time. Not all the time, not even often, but it blips on the radar periodically. But I had to stop and think, what am I actually jealous of?
It usually crops up when someone gets a rad opportunity, one I didn’t or couldn’t get (natch, though, because who’s getting jealous of someone landing that sweet GreenWater gig or getting knocked back, so this start should be obvious and a touch universal). But what is it that I’m jealous of?
Bigger question, what is it that I should be jealous of?
I put some thought into this and I realise that as a storyteller the only thing that should make me jealous or envious is a great story. But I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been jealous of a great story. In fact I love and respect most guys who are capable of creating great stories. I think about mates like Paul Allor/Frank Barbiere/Ryan Ferrier/etc and they crush their books but I’ve never once felt a shred of jealousy of them because I am happy for them and I dig having their work in the world to read.
Jealousy really comes up when I see people getting those huge opportunities. I wish it was me. It’s really that simple. But when I see a guy get an opportunity because they deserve it I’m truly and honestly happy. Again, list above and my usual people, and if they got called up to Marvel tomorrow I’d have no problem because they have the talent, the drive, the work ethic, and I want to see that stuff rewarded.
So I guess what I’m intimating is really I’m jealous when I see somebody get an opportunity and they didn’t deserve it. This in turn raises the question what do I mean by didn’t deserve it? This could mean a lot of things to a lot of people and is a slippery slope fraught with perilous pitfalls of arrogance. In short, I guess it means the people who haven’t worked hard for it (and to me this specifically means, what are they working hard on? Craft and building a storytellers toolkit or just breaking in by any means necessary? Some people put this value into different areas and I guess I’m fine with that in a live and let die way) or whose product is pretty clearly inferior. If I see someone put out a book that is flawed, beyond me just not digging it, but it truly is flawed on some levels but they parlay it into an Oni gig, then yeah, it’s probably going to kickstart the green eyed monster in me. And I know you might be thinking – mate, you didn’t like the comic, but obviously someone did, many someones, or just that right someone, but either way they worked hard enough to produce the comic (which is damned hard as we all know) and now they’re getting a break for it. Quit being a dick and just deal with it – and to those people I say, yep, I know. Professional jealousy is never fun, or nice, or really smart. It’s based in arrogance and fear and a fair degree of stupidity and hubris and it’s unfair because you build the jealousy based more on what you think in your head than in what’s going on in the real world. However, explain this fact to near every creator who feels it. Because they do. They do. Ask them why they feel it and see if their answer doesn’t sound as dickish as me.
So I thought long and hard on this one fact. In the end I asked myself what do I care about the opportunities they get?
Let’s say someone gets an Image book then a Marvel gig then a sixty issue Vertigo series. If I feel they didn’t deserve it and they don’t have the talent then it should stand to reason none of those books will be any good (and this usually goes hand in hand with those razor focused on breaking in instead of committing time to craft and process – it makes me wonder what they want, the fame or to tell great stories…? But that’s a whole other discussion when I kick a different hornet’s nest). So why would I be jealous of an Image book that’s garbage? And if they get better with each gig through practice and it’s good then I’m stoked to have another good book in my world (and this has happened where I’ve read stuff by someone I didn’t like and the first stuff was not my cup of tea at all and I was baffled by their further opportunities and then I read something of their’s later and it was good and I was happy about it, and could enjoy it – I might get jealous but I’m not bitter. Yet.). With time, this idea of enjoying all the good stories and ignoring the bad ones became the root of the solution to my professional jealousy.
If I like you and your stories then I’m happy every time you land again. And if I don’t think you’ve got talent I don’t care if you’ve got a top 10 selling book if it’s not very good. I have nothing to be jealous of. It is this thought that has freed my mind.
I am, at my core, a storyteller and I will never be jealous of a good story or good storyteller.