Friday, January 7, 2011

Tight ends make my blood boil, and not in the way you're thinking

I know almost nothing about football except that I believe all men should be required to wear those tight little pants.

But living in Oregon, I can’t help but notice there’s a big game occurring Monday.

I was going to just call it “big game,” but my father informed me it’s the BCS – the Bowl Championship Series. The University of Oregon will play Auburn to determine which team is the best in the nation and which team should be rounded up and executed in the parking lot.

People seem to care very much about this, but not in the ways I expected.

As in most states, Oregon has a longstanding college rivalry. Ours is between fans of the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. I won’t dwell on the hows and whys, but suffice it to say, they wish to set fire to each other’s schools.

Still, I assumed that with one of them playing for a national championship, we’d set aside the rivalries and just cheer for the Oregon team that happened to make it.

That’s not how it works for everyone. In recent weeks, I’ve heard a number of OSU fans declare themselves devout fans of Auburn. We don’t want University of Oregon to win a national championship, they say. We want anyone but them. Their fans are too cocky. They don’t deserve to win. Or my personal favorite, OSU probably won't ever have a shot at a national championship, so we don’t want U of O lording this over us forever.

And just as my blood started to boil over this silly, narrow-minded way of thinking, I stopped and realized I’ve done this.

Not over football. I couldn’t care less about the Ducks and the Beavers beyond the acknowledgment that those are two of the oddest school mascots in the country.

No, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve done this with writing.

Deep down in that place I don’t like to admit exists, I’ve had dirty little thoughts I’m not proud of (I’ve also had plenty I’m proud of, but that’s not what we’re talking about here).

I’m talking about those secret, mean-spirited, moments I think a lot of us have had. Yay! I support other writers wholeheartedly! Except THAT ONE.

Maybe it’s motivated by jealousy, or a firm belief THAT ONE is not a strong enough writer. Doesn’t have the right attitude. Didn’t work hard enough.

And while I might sincerely wish I could beat my head against the wall until thoughts like this vanish, I have to acknowledge they’re there. Not all the time – pretty rarely, really – but they do exist.

And acknowledging the thoughts is probably the first step toward taking myself by the ear, giving myself a shake, and reminding myself that someone else’s success does not diminish mine.

This is something you’ll have to deal with at every stage in your career. Someone else will always finish that first manuscript faster. Someone else will always get better feedback in a contest, a bigger advance, a prettier cover, a cooler agent.

OK, not if your agent is Michelle Wolfson – duh, there is no one cooler – but you get my point.

There will always be secret rivalries. There will always be green-eyed monsters. There will always be mean little demons that whisper in the back of your brain, anyone but THAT author.

All I’m suggesting is that you acknowledge it. That you admit it. And that you make a conscious effort to remind yourself we’re all on the same team – all writers, everyone who’s ever struggled to put words on a page with the hope they’ll eventually land on someone’s bookshelf.

Go Ducks.


Kelsey said...

I've actually never thought about this! Thanks for the post - I'll have to look out for that little monster.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

First of all, not ALL men should be wearing those tight little pants. Our UPS delivery guy, yes. The facilities management guy, not so much.

But thanks for reminding us not to be haters. It's not easy, but we can all keep trying!

Christine Fonseca said...

I totally agree. I think the goal is remembering that every journey is unique, and if it isn't ours...maybe it is none of our concern. Just sayin'

Linda G. said...

Well, at least I have the coolest agent ever covered. Now to go work on that jealousy thing...

Matthew MacNish said...

Don't they call that rivalry "The Civil War?"

As bad as that is it's worse in GA. They call the UGA/Gerogia Tech game "Good Old Fashion Hate."

Really? I love football but come on rednecks, that's pretty much only barely less ignorant than racism.

Anyway the idea of competition between writers scares the shit out of me. I have a published friend who will remain nameless who has told me tidbits of a story about losing a CP to jealousy. Then things really got evil.

I can't imagine thinking that way about someone else's success. I mean sure, a little good natured envy, that's perfectly human, but actually trying to undermine it?

What goes around comes around.

lora96 said...

I object!
There are definitely men in my geographic region who should never, under any circumstances including risk of hypothermia be sold a pair of tight shiny pants. I realize your husband is athletic. The individuals who loiter around the dollar store here in town? Eh not so much unless opening bags of bbq chips is a sport.

I do have jealousy on occasion. It is accompanied by whimpering and self-recrimination when I realize that whomever i deem unworthy of their success happens to be successfully rocking people's socks off to achieve that. Now my theories on WHOSE socks they're rocking and HOW are not necessarily charitable--nor do they have much to do with writing skills.

Danica Avet said...

When it comes to football...I'll admit to, rather rabid. I can't help it. *sniff*

Now as for writing, I don't have that feeling much at all. I'm happy when people I've become friends with make it. I haven't necessarily read their stuff, so I don't have an opinion on their writing, so maybe that helps? I don't know. I just know I want to avoid more stress in my life than I need and being jealous of my fellow writers is something I don't need.

Lynne Kelly said...

My agent could beat up your agent.

Michelle Wolfson said...

Eh, my sister's college mascot was the Yeoman. And even mine is just a color. GO BIG GREEN. But still, ducks and beavers?

And Lynne Kelly, I don't know who your agent is, but I'm pretty sure I could take the two of you together with one hand tied behind my back. Nice try though.

Sarah W said...

Clive James wrote a poem that begins:

The book of my enemy has been remaindered / And I am pleased.

It's my favorite, unrepentant example of that small, jealous canker in my secret heart of hearts. And it's funny.

The whole thing is here.

Unknown said...

As far as the football is concerned, I'm supposed to be rooting for Auburn since they are an SEC team, according to my former football coach husband. But Oregon is my choice...simply because Mt. Hood was such a pretty view when leaving PDX and the Gorge made me want to become a wind surfer.
As far as other writers? My motto is to always support them. We all take different paths...some have an easier journey than us. But some have a tougher one too.

Anonymous said...

That kind of thinking seems to be more common in people who haven't been around the ol' publishing block a few times. You don't even have to be published. You just have to have a few writer friends and see how things can go all pear-shaped over the pettiest of things.

(I'd go ahead and generalize about that happening mainly with lady writers, but then my lady writer friends would gang up on me and tie me up and take turns whipping me...which now I think of it.... Oh, never mind.)

Also, you really think *all* men should wear those pants? That's kind of a, um, mixed bag, innit? *cough*

Mark Simpson said...

When I was a hurdler in high school there was a kid in the next town (lets call it Colstrip because that's what everyone calls it) who was both amazingly talented and a complete asshole. (Lets call him Bobby Gregg, since that's his actual name. ha)

More than anything I wanted to beat him, to see his face lined in pain as I broke his will. So I drug railroad ties through the snow, trained and bled and sweated. I finally did beat him a couple times, although he won the ultimate contest. (probably because he was better than me.)

But even as the memory of my broken heart spilling its blood into the gutter of my soul still rings fresh, I know that loathing disdain for him still brought out my absolute best. I needed him like spring needs the rain. (And now we're FB friends. ha)

These days instead of running endless intervals to the Top Gun soundtrack on my Walkman, I read Tawna's blog. And although I am dazzled daily by her unattainable level of wit, humor and charm-- there is a part of me that wants.. nay NEEDS... to see something that ISN'T clever, funny or charming. Every day I scour the text in vain yearning, all while honing my own writing skills-- skills that even as they peak will always be deep in her shadow.

Tawna is my modern day Bobby Gregg-- inspiration, nemesis, and femme fatale.

She is the rock I break myself against.

Hannah Hounshell said...

"There is always someone out there who is better at what you do then you are."

I'm not sure where I first read that quote, but it usually keeps me in line. Moping or gloating, or picking at other peoples work, it reminds me to take everything with a grain of salt.

Um, no comment on the football pants....I'm not much for watching sports. XD

Jason said...

As a UO grad, I thank you for noticing. :)

As a UO grad married to an OSU grad who hates the Ducks with a passion, this made me smile. So I sent the link to my wife.

Then I finished reading and saw you ended with Go Ducks. Oh boy.

As for the point of the post, and jealousy/dislike of other writers...Personally, I can't let myself care until I have something to show off. Maybe if I get a book done I will, but until then it's hard for me to think ill of anyone in the biz. Besides, I am getting a sense for how much serious work this is - anyone who manages to reach the finish line is appreciated.

Wait, that's a lie. Mom gave me a local book - self-published probably - she wanted me to read. It was, honestly, quite poorly written and full of grammatical errors. I might have ranted about how crappy it was...maybe twice. Oops.

Kay said...

Somebody has to say it:

Love your blog, btw.

jill said...

I think I've been avoiding the jealousy monster when it comes to other books and writers - readers have different tastes and there'll be some readers for every book good enough to publish, right? (I hope.) Unlike football, there isn't one winner and one loser in the writing/publishing game - lots of people win (sell books) and lots of people lose (rejection letters) every day.

Over the years, I've learned to be a bigger person about college rivalries. Used to be, I rooted for whoever was playing the Ducks. Even if "it makes the conference look better if they win".

Now, it's ok with me if they win (except when they play OSU).

OSU class of '85 and proud mother of UO Architechture student. Go Beavers! (oh, ok -- ducks, too)

abby mumford said...

i agree with jason. it's hard to feel jealous right now because i'm not yet in the playing field. instead, i thank all the writers for giving me inspiration or a break from own writing or a lesson in how to get it done.

Kadi Easley said...

That poem is wonderful. Thanks for the link.

The Novel Road said...

Football teams cherish their grudge matches. In fact your not allowed in the NCAA Dvision one if you can't name a school that has stolen your mascot or have a tattered antique that can be won and placed with pride in the school's entry hall. It's a law...Really!

I honestly don't hold grudges for others successes. I am baffled by those that do. I actually got a note from a guest asking me why I was going to interview a certain author "She's this and that..." (No it wasn't you Tawna, how could it be?)

Blows me away what people spend their time grousing about. I wonder if most realize their grudge is one way. The person they dispise not giving them the time of day.

Go Portland State!

Melissa Gill said...

Good to know Oregon's in the Championship, are they the ducks or the beavers. I'm a huge fan, don't you know.

I know what you mean about writing though. As much as I love my fellow writers, sometimes my eyes go green thinkign about the limited shelf space and the fact that some other writer took "my spot". But that's nature, competition/envy is all part of it. We just have to be big enough as humans to overcome it.

Elizabeth Ryann said...

I went to USC, and one of the most disturbing things I saw during my time there were UCLA Bruin teddy beard tied to the back of a bicycle or truck, so that it can be dragged along the ground and beaten up, I guess.

How can someone do that? To a teddy bear?? Even if it is wearing a Bruins T-shirt. So incredibly upsetting.

Vicki Smallwood said...

Have to agree about the pants/shorts. But only if they make them look like they do on TV.

I'm pretty much a Platypus - I root for both teams until the Civil War, then I usually pick the team with the better season/more on the line. Have you seen the Ducks power ballad yet? (Google/YouTube it!)

And great advice about authors! I've gotta admit that there are some that I dislike...but I try not to badmouth them or their work (at least not without a good heaping of humor). I never thought about it as jealousy, but I think that's definitely one of the underlying causes. Thanks for the insight.


Kelsey, I probably don't do it as much now as I did before I sold, but even now I can find things to be stupidly jealous about. At least I've gotten good at catching & punishing myself for it.

Teri Anne, duly noted on the UPS guy. You should send a photo of him.

Christine, amen on the reminder that every writer's journey is different.

Linda G, the agent is 3/4 of the battle!

Matthew, yikes, what do they do to undermine it?

lora96, OK, maybe we should have tryouts for the tight pants thing?

Danica, I'd say I'm capable of being thrilled to pieces for 99% of other writers. It's that 1% I've gotta work on.

Lynne Kelly, uh-oh. Thems fightin' words.

Michelle, I have faith you could beat up a dozen other agents using only your left thumb.

Sarah, that poem is absolutely brilliant. Thank you for sharing it!

Charissa, that IS a pretty view. We should win just for that :)

Simon, sexist though it may be, I will agree with your assessment that female authors are especially prone to this tendency. Not sure why that is.

Mark, have you been drinking? If not, perhaps you should start.

Hannah, that is an excellent quote, and a good reminder.

Jason, I am not responsible for the fight you and your wife will have later this evening.

Kay, I had to ask my dad who the tigers are. Sounds like a pathetic match-up -- the tigers and the ducks?

Jill, my parents & brother love OSU, but Pythagoras favors UofO. So far, there has been no bloodshed.

Abby, oh, give yourself a little time. You'll find someone to hate :)

KD Easley, isn't that poem great? Love the readers of this blog!

Douglas, I'll give you a quarter if you tell me who it was :)

Melissa, they're the ducks. Quack.

Elizabeth, sports fans scare me a little. And by "a little" I mean a whole helluva lot.

Vicki, platypus -- nice! I like that.

Thanks for reading, guys!

Anonymous said...

I think envy of successful people is very common. I can think of one author in particular who is often reduced to shreds by less successful authors. I continue to love her, though.

Jeffe Kennedy said...

Good thing *I* never feel that way! ;-)

Michelle Wolfson said...

I really liked Mark's post. It reminded me of the "You were never really *on* the team" Deep Thought. Nicely done, Mark.

Dr. Cheryl Carvajal said...

I agree with you, when such feelings are spurred on by envy.

I have an exception, though. Regina Jeffers, whose plagiarized versions of Pride and Prejudice are horrifically written and absolutely dreadful, give Austen take-offs a bad name. I've physically thrown one of her books across the room, and I am embarrassed for the publishing world that such a load of crap has been written.

To avoid this feeling, I suggest reading Austenland instead. A very good novel, both original and interesting. And, better yet, not plagiarized. Yes, Austen's work is now in the public domain, but that doesn't mean one should abscond whole tracts of it to fill out one's own crappy writing.

Sorry! This just struck a cord with me, and I had to vent! I guess I'm guilty of the very thing you discuss! I admit it!

Now I'm off to write my own stuff, without bitterness... I'm just going to work hard and do what I can to create great stuff.

Claire Dawn said...

What I like to do is think of something I have that makes other envious.

Omg! Look at her beautiful hair!

But I speak 5 languages :)

Wow! Did she just get a 3 book deal?

My voice kicks butt!

Really? She got signed to Stephanie Meyer's agent?

Dude, I live in Japan.

It's fun :)

Paty Jager said...

My brother's family, all OSU alumni, are rooting for Auburn. Stupid, but what do I know.

Thanks for the little reminder. We are who we are and if we all made our way through life at the same pace, it would be boring.