Finding Happiness in a Jealous World

There is so much talent in this world. So much that, at times, it’s really hard not to feel bad about ourselves or jealous of others. There’s so much comparison in the world, and we want to be the best. Or, sometimes, it’s not even that. Sometimes we just want to be as good as someone else, and we’re not.

As a writer, it’s hard not to be jealous of others; just think of the millions of books that have been published. Apparently, the statistic (from a quick search on Google) is that a million books are published in a year in the U.S. That’s strong competition. The questions start to creep in: will I ever publish a book? Will someone ever read my writing and love it? Everyone is telling me that I’m a young writer, that I won’t be published for years, and sometimes it is so hard to keep the dedication.

In some ways, it’s even harder to not be jealous of the people close to us. Even writers that I’m close to, that I love and are amazing and I should wish all the best for them, I sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy when they seem to be progressing so much farther or so much faster than I am.

The world is so full of competition and self-pity. We see someone who has practiced art for years paint something and say to ourselves, “I wish I was that talented,” and when someone asks us to draw something, we say, “I can’t.”

Tell me, what has happened when you have told a girl she was pretty? 90% of the time the reaction is “What? No, I’m not. What are you talking about?” I can’t tell whether it’s because they really are confused by the compliment, or if they want the compliment to continue; they want reassurance that they really are beautiful.

You are.

You are beautiful. You are talented. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, especially if it’s yourself.

But maybe the reason the world is like this is because we made it this way. In our jealousy, in our pity, we’ve become self-centered. When others have accomplishments, because of our lack of them, we have no joy in them. In fact, sometimes we even wish that others would not have done such a wonderful thing so that we wouldn’t feel so bad.

That’s not how it’s supposed to be. Just think of how wonderful this would be: whenever someone had a good day, you had a good day, too. Whenever someone accomplished something, you shared in their joy. Whenever you saw someone making a difference, you were happy that the world was a better, brighter place, and you were encouraged, not discouraged. As one of my teachers put it, “Life would be a party all the time.”

Isn’t that what we want life to be like? We want to be happy. But we mistakenly believe that this will come by others praising us for what we do, or from being better than other people.

Happiness doesn’t come from the outside in. It comes from the inside out. Only you have the power to decide whether you are happy or not. When people used to tell me that, I didn’t understand what they meant when I was so sad. But I think I understand now.

It means that when someone accomplishes something, you choose whether to be happy or jealous. It means that when someone is better than you, you choose whether to use them as a model or to covet their position. It means that when someone gives you constructive criticism, you choose whether to honestly receive it or to push it away because you don’t want to change.

It’s hard. I will freely admit that, that right now, in the short-term, making that decision to put others in front of yourself is hard. But happiness is worth it, and it becomes easier every time you make that decision.

I challenge you: make the choice. Say “thank you” when someone compliments you, and pay it forward by complimenting others. Share in the joy of other people’s accomplishments. Smile at people. Serve others. Work hard. You will be happy, and you will find your worth.

There is a quote by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a leader in my church, that I think describes this perfectly. “We become more substantive as we serve others. Indeed, it’s easier to find ourselves because there’s so much more of us to find.”

Don’t Think, Just Write

This post is sort of a mix of a pep talk thing to those participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month as well as some advice for first draft writing. (So, if you’re not doing a first draft for Camp NaNo, you may not find this very helpful…but too bad. You can read it anyway. 🙂 )

Recently, I’ve noticed a bit of an increase in my typing speed as I’m writing, and I think I’ve finally figured out why. It mostly came one night at dinner when we happened to bring up the subject of NaNoWriMo.

“Doesn’t NaNoWriMo just encourage people to use a lot of words instead of an actual story?” said my mom. “It would just make people write things like, ‘I went to the store. When I got there, I couldn’t decide whether or not I should buy peanuts or cashews. Hmmm. The peanuts, or the cashews? Finally, I decided on buying the peanuts instead of the cashews, because they were cheaper.'”

I thought about this for a moment and said, “Yes, but they’d have more of the story than they started with.”

That’s the whole point of NaNoWriMo–not to write words, sometimes not even to write a novel, but to write more than you had before. In the example my mom gave, yes, the writing is pretty terrible. Yes, the conflict is also terrible. But you have more. If those 42 words hadn’t been written, you wouldn’t have anything about your character visiting the store, and who knows, maybe the cashew/peanut debate will become important later on! Although, the decision should be obvious. Always go for the cashews. Always.

So you may be looking at your unfinished manuscript right now, thinking that this is wildly out of character, or it doesn’t even make sense, or why are there evil talking cats this isn’t supposed to be happening. Maybe you’re horribly behind on your word count and the few thousand–or even the few hundred–you’ve managed to write just don’t seem good enough.

The amazing thing is that you’ve already written more than you had before. No matter how horrible, how confusing, or how small the writing has been, there’s more story than there was before, and that’s something that you should be proud of.

I’ve found that the best way to write more, and faster, is this simple motto/phrase/whatever-you-want-to-call-it: don’t think, just write. Stop worrying about whether what you’re writing is good or bad, whether it goes with the story and fits with the outline. Stop thinking that this description is taking way too long or this chapter should have finished already or where did this character come from or why on earth are these characters being shippy. Just write.

Yes, it’s hard not to stop and try to figure out what’s going on, especially when you want this novel to be as good as your original idea for it was, especially when that one word you used really doesn’t seem right, especially when this wasn’t in the outline at all. Usually, I have to find some way to force myself into this frame of mind. Two ways that I do it are:

  • Word wars or word sprints with other people. I find that competition really helps me want to win and I don’t go back to fix things or stop to think because I want to win.
  • Timed goals with myself. (Ex. “I’m going to try to write 700 words in 15 minutes.”) It’s especially helpful if you choose goals you’ve never achieved before, because it encourages you to really push yourself as hard as you can, with no stopping.

The key is to not stop to think. (Again, don’t think, just write.) If you think about what you’re writing, you’re inevitably going to realize that it’s bad writing, and you’re going to want to fix it. Don’t think. The trick is to trick ourselves into writing without thinking, to keep our fingers moving even when the sentences start to sound like, “Then I met a guy named Bob. Bob was weird. He had weird hair that I can’t describe right now. He liked to eat cake.”

People will tell you to not go back to revise, because you’ll take up time and delete words. The fact is that stopping to think about what to write next will take up just as much time, and the time you waste will cost you just as many words anyway. (Well, maybe not just as many, but still.)

So if you’re struggling with whatever writing you’re working on, all you have to do is remember these four words: don’t think, just write. Actually, don’t even think about not thinking. Don’t think about purple elephants…too late.

And remember, even if you feel completely stuck and at a loss for what to write, you’ve written more than you had before. Be proud, pat yourself on the back, because that really is the most important thing.


How is Camp NaNo going for all of you who are doing it, and how close are you to your goals? Do you have any other tips or tricks on how you get yourself to write? And, most importantly, cashews or peanuts? (Or you can just tell me your favorite kind of nut; that works too. I bet you can’t guess mine…)