Writing and The Green-Eyed Monster
October 20, 2021 § 13 Comments
By Laura Davis
In the final weeks before the launch of my first book in nineteen years, I’m excited, exhausted, obsessed, and optimistic—when I’m not feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. As I get closer to my launch, I’m more emotional, on edge. It’s getting harder to remain grounded in all that’s good and steady in my life.
Yesterday, I started listening to one of many writing podcasts I subscribe to. The latest episode was about deconstructing a book launch. Oh, I thought, that’s perfect for me. I can learn from the mistakes and successes of this author. So, as I folded clothes and organized the mess of papers scattered across my bed, I hit play.
The name of the podcast doesn’t matter, nor does the name of the author. She was talking about what went well and what didn’t in her pandemic book launch. In the first five minutes, it became clear that this woman had many things I didn’t: the backing of a big publisher, a huge marketing campaign and budget, lots of personal connections to the literati, publishers, broadcasters, podcasters, and famous writers. She’d clearly called in her chits and gotten lots of people to promote her book in circles vastly bigger and more influential than mine.
A ball of dread sparked in my belly. I knew enough about self-care to turn off the podcast, but it was too late. I’d already been sucked into a sticky web of anxiety. All the hard work I’d done for my launch, everything I’d set up looked paltry and insignificant by comparison. I was sure that the opportunities that I could only dream about were falling into the other author’s lap. Terry Gross, sure! Tim Ferris, of course. Reese Witherspoon’s book club—absolutely! The green-eyed monster firmly attached herself to me. “Why don’t I have…?” “Why can’t I be…?” “My book will never…” I spent the afternoon doom-scrolling in my mind, playing out worst case scenarios. The Burning Light of Two Stars would be published and instantly drop into the pit of obscurity. The capstone of my writing career would never be read. It wouldn’t touch people. It wouldn’t reach readers. I’d never recoup the tens of thousands of dollars I’d invested in this launch.
That’s when I remembered what my upbeat and brilliant book marketing coach, Sue Campbell from Pages and Platforms, told us once in a mindset call, “When you compare, you despair.”
So, I called it a day, packed my swim bag, and headed to my haven, the Simpkins Family Swim Center. Five minutes from my house, this state-of-the-art public pool is where I go for exercise, solace, meditation, and to still my churning mind.
I swiped my admission card, peeled off my clothes, donned my cap, goggles and fins, and slid into the cool depth. As soon as I hit the water, my whole body relaxed. As I went through my workout—kicking, pulling, breathing every third breath, then every fifth, then every seventh, sprinting, followed by a cool-down—I glanced underwater at the swimmers to my right and left.
I’m always struck by the egalitarian nature of the pool. There are babies, toddlers, school children, swim team members, the water aerobics ladies (who remind me fondly of my mother), old people, able-bodied people, people with disabilities, bodies that are obese, thin, shapely, flabby, and everywhere in between. Sometimes, the swimmer to my left zips along, doing flip turns and a fast freestyle, lapping me regularly, while the swimmer to my right is so slow, I’m doing three laps to his one. I think about this every time I swim—there is always someone faster than me and always someone slower.
The other swimmers only exist in my peripheral vision for a moment. Then I slip back into my own deep-water groove, savoring the way the light filters through the water, relishing the sensation of my whole body moving weightlessly, the pleasure of counting laps. I focus on being in my own lane, relishing the vitality and strength in my body.
And that’s how it is with my book launch. I’m in my own lane. I’ve made a plan. I’m executing that plan, swimming toward an uncertain future—as we all are, in ways far vaster and most significant than the launch of my new book.
Jealousy poisons and cuts both ways. While I’m busy coveting what another author has, another writer is wishing they had my privilege, platform, and publishing history. There will always be an author with more. Each time I hunger for someone else’s success, it poisons me. It makes me doubt myself and my own trajectory. To compare is to despair. All I can do is keep swimming with strength, purpose, and passion in my lane.
Laura Davis is the author of The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story, the story of her loving yet tumultuous relationship with her mother, and six other nonfiction books, including The Courage to Heal, I Thought We’d Never Speak Again, and Becoming the Parent You Want to Be. Her groundbreaking books have been translated into 11 languages and sold two million copies. In addition to writing books that inspire and change people’s lives, the work of Laura’s heart is to teach. For more than twenty years, she’s helped people find their voices, tell their stories, and hone their craft. Laura loves creating supportive, intimate writing communities online, in person, and internationally. You can learn about Laura’s workshops, read the first five chapters of her new memoir, and receive a free ebook: Writing Through Courage: A 30-Day Practice at www.lauradavis.net.