I want to talk a little today about jealousy, and surrounding yourself with people that are better than you at your chosen profession, avocation, whatever. Some of this comes from seeing that Jim Butcher has been added to the guest list at Dragon*Con, and I’m super-excited about hopefully getting the chance to meet the guy who inspired a lot of The Black Knight Chronicles, and heavily influenced my writing style. I’m also a little nervous, because not just is Butcher responsible for a large chunk of the urban fantasy genre, but he’s also responsible for putting a lot of the snark that I love into the format as well.
Obviously I’m a fan of Butcher’s work, not just The DresdenFiles, but the Codex Alera stuff as well. And I’m also jealous as hell of his talent. You see, Butcher can do something that I have a very difficult time doing – write in a totally different voice. That was the first thing that blew me away when I started reading the Codex Alera books – the voice was completely, 100% different from The Dresden Files. It’s almost like two different people wrote the series. I, on the other hand, have a distinctive voice, which got me into trouble a couple of times in high school when I tried to sell term papers to the larger (and wealthier) students in my class.
I felt something similar when I first read Patrick Rothfuss. Reading the first paragraph of The Name of the Wind, I felt like a kid who’d taken two guitar lessons and then sat front row at a Clapton concert. It was almost enough to make me burn my laptop. But aluminum-bodied Macs are more durable than you’d think, and fortunately for me I came to my senses before anything was lost. Even talking to other writers about Rothfuss, one was heard to remark “It’s a good thing he writes slow, or none of the rest of us would ever sell a book.”
Those are a just a couple of people whose talent I’m jealous of, and I use that generally-inadvisable emotion to spur me on to write better, to work harder, and to eventually make some novice writer jealous of my badassdom. I’m not holding my breath, but i do turn my jealousy into something productive, and I try to spin it into something useful. I’m also jealous of anyone with any shred of musical talent, as my wife, who is forced to listen to me sing along with the contestants on The Voice, can attest is something I’m completely devoid of.
I might have to give a dollar to anyone who can untangle that sentence, but I’m leaving it up there for the sheer joy of driving the grammar nuts crazy.
So here’s my question to you – who are you jealous of, and to what positive direction do you spin your jealousy?