The tour continues! Tonight I’ll be at the National Book Awards, covering them for Amazon.com. Tomorrow I’m at MIT in Boston, delivering a lecture on Booklife, followed the next night by a reading at Borders. Then, Saturday the 21st, I’m back in New York City participating in a discussion on fantastical and real cities. – Jeff
Protecting your Private Booklife means confronting issues like envy. I don’t know of any writers who haven’t experienced this emotion. Here’s an excerpt from my essay on the topic in Booklife. Next week: Despair!
Envy is a subject of intense interest to writers (or, really, driven, creative people in any profession) because it has been known to curdle careers and twist older creators into a kind of rigor mortis of bitterness. Thoughts of might-have-beens cross pollinate with a sense of entitlement, and suddenly anyone getting more attention is a creep, a thug, a soul-sucking light-stealer leaving you in shadow. And, just as electronic media have made it possible to access a blinding stream of information in seconds, so too these tools have left writers more susceptible to envy. Today you can easily discover the unpardonable triumphs of your colleagues, across platforms, across tools, across time.
…Francis Bacon also explores the effects of time on envy: “It is to be noted that unworthy persons are most envied at their first coming in, and afterwards overcome it better; whereas, contrariwise, persons of worth and merit are most envied when their fortune continueth long. For by that time, though their virtue be the same, yet it hath not the same lustre, for fresh men grow up that darken it.”
Because of new media, this process of establishing and fortifying a career can occur in weeks or months, exacerbating the situation. Even though this is just a side effect of having easy access to information, that doesn’t mean that the psychological reaction of gatekeepers and other stakeholders has kept pace with this kind of acceleration. Besides, in any context, appreciation for an intruder who appears not to have paid his/her dues or who simply, in the
opinion of the observing eye, does not have talent equal to the praise given to it is unlikely (and yet, precisely because information travels so fast these days, we have more of both types)…
…To truly protect against envy, I must suggest a corrective that may seem to contradict advice elsewhere in Booklife: the busy and inquisitive would be well advised to create blinders for themselves while online: shut down instant messenger, delete your blog favorites list, do not Google yourself, and most definitely do not Google those whom you envy. Otherwise, the reflection upon your eye may be like a nascent tumor that will only grow, dilating outward until there is nothing that you see of the world not tinged by envy.