thoughts on envy + April recommendations
Scroll by Wu Guanzhong
Sylvia Plath: “I am jealous of those who think more deeply, who write better, who draw better, who ski better, who look better, who live better, who love better than I.” For a long time I agreed—it’s a natural human instinct to look at others and admire the ways in which they’re better than us. If you’re at all competitive (I certainly am), it’s easy to feel threatened by someone else’s success; it makes you feel inadequate. We also convince ourselves that success is a zero-sum game; seeing someone else achieve a goal makes us perversely feel like there are reduced odds of us achieving the same thing, even when the opposite is true.
But lately I’ve been meditating on how seeing someone do something better is a wonderful thing—that’s how we learn. Last year, when I was working on a novel, all I did was read books about complicated women in their 20s and 30s. And often reading those books induced intense envy (how does she write so well???) but it also taught me about tone, plot, dialogue, character. It’s the same with Substack—seeing someone else write beautifully, prolifically and successfully can certainly make me feel bad about myself (should my Substack be growing faster? Should I be posting more? Should I be writing about different things?), but I also get so much inspiration and help from other Substacks. Griefbacon was the Substack I read over and over when I first started—I love it, it still makes me cry. And Ask Polly—I’ve been reading Heather Havrilesky for probably 10 years now; she’s gotten me through many heartbreaks. And now I’m reading Internet Princess and I admire it so much. Blogging on the Internet often doesn’t feel like a real job, even though at this point it actually is my real job—it’s incoherent and you decide everything yourself and there are no rules. It’s easy to get lost—I feel relieved to have role models for the future of this little project.