Confronting Jealousy

Confronting Jealousy

1920 1079 Nathaniel Lee Hansen

You have to write about this in second person. You can’t accumulate the courage to say I. You are grateful that you can write about this in such a way, even as you’re fooling no one.

Start here. You are a jealous soul, possessing a jealousy that leads to deep envy that leads to despair, that leads to paralysis. That tempts you to quit writing altogether. That makes you think the encouraging words of others are fraudulent. That makes you think you have nothing worth saying.

You are able to rejoice with those who rejoice, most of the time, but when it comes to friends and acquaintances who are writers, the response is more mixed. It is difficult. Perhaps that is simply more evidence of your solipsism.

Why can you not celebrate more with the publication of someone’s book? Because each book published by someone else reminds you that you have no book of your own. You feel as though you’re a failure, a fraud.

Oh, yes, there is that chapbook from a small press, a book you’re proud of, a book that others have said they enjoy. Shouldn’t that be enough? It should be, but sometimes it isn’t.

When you see your writing friends and acquaintances, you feel as though you’re some tag-along, some wannabe. You know comparing yourself to others (for almost any reason) leads nowhere good, and yet that is your impulsive response.

You feel as though you have little to show for all of your writing across these years. You’re almost 40, for goodness sake! You know, logically, that having a book published (or not) is not indicative of your worth, but for you, logic doesn’t always win out over emotion.

You don’t even know if you should be sharing these thoughts. They feel so awkward, and you suspect that you are coming across as a whiner. You probably are. What will others think? Yes, there’s that question you struggle to shut out.

Before you leave your favorite coffee shop where you are writing this, you send it to a particular writer friend who always listens, always offers wise words. You tell her it’s unfinished, but you are concerned about it offending others. Her response encourages you to keep working on it.

When you arrive home, something happens, something so unexpected it feels as though it’s fiction instead of nonfiction directly from your life. Even as you prepare to write it now, you think, “God, you certainly have ways of getting my attention.”

Your son (6) and daughter (3) are on the sofa, each with a notebook and pencil. They both glance up at you excitedly. “We’re writing books, Dad,” says your son. “I only have three more pages and then it will be ready for publishing.” As this happens, you feel again as though you’re in a work of fiction and not the story of your life.

You grin, no, you beam. You start to laugh. “That’s great!” you say. You have not shared with your children your dreams of publishing a book, but they know you are a writer. They have seen some of the magazines and journals your poems, stories, and essays have appeared in. They know that words matter in this house.

They remind you, here on this rainy Saturday afternoon, why you started writing in the first place, all those years ago: because you enjoy it and because you feel compelled to do so. They remind you of the pleasure of forming words on a page, something of your own making. But more than that, they remind you that writing is important, yes, but it cannot (and should not) be all you live for.

Nathaniel Lee Hansen

I’m a poet, fiction writer, and essayist. My chapbook, Four Seasons West of the 95th Meridian, was published by Spoon River Poetry Press (2014). My work has appeared in Christianity and Literature, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, Blast Furnace, Driftwood Press, Whitefish Review, The Cresset, Midwestern Gothic, and South Dakota Review, among others. I currently serve as an assistant professor of English & Creative Writing at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. I also edit Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature and direct the annual Windhover Writers’ Festival. When not writing or teaching, I run, read, play piano, listen to music, and play disc golf. My greatest joys are my wife, my son, and my daughter. I was born in southern Minnesota, but while growing up, I had little interest in the Plains and opens spaces. A stint at a rural state liberal arts college in southwestern Minnesota, as well as grad-school stints in northwestern Minnesota and southeastern South Dakota, altered my interests. @plainswriter, plainswriter.com, & www.facebook.com/plainswriter

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2 Comments
  • Nathaniel God does indeed work in mysterious ways. Thank you for this poignant picture of the heart and soul of why we write.

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