Not Just a Jealous Guy - Gareth P Jones

If you are an author, there is a good chance you have some presence on social media. If you’re anything like me, you have found that your life online became a considerably more significant aspect of your life over the course of the pandemic.  

Twitter is my social media site of choice. Most of the time, I find it a great way of making friends, maintaining friendships, making silly jokes, feeling connected, promoting books and finding work. 
But the subject of this blog is one aspect of being an author online that is harder to talk about because it involves a personality trait that I am ashamed of. I’m talking about Jealousy.

In G.E.M. by Jane Clarke and Garry Parsons, Royd has a Green Eyed Monster, which gets bigger and bigger until it eventually consumes him.

As my twitter friend, Elon Dann points out, there is a difference between jealousy and envy. As he puts it, “Jealousy is insecurity about a potential loss. Envy is resentful longing.” 

The feeling that I’m addressing here lies somewhere between these two definitions. Insecure longing - possibly with a touch of resentful fear of potential loss.  

Lots of my friends tell me they never feel this. Maybe you’re the same, in which case I am envious of your lack of jealousy. 

In David Litchfield’s The Bear, The Dog, The Piano and The Fiddle, Hugo the dog learns the fiddle and gets the chance to play with Bear’s Big Band but the question is whether Hugo's owner Hector can swallow his pride and learn to be for happy for his friend.

When you go online to big up your books, you are likely to encounter lots of other people doing the same. Whether you have signed a contract, received a copy of your brand-new book, found an agent, had a book published or received a glowing review, you are expected to capitalise on this positive moment. If you are appearing at a book festival or picking up a national book award, it would be stranger if you didn’t mention it on social media. As authors, we understand this and we support each other’s efforts in the hope that we can create a supportive, inclusive environment.  

Happily, for the most part, we succeed in this.

There is no place for expressing jealousy in this world. Feeling it is bad enough. Voicing it is unforgivable. Sometimes it might seep out in the form of suitably vague, but snarky joke. But you’ll know what you meant – and so will others. For that reason, those who suffer from jealousy learn that it is better to bury our feelings. 

We chastise ourselves for feeling this way. We tell ourselves that we have much to be grateful for and that many people’s dream is to be a children’s author. We feel embarrassed about these ugly thoughts. We feel shame that such thoughts could even cross our minds.

But jealousy is also intricately connected to ambition. Denying its existence is to ignore the positive aspect of how much it can be a motivator. My jealous thoughts remind me that I am able of doing something about my situation. I can write another book. I can send out an email or tweet to get more school bookings. I can contact a festival and offer my services. I can bribe a national book award judge with a barrel of fudge. 

OK, so I have never done this last one, but my point is that, although jealousy is an unattractive quality, pretending that it isn’t there, will not make it vanish. The way I have learned (and am still learning) to deal with it is to acknowledge that it’s there, understand why it’s there, and try to find a positive side to it.

Inch and Grub (Alastair Chisholm and David Roberts) sees its two eponymous cavemen heroes coming up with increasingly impressive inventions as their competitive jealousy spurs them on.

The moral of this caveman story is that ‘stuff’ isn’t what matters, but I think it also shows how these negative feelings can lead to positive action. I do my best to hide my jealousy (except for when I’m writing a blog about it) but I also accept that it is a part of me and a part of life online. So long as it’s kept in check, it can fuel invention and motivate us to create. 

Gareth P Jones' brand new picture book, Cinder Gorilla, illustrated by Loretta Schauer is published this September by Farshore Books.


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