Dear Ms. Paper:
One of writer friends just made the long list of a prestigious literary prize. We both live in Lagos and have been friends for years now. When she told me about the longlist, I tried to sound excited. I even posted congratulatory messages on social media. But, if I have to be honest to myself, I would say that her success is getting increasingly hard to swallow. Her recent novel—it isn’t even that great—is flying off the shelves. When she told me the other day that the novel was already in its 4th reprint, I had to fight back tears of jealousy as pretended to rejoice with her. I have been in the writing hustle much longer than she has. I hate myself for saying this, but she doesn’t deserve the success she is getting. I am a much better writer. I work so much harder than she does. But it looks like I am the one doomed to be the starving, unappreciated artist. But then, after all is said and done, she is a lovely and genuinely good person, and I would hate for my inability to appreciate her success to ruin our friendship. Can you help me?
Dear Green-eyed Scribbler:
One option is to pack your things and runaway. Leave Lagos. Get on a jet plane. Find some bush in Zambisa forest where blogposts, New York Times articles, and tweets about your friend’s success won’t reach you.
Alternatively, you could learn to enjoy the success of fellow writers. Think strategically. See your friend’s success as a resource. Ask yourself how you can use her new found network of high-profile critics, bloggers, and publishers to launch yourself. As an artist, Hate is petty. Letting envy stew in your soul will consume your creative will. It will corrupt your heart, narrow your mind, and snuff out that love of life on which all things artistic grows. If you don’t wash that green, slimy goo of envy and hate from your eyes, you won’t see clearly to write that bestselling story you so desire.
Don’t confuse your friends’ success for your failure. Count your blessings. See your friend’s success as a harbinger of good things to come.
PS: Required reading: Nothing can show you the shockingly destructive outcome of envious hate like Isidore Okpewho’s Victims. Enjoy!
#DearMsPaper is a fictional agony-aunt series that parodies readers, critics, and writers in the African literary scene. If you have specific questions you’d like me to address, send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Previously on #DearMsPaper: click here.
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