Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Author Envy

I was supposed to go talk to a bunch of third graders this morning but I'm down with this stomach flu so am home in fleece pajamas instead, no longer barfing but still running a fever and spending too much time on the internet.

I vanity-googled my name and came up with this church bulletin item which was not good for my vanity:

Ordinary Days, Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting, Downstairs the Queen is
Knitting, all by Dorcas Smucker. She is a Mennonite columnist for the
Harrisburg Gazette in Oregon, and writes about her family and their
activities in a humerous tone.

The Harrisburg Gazette, indeed. And humerous, like that bone in your arm. Sigh.

Everyone seems to be talking about The Pioneer Woman and her cookbook. So I did some research. She started blogging in 2006 and soon became famous for her writing and photos and most of all for her recipes that she illustrated with step-by-step photographs. And recently she published a cookbook that (Tom T. tells me) hit #1 on the New York times bestseller list its second week out, and now it's 88 on Amazon.

And frankly I am jealous.

Isn't that funny how we save our envy for people in the same field as us? Music groups, sports figures, artists--they can all come and go and it never crosses my mind to be jealous of their success. When AHQ was ratcheting up the musical ladder I rooted for them and did all I could to promote them.

But along comes a mom-blogger-writer and does well and I think "Humph!"

The dumb thing here is that I know better than most how much of writing success is sheer luck and providence. And I'm sure that PW in her wildest dreams never saw this coming and couldn't have made it happen--it was just timing and chemistry and God-given talents and ideas that all came together.

But I'd love to know, do others do this? You AHQ guys, did you compare yourselves with the Kings Singers or whoever back in the day, track their success, and think the occasional envious "Humph!"?? Do dairy farmers compare their herd with the neighbor's, does Smuckers keep an eye on Welch's, did nephew Justin envy other basketball players their height or abilities? Come to think of it, Paul seems to be acutely aware of how all the neighboring warehouses are doing, how much they charge, and who decided to take their seed to Smiths instead of Hayworth. Not that he would admit to any jealousy, we know this. He just logically tracks the facts and figures.

Out at the coast we started watching Beth Moore's Bible study series on the book of Esther, and I brought the DVDs home to watch because they have some great material for a talk I was assigned next month on The Joy of Being a Woman.

I am very intrigued with Beth Moore and her speaking style. Not jealous, mind you, because I don't teach Bible studies and am therefore not competing with her. But her speaking style is incredibly intense. She paces back and forth, her eyes are wide open like she just had a 16-oz. white chocolate mocha latte with an extra shot of espresso, she keeps her hands in the air with her arm muscles tight, her voice is constantly emphatic. "It makes me tired to watch her," said my friend Debbie.

To put it gently, I don't talk like Beth Moore. In fact, I had someone tell me that I have a good voice for putting people to sleep, and I know she was right, because whenever there are senior citizens in the audience, at least one of them falls asleep. I save the Beth Moore intensity for when the boys are lighting WD-40 in the upstairs bedroom or when they take 200 steps across the field with their eyes closed and spill the bucket of blackberries in the fence row.

But I'm wondering, would I be more effective if I got more excited?

Meanwhile, I recommend this study on Esther. Our history is tied in with our destiny, Beth says, and much as you'd like to forget the one and focus on the other, the two are inseparable. Also, I found this intriguing--quoted as I remember it--"God works in what we are NOT. People come to me and say, 'But I can't do this or that, I can't talk like you...' Well guess what. Neither can I. NEITHER CAN I."

Quote of the Day:
[when we were talking about Paul co-signing for Matt's new apartment, since he's been house-sitting up till now and didn't have a rental history]
"Whenever you guys say 'co-sign' I immediately think adjacent over hypotenuse."


  1. Love your blog. I'm a pretty new reader. I won one of PW's giveaways one time. So naturally I'm a big fan of hers. I loved the honesty in this post. Seems natural to compare yourself to those in the same field as you.

  2. Yes, i think you are absolutely right! Of course, we don't want to admit this to anyone (as illustrated by my remaining anonymous :) I have no jealously for you - I hate writing. I do love to read, though, and your blogs are so genuine. A Mennonite pastor's wife who actually admits to being envious! I love it. I have to say, our own pastor's wife is also a very genuine person who does not pretend to be perfect. Thank-you, because you've challenged me to work on being happy for those around me who succeed even if they are competition to me. Because of your honesty, I am convicted to become more of the woman God wants me to be. Keep writing, I believe God has blessed you with a gift for expressing what the rest of us feel.

  3. I can so totally identify.

  4. Well, sure. That makes so much sense. We compare ourselves to people in our own field. I'm a teacher so I have always been in awe of those who I percieved as better at that than me. Thanks for being so honest. It is such a strong quality of yours. "Darlene from the book group"

  5. Well, not the Kings Singers, but maybe occasionally a singer in a group who I thought really wasn't that great and "I could do better than that!"

    And I'm sure I usually was in error, but yes, it's hard not to compare.

  6. Puleeese don't speak like Beth Moore. Her teaching may be great, but I turn off the radio when she comes on because of her grating voice.

  7. Haha...I was going to say the same thing as the last anonymous comment. Glad to see I'm not the only one. :)

    Enthusiastic energy doesn't mean as much to me as humble sincerity, which is what I heard in your speaking.

  8. I think it's human nature to "envy" those in our field. Hopefully, I will use the observations to improve my own performance, but not always. Some years ago, I was rather jealous of a teacher who was better than me. Then she had an affair. So, now that reminds me that those who appear "more successful" may in fact, be hiding their deficiencies. It helps with the jealousy.

    And I love Beth Moore. I want to study my Bible as intensely as she obviously does. And, you're right. Esther is a wonderful study.

  9. Neither can I. I needed this, today, the first day of teaching at CBS. I identify with the envy/inability phenomenon completely. Thanks for your honesty.