I've always thought that writers are more competitive and jealous than other people, but is it really true? Don't bond traders envy the guy in the next office when he makes a big, I don't know, trade? Don't underwater photographers secretly want to kill the guy who takes a picture of the rare anopheles carbunculus squid? Maybe, but writers' jealousy seems to have a special potency. Once an ex-boyfriend of mine published a story collection to some acclaim, and I told a writer friend about it. "Oh, my god," said my friend. "I'd kill myself if I were you."
Writing is so hard, and publishing so uncertain, and awards and recognitions so danged scanty, that it's hard not to feel that the success of a fellow writer really does make one's own success less likely. And with writing, you can't exactly tell yourself, "Oh, well, so and so just got lucky." Well, you can tell yourself that, but you know it's not exactly true. It's not like manuscripts are published at random. If my most loathed enemy gets a book published, I have to admit that at least a few people -- agents, editors, publishers -- think she's pretty hot stuff. And those people have probably already rejected me.
Though I have been quite prostrated by jealousy at times, I haven't killed myself: I'm still around, and my writing friends, ex-friends, acquaintances, classmates, spouses, and rivals continue to publish copiously. Jealousy, I've come to realize, is just an occupational hazard, like carpal tunnel and bad health insurance. You either have to learn to deal with it or you have to quit.
How to deal with it? One thing I try to remind myself that the publishing industry is a big, ever-hungry mouth. It eats up and swallows this year's books, but it needs a whole bunch more for next year. And who knows what it will want next year, or the year after? Maybe me! (This also works well for those of us who feel faint upon entering a big-box book store, thinking, Oh, no, there are too many people writing books!!)
Another thing I tell myself is that even if I'd decided to follow one of my other dreams and become an archeologist or a hobo, these people would still publish their damn books, only I wouldn't know them. And I'd still want to try and write, because it really doesn't have anything to do with them at all.
Hey, maybe writers aren't more jealous than everyone else -- maybe they just talk about it more...