Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[personal] The unexpected costs of success

I used to have a friend, someone who was pretty close for a long time, a long time ago. They were the first person ever to explain manuscript format to me, to tell me how submissions work, to introduce me to critiquing and the workshop process. In a very real sense, the pebbles they passed to me started the landslide in my life and work which became my career.

This is someone whom I should be thanking in the acknowledgments or dedications of my books, mentioning in interviews, talking to on my blog. But a funny thing happened on the road to now.

My friend, who had been an excellent mentor, began to resent my success. They felt challenged by the turns of my career, and the way I handled it. They began to complain about me, make trouble in online communities and mailing lists, and to a small degree in real life. I'd seen my friend do this with a few other writers, and every single time this person would exclaim in exasperation that they just couldn't understand how the people they helped always turned on them.

They've never been able to see how their frustration with their own career translates to jealousy.

Over the years, I've stuck out several fairly serious and vituperative outbursts with this friend, hoping they'd come around. Finally, about a year ago, I gave up. I took myself off a mailing list we shared, thus losing contact with a number of other folks -- the price of staying on was too high. I banned them from commenting on my LJ. It's the only time I've ever read someone out of my life. I'm not proud of that.

Maybe other people have drifted away from me out of jealousy or frustration, I don't know. They didn't make public jihads of their resentment if they did so. This person still tries to convince people that my career is based on shameless self-promotion and a relentless hogging of the limelight, that I'm an attention whore who blocks other writers from the possibility of success. I value their opinion highly enough even now that when their words come to my attention, it still hurts.

It's funny, how much I've given up and how much I've gained in building my career. Somehow I never thought this would be one of the prices of success. I celebrate my friends' successes, and work hard to help friends and strangers alike succeed. This problem baffles me to the point of pain. All I can hope is that my former friend's outbursts and anger serve some good in protecting their own heart.
Tags: personal, writing

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