Jealousy or Living the Dream

I fritter and flutter away at decluttering and organizing my workspace this afternoon trying to get control of the mess it had become. Even as I straighten and combine and discard, I feel my chest tightening and my head swoon. My office is not the way I want it.

I call myself a writer, but sometimes, I think “junk collector” might be a better description. Or maybe “good intentions gone bad”-er. I mean really, if I hadn’t hung it already, did I really think I was going to use a 2013 wall calendar? It had to go. And the baby gift for my husband’s ex-wife’s cousin? The infant had long since outgrown the jumper and bib we bought last spring. Now it was too late to return it. Here’s hoping someone else has a little girl soon!

Peeking around the corner, I glance into our front closet, the one with my plastic tubs filled with old bills and insurance policies, and my faux milk crates stuffed with outdated writing notes. Since I moved into the house last winter, I’ve transferred from one to-do list to another “organize front closet.” The space hosts plenty of room for organizing bills and writing materials, especially when I throw out the six years of electric company statements that I’ve held onto for some reason. It’s just a matter of finding the time – and the gumption – to get the project done.

Looking over my calendar produces the same constrictive feeling. In a move that seemed right for our family – and because of the flexibility of my employer – my formerly 40-hour-a-week job was pared down to 31 hours a week when I got married in December of last year. And because I now live about an hour from the office, three of those days I work from home. The shifting of schedules was an attempt to make my writing life – and the editing work I also do – still possible after we got married.

This little bit of freedom amounts to a huge investment in my writing life. Yet, still, when I scrounge through my calendar for the next week looking for chunks of time to write, I feel smothered. Meetings and family time and even social events I look forward to feel like they are competing with a career that will consume every minute I will commit to it.

I am tempted to wonder how other people do it, how writers with families and commitments and jobs – like me – find their way to productivity and platforms of hundreds or thousands. My subconscious mind flirts with jealousy as I think of other writers who don’t have the families and commitments and jobs. It’s easy to imagine how they do it, I think to myself, they who are so unencumbered by life and its obligations.

And I go on like this for a while, cleaning up my office and plotting out my calendar while the poison of these comparisons leaves me reeling and gasping. Things get really bad when I start wondering to myself that thing that always gets to the heart of it: how will I ever write a book when I can’t even organize my notes or fit in the writing I’m already doing? Because somewhere deep in my writing identity, I shudder at the thought of never having a book published.

Then I stop myself. Because I’ve been thinking about this jealousy and comparison thing for a while. I know there has to be a way out of it. What is it I’m jealous of? I ask myself. Am I really so self-centered that I would begrudge someone their hard-earned success? I know it’s not that. Or am I so self-loathing that I would aspire to success that was ill-gotten or easy? No. Not that, either.

Quietly, the answer emerges in the slight loosening of my shoulders and the easing up of my cramping stomach.

I am jealous of myself.

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I have the writing life I’ve always dreamed of—work to do, time to do it, a place to do it, friends to do it with—and yet every day there are a hundred ways to waste it, to not live up to it, to throw it away because I’m lazy or uncommitted. I’m jealous for the life I should have if only I would get up early, work hard when I can, rest well when I need to, and love deeply the people who surround me.

I am jealous of myself, but I don’t have to be. That’s the answer, I pray in a whisper.

Determined, I add “organize the front closet” to my to-do list again, this time with an idea for a simple filing system that I think might work. I create a separate Google calendar just for writing; it lies right over the top of our family calendar so I won’t double book. Seeing all those green slots –funny, I subconsciously assigned green, the color of envy, for my writing work—right next to my work schedule and family events makes it seem really possible.

And I say one more time to no one but me: this is my writing life.

Photo by oline221296, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.


  • Megan Willome ,

    Self-jealousy: yes!

    And I shudder, too, about not having written a book, but I’m too busy writing other stuff to write one. Besides, I don’t want to write about what’s going on. Yuck!

    P.S. I’m impressed that you have writing notes. I throw everything away.

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      Charity Singleton Craig ,

      Megan – I’m sorry you understand this! It’s something I think I’ll always struggle with a bit. But I’m with you – keeping busy writing even before thinking about writing a book. But writing notes is something from a by-gone era for me, actually. That’s why a lot of them need to be thrown away. I keep new notes more virtually – though I still have lots of little notes and pieces of paper filling a drawer even now.

      You ALWAYS encourage me. Thank you.

    • Diana Trautwein ,

      Ah, but green is also the color of growth and new life. And that’s exactly where you are, isn’t it? Smack dab in the middle of new life. And you are so right about the self-jealousy thing! I’ve never thought about it quite that way, but that’s really at the center of so much of this dis-ease we carry around, I think: we fail to live up to our own expectations. Maybe the key is to ever more consciously live in gratitude for what we have rather than regret for what we don’t? I’m not sure, just pushing it all around in my head a bit. Thank you for this, Charity. I always love to read what you write. Always.

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        Charity Singleton Craig ,

        Diana – yes, growth and new life. But also the gratitude. I think that is key in embracing my writing life. Thank you for always reading what I write. I am VERY grateful for you.

      • Dolly@Soulstops ,

        Charity,
        I am impressed with your persistence and not giving up on cleaning the closet or claiming your writing life.

        Thank you 🙂 So glad I am getting to know you and Ann better through the class 🙂

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          Charity Singleton Craig ,

          Thanks, Dolly! I haven’t gotten the closet done yet, but I will. It’s a commitment I am making to myself. Isn’t it funny how those small tangible things can be real milestones in our journey?

          I’m so glad to be getting to know you, too, Dolly. Thanks for all you are contributing.

        • Nancy Franson ,

          Oh Charity–Thank you for this. I think we may, perhaps, have identical writing desks and to-do lists. I feel as though I spend so much time fixin’ to write without ever getting down to it.

          It’s so good to read someone I respect so deeply wrestles with some of the same things I do.

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            Charity Singleton Craig ,

            Nancy – Thanks for your comments and kind words. Yes, it does sound like we have similar writing lives. I am learning to set small goals for myself and work consciously to minimize the distractions that I can. The Pomodoro Technique that Ann mentioned in our workshop has been a good start for me this past week. Getting that closet taken care will help too!

          • Ann Kroeker ,

            Name it. Claim it. Make space for it. Schedule it. You’re doing it, living the writing life.

            It seems I have to continually REclaim it, in tangible ways such as clearing the desk and creating a calendar, and in intangible ways such as thinking through my purpose and setting new goals adjusted to fit a new direction my writing life seems to be heading.

            Thanks for inviting us into your writing space, your closet, and your head. Even though I felt that tension and struggle so intensely, I was able to then feel the blessed relief afterward as you settle into it.

            Now, I can’t wait to read what comes from this.

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              Charity Singleton Craig ,

              Ann – Thank you for your encouragement and sharing a bit of your own writing life here. I think you are right about the “reClaiming.” I’ve done this process a hundred times, and yet I continually need to “re” do it.