A year and a half ago, I found myself sitting in a circle with 40 other women. We were all in Ojai for the weekend, attending a Writing & The Body retreat led by Jen Pastiloff and Lidia Yuknavitch. Most of the women were writers, here to expand their capacity to share. Lidia would give us prompts and then a short period of time to complete them. When finished, we would go around the room sharing our work.
Listening to some of the women speak, it was clear to me that there was great talent in the room. Many of the participants were much older than I was, writers who had been working on their craft for decades. I remember feeling insignificant. Afraid to read what I had written. Hungry for Lidia's approval. Wanting to sound different than I did. Jealous, even.
And just as thoughts of wanting to be more like someone else came into my mind, Lidia shared some advice. Seemingly out of the blue, she began talking about creative jealousy. What to do when you were suddenly coveting someone else's experience or work.
"Pray for them (as in they have no idea what's coming and not all of it is good), and then help someone else. You know? Move the light around. The light isn't ever for just one person even if it looks like it is," she told us.
Not only is Lidia wickedly good at this writing thing, but she creates from a place of heart. Her work and the work she hopes to inspire is meant to move, shape and heal. To her, creativity is not the same old egoic, one man journey of success and failure. It is instead a collective experience. Long after leaving the retreat, the advice stayed with me. But it was there in that very room that I vowed to become better. To mean it when I said I was a writer. I allowed the other women's greatness to help spur my own. And as I deepened my skill and voice, I watched as jealousy settled.
Unfortunately these sort of feelings didn't vanish permanently. Today they can still pop up. Typically in areas that I feel I am struggling with. Sometimes it's a great challenge to avoid comparing my life to others, especially with the presence of social media. So I keep Lidia's wisdom close. I know that jealousy is a push to expand my own experience. That somewhere in me is longing for more. It is also an opportunity to get out of my own way and be of service. And to remember that no one's win or loss is ever really theirs alone. We are in this together, even when it doesn't feel that way. I take comfort in knowing that the light I see in my heroes is just a reflection of my own.