Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Last week, I had the pleasure of watching my friend and ex-roommate - Adam Szymkowicz - have a successful reading at South Coast Rep.

I mean, really, it couldn't have gone better. The audience ate up his play like a kid eats up candy.

I felt good because it was a good thing for him - plus, South Coast flew him out so I got to see him. (We've been missing each other in New York the last few times I've been out there.)

However, I couldn't help but feel a little jealous.

Which is somewhat crazy since I not only love Adam's work, but I've personnally tried to get his work read everywhere I've been as a reader.

Still, it got me thinking about the pig farmer who starts with 2 pigs and 10 years later finds himself the owner of 200 hundred pigs. He is unhappy, however, all the time. His wife asks him why, since his stock has gone up 100 fold. He replies, because our neighbor has 400 pigs. Would it make you happy, she inquires, if he had the same number as you? He answers: Only if they were all dead.

Obviously, artistic jealousy is absurd. You do what you do because you're crazy inspired. Because the work you're doing calls for you to do it this way, not that. Accomplishments can't be measured apples to apples. "Good" is subjective. "Better" even moreso. "Bad" is a judgment that really doesn't help make anything clearer.

But while I'd love to be as noble as those thoughts, I'm afraid I'm not as often as I'd like to be.

Which is why, for my part, when this kind of thing comes up, I try to remind myself of those simple artistic principles. And that nothing I have done has been based on what I deserved, but rather what was given to me - usually as a surprise to my best plans.

What do others do?
In advertising - an often cutthroat business - this problem is dealt with head on. So, for instance, when someone you know wins an award, you look at the piece that won it for them and you say - out loud and to someone else - "I don't know. Is that really good? I mean, I could've thought of that. In fact, a couple of years ago, I did. I just don't have a good client like that. Fucking asshole, got lucky. His partner probably did it all."

You only get back to healthiness when you get back to work.


Dave said...

Our envy of others devours us most of all.
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Dan said...

Probably cold comfort: I think it's brave of you to ID this beast that we all feel from time to time. Calling it out makes it less likely to devour you. Or me.

P'tit Boo said...

You rock for speaking this out loud. I agree with Dan. Once you speak these things, you realize how ego based it all is . And at the same time , it's human to feel that way.
We don't deserve anything. We also deserve it all.
That's being human.

Fred Wickham said...

I'm sure we all feel this. And we all feel guilty about it, too. Remorse is the penalty for not being a psychopath.