My daughter, Sara witnessed the following scene in our local glatt market. A child of about two years old begged his Mommy for a lollipop. The mom replied, “No, you already had a lolly today.” His whine started small. “But please Mommy, it’s kosher.” When that didn’t work, his pleasepleaseplease grew louder and more insistent until finally he pulled out all the stops. “But Mommy, I NEED a lolly!”
Sara tells me over this sweet story thinking that this is all it is, a sweet story, but nothing to a writer is only a sweet story. It’s a mashal, an inspiration for a bigger piece, the introduction to my next feature article…. Or maybe it’s just what I needed to hear right before writing this week’s bloc.
I think about all the prayers sent to Hashem with I NEED this or that tucked away inside the words, insistent, begging, hoping that Hashem recognizes that this thing that I’m asking for, well, it’s not really a want, it’s a need. Of course I say the required postscript — only if You believe this is what I really need — but who are we kidding? My prayers to Hashem are full of prayers that sound much like that little boy and his lolly.
And as my mind is flitting around thinking of all the different ways I could consider the true meaning behind a boy’s begging his Mommy for a lolly, my mind rests on the assigned bloc for this week — for which I had not, until this moment, had a clue about what I would be writing.
Writer’s envy. We all have it, we professional writers, except perhaps those writers who are on such a high medragah, it wouldn’t enter into their minds. I’m not on that madregah yet, and so I will confess to you that I have had my moments of boy and lolly in the equivalent writing world. I remember reading a beautiful feature story that Barbara Bensoussan wrote about the Lancaster, PA community. She did an in-depth look at this heartwarming community and the yeshivah they have built there, including a long sit-down with the Rabbi and Rebbetzin, Rabbi and Buci Sackett. How could Mishpacha have known when they were handing out writing assignments, that Stephen and I started out our baal teshuvah journey together in Lancaster, PA, and that Rabbi and Buci Sackett were the first inspiration to us? How could they have known how fantastic it would have been for me to have the opportunity to return to a place I haven’t been in so many years, to revisit the place where our yiddishkeit began to blossom? And so it is that I was filled with writer’s envy as I read Barbara’s piece, and the boy and the lolly inserted itself in my brain. “I wanted to do this piece. How come I didn’t get to?” Well, because I didn’t need it. Or I would have gotten it.
I am not only a writer for Mishpacha. I am also an avid fan and was even before I became a writer. I look forward to reading Mishpacha on Friday night and Shabbos afternoon, and many times I will read a sensational article written about a topic that also fascinates me, and I’ll think to myself, “Aw, shucks, wish I had gotten this assignment!”
And you know what? There are writers reading my features and columns and feeling envy toward me as well. Right now, there is a writer reading this bloc and thinking, “How come she gets to write the weekly bloc and I don’t?”
Writer’s envy. We all have it. We may not admit it or talk about it, but it comes with the territory. And there’s only two ways I know of to deal with it. One, you’ve really got to believe that the assignments you get were those meant for you, and the ones you didn’t weren’t. And two, like any envy-reduction plan, you tell yourself, “Oh, right, if I want that writer’s assignment on (blank), then I have to be willing to take any assignment that the other writer got, and I am sure glad I didn’t get the assignment on (blank)!”
That’s the nature of envy. Which is why I try to stay clear.
Barbara Bensoussan did a fab job, as she always does, when she wrote her piece about Lancaster, PA. I guess Hashem wanted her to meet the Sacketts because He already knew that I had been given the privilege years ago.
Mishpacha editors may appear to be the ones in control, giving out all the assignments. But they know, and so do I, that Hashem is guiding their every move.