Monday, February 18, 2013

Egomania


*Insert cackling here*

So I've seen some quotes and memes and angst this weekend that have got me thinking about the writer's ego... and whether it is good, bad, or it depends entirely on the moment at hand...

Do first, let me say... Freud adopted the term ego for the organized, realistic part of the self... But we seem to use the term for the more self-aggrandizing component... And egomaniac, is NOT a person who goes around making things more orderly. Unless he does so by making himself emperor and forcing others to do all the work...

But what is egos role in ART? The confidence to be the SELF rather than copying some other artist? The belief we are creating something worth while? That sounds GOOD, right? Necessary, even.

But then there is this...

If we are so confident in ourSELF, then we sometimes fail to LEARN. We assume our way is the right way... the only way... The discussion, when the sign was posted, was about schools... one of the people mentioned art students where she went to school who came in so convinced they had it all just right that they wouldn't learn from the instructors or fellow students.

Then again, my first thought on seeing the sign was I knew far MORE people who lacked the confidence to put themselves OUT THERE. They had a passion for a craft and worked away at it, but didn't feel able to SHARE because they didn't think they had what it took.


Writing is a funny, wonky path that I think for most of us bounces us back between soul-searching insecurity (I'm not worthy!!!) and grandiose ego (that boneheaded critic just doesn't GET me) and I think BOTH extremes can hurt us, but there is also a time for both.

I think all of us go through phases we are in love with our books. And I think OFTEN with our FIRST book, we are convinced it just emerged perfectly from our mind... we are sure it is ready AS IS for publication. This is one of the reasons I still really like the traditional process--a lot of people (me included) really needed to be pounded with that reality check. As with anything... the more we learn, the more we realize that we really don't know... and we get more humble as we improve... oh, irony.

I've spent the last several weeks editing, and am feeling very UNWORTHY at the moment. I read through and think, “that's stupid... anyone would read that and think what a strained scenario that is... why on earth do I feel compelled to put EVERY MEAL in the damn book? You've got to be KIDDING!

But see the plus side of feeling so DOWN about it is I really DO spot some big stuff that needs changing... and it opens my mind for the SERIOUS HELP I plan on pleading from a few readers.

But I CAN'T let the fear be so great that I don't even show it to anyone...

And when I get that feedback, I sure as heck better be in a frame of mind to HEAR the suggestions. The suggestions aren't always exactly right, but the SPOT for suggestion usually is... if the suggestion is made, then something isn't working...

FIX IT, THEN let that darned ego take over and send it out to see if anyone wants it...


One of my very talented friends was lamenting her current work... feeling she didn't know if it was even decent... man... she's got a MOVIE DEAL... she should NOT be feeling that level of insecurity... but maybe that level of insecurity is because she holds herself to such a high standard.
So it's all over... Just breathe, my friends... it is all part of the process.

17 comments:

Old Kitty said...

Lovely Tart!! One of my ultimate and most favourite Star Trek Voyager episode is The Thaw (Season 2 when Voyager had so much promise then faded somewhat after season 4 but then I am digressing..! LOL!). Anyway the great and gorgeous Captain Janeway is head to head with Fear (personified by a sadistic clown) and I love love love what she says to Fear when she is finally alone with him:

"You know as well as I do that fear only exists for one purpose: to be conquered". Hoorah!

Take care
x

Trisha F said...

I think I both have confidence in my abilities, and also know that I'm never going to get things perfect, particularly in rough drafts. ;) I know that getting something as close to perfect as possible takes a lot of time and hard work, and yeah, it's a learning process.

mooderino said...

I think the idea that if you act confident you'll become confident is quite popular. Believe you're a winner and you will be, etc. Of course you still need to back that up, which is the hard part.

mood

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We need to be balanced in the middle and know which way to lean.
And I never thought my first book was great.

j welling said...

A bookseller told me of your book signing coming up in May.

It was unsolicited.

Now, they know I follow our regional folks so it wasn't out of character for them to know that I might have an interest. However, to just have someone call out your book signing to a customer is pretty great.

I think that means "star author." I know just how that feels too.

There's a donut shop that cheers when I walk in the door. Ah, the price of fame ( and three dozen assorted to go every Wednesday morning).

Ted Cross said...

I think a lot of writers, like myself, are an unusual mix of self-confidence and self-doubt. At the very same moment I can think of myself as having the talent to be published by the Big 5 and worry that my current writing is lacking in some way that I am just not able to see on my own.

Mark Means said...

I think, regardless of the situation, we're never -that- good that we can't learn something new.

Melissa Menten said...

I think loving the first book is only natural because it's an accomplishment to complete one. I constantly alternate between thinking what I've written is just as good as anything published, and discouragement at what an ordeal trying to get published is.

Clarissa Draper said...

I know for me, sometimes I convince myself I know all I need to know but I need to push my ego back and remember that I have to keep learning, keep improving.

Alison DeLuca said...

My Good Lord, Woman, did you crawl into my mind over the past two weeks? As I edit away, I'm thinking How much tea can one set of characters drink? I'm giving Downton Abbey a run for their Earl Grey!

Plus, herding those blasted people from place to place.... so exhausting... so tedious to read....

This is why I love my beta readers so much. I have two or three who really tell it as it is, and they are worth their weight in Uranium. Or platinum, or some expensive, pricey thing.

Not to mention my eagle eye editor.... They all serve to harness the ego and the id, plus whoever else lurks inside my crowded treehouse of a brain.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Both ends of the spectrum are rough on us--over-confidence and under-confidence! And it's so easy to swing wildly back and forth between the two.

Teresa Coltrin said...

If only we could be in the middle and stop swinging from one extreme to the other.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A reality check beating - so many writers need one of those.

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

I don't believe in the "egomaniac writer." This doesn't mean that I don't come across (on a regular basis) a writer who is pretentious as hell, rather the phenomenon is mislabeled.

It is all AMERICANS that are egomaniacs. I'm getting sick of it. From teenagers to folks my age, everyone is entitled, everyone thinks they are a genius (and if they've gotten to my age and haven't been told they're a genius--they're bitter).

That's the new American dream.

Helena said...

I never feel as if my writing is perfect or that no more changes are needed, hence my endless editing. At one extreme I question friends who see nothing wrong in a manuscript, at the other I've gotten mad at a couple people who saw nothing good in it and had personal agendas. Ultimately, as much as it hurts, I tell myself it's just a story I wrote and to get on with my life.

Tonja said...

I think there needs to be a balance. You have to have confidence and also see where there's room for improvement. If you can see all the things that need to improve all at once, it can be really overwhelming.

celeste holloway said...

Thanks, Hart! This is just what I needed to read! I guess we all feel UNWORTHY from time to time. This to shall pass. :)