Ergo, Ego, Eros

Writers, from what I can tell, seem to be a bit of a emotional bunch. One only has to be on a few mailing lists to see it – the brilliant moments of shared success when someone wins a contest or gets a call back from an agent, to the utterly gut-wrenching posts of despair that all one’s hard work is for naught – that no one will read it or buy it or like it. 

And it’s not limited to just aspiring authors either – even the pubbed folks get rejected sometimes.  Even so, I think it’s a healthy sort of fear. One that might drive you to edit faster or write better, to attempt to become more than what you are.

Jeffe and I were chatting about this the other day – why we as writers do what we do. There’s probably a certain amount of ego involved in wanting to see something that you made out there on display for the world to see. But that sort of success is a double-edged sword, and anyone who thinks otherwise has probably never tried it.

The truth of it is that when you send your work to others, it’s a pretty sure shot that some people will like it and some won’t. Some people are very vocal about it – and while it’s nice to get kudos, it does take a fair bit of moxy to hold true to form in the face of criticism, to take away the bits that are useful to you and discard the rest. Ego goes straight down the crapper, for sure.

I think that in order to succeed, an artist/writer/creator has to be in love with their work. For writers, I think you have to be in love with your story, with the words you are putting down on the page. One of my unpubbed friends seems to be trying to write more to the market – which is fine if you can do it – but she flits from one project to the next, never really finishing and never seemingly satisfied with anything she does. Which is where the love comes in – she’s not in love with the concept of her stories, ergo it’s unlikely she’s going to finish them.

So, yes, a certain amount of ego is required to drive us forwards, but the love has be the bones of the beast, so to speak. And there’s a fine line between having pride in what you’ve accomplished and being a raging gunch. (And yeah, there can be some of that too – just because you had *one* successful pitch session does *not* make you the pitching guru.  You did well, got lucky, stars aligned, whatever. Publish 20 books and then I’ll agree.)

Ego has to be earned (i.e. the nameless NYT best selling author who no longer uses an editor.  That, my friends, is ego.) But don’t mistake a new writer’s over enthusiasm for budding success as such – it may just be a grateful awareness that somewhere, someone may consider their work to have value.

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3 Responses to Ergo, Ego, Eros

  1. Kendris says:

    Ego gets a bad rap. It's a very necessary thing in the right amount. Like so many other necessities, it's when it's not there in the right amount that you run into trouble. Too little and you have someone who can't handle *any* criticism; too much & you get LKH.

    You've got to have *some* ego to have the balls to put your stuff out to be critiqued in the first place & say "Fuck you" to the flamers. It's when someone puts it out there and plainly expects nothing but strokes and kid glove treatment, or flat refuses to acknowledge any criticism, no matter how constructive, that ego becomes an obstacle.

    It's a balancing act. You have to believe in yourself enough to shrug off the worst of the bashings, because there *will* be some, regardless, but at the same time remain open enough to see when even the assholes have a point that you need to be paying attention to.

  2. Jeffe Kennedy says:

    Hi Kendris — I'm going to take up this argument. I'd say that way enables us to resist the slings and arrows, that allows us to put our stuff out there is a kind of obsessive love. Believing in ourselves comes from believing in our work, in what we love. The longer I live, the more I think ego, no matter how deserved, leads to a bad end.

  3. Kendris says:

    Heya Jeffe! The love is why we write, & why I suspect that most of the writers that I know would keep writing, even if they knew that there was no chance that they would ever get punished. It's more than love; it's a need, a compulsion, something we're not complete without.

    The desire to put it out there to be seen by others, to be critiqued and (hopefully/eventually) approved & published rises from somewhere else, from a belief that what we've done *is* good enough to be shared, & that we have the ability to improve it further through the input of others.

    To me, that's a healthy manifestation of what I call ego. Almost anything taken to excess is undesirable, but a good sense of your own worth means that you can't be pushed too much out of shape by the opinions of others.

    Just a little midnight philosophy from the ninja gerbil đŸ˜‰

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