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.