I was talking about this with my CP the other day. We were talking about how hard it is to write through self-doubt, etc. And then the conversation spun into how massive egos can burn bridges like WHOA.
Self-doubt is crippling. Egos are inhibiting.
What I think a successful writer often needs is to have both ego and a bit of doubt living inside of us. Truthfully, I think most of us do. But I think both can actually be helpful, instead of being negatives all the time.
So when is ego negative?
When your ego spurs you into a massive diva fit that alienates friends/colleagues/people who could be important to your career later on? Put that mofo on timeout. We can’t be overly reactionary in this business…or truly in any business.
Passion for what you do is great, it’s wonderful. But if someone calls you Aretha and hands you a Snickers maybe it’s time to chill the heck out.
These situations, the hard dramatic professional situations where you may, or frankly may not be, justified in your pique, are when it’s important to remain calm and professional. And firm if need be! But it’s not the time to let your ever-loving ego run loose. It actually does a disservice to your grievances, because you sound like a person who is reactionary and entitled, rather than logical.
When is ‘ego’ helpful? Well, when you’re writing. To be able to sit down and enjoy what you’re working on and have a moment when you look around the office and stand up and shout I’M KING OF THE WORLD before you push Kate Winset off that door and float away to safety on the waves of your epicness.
Those are private moments. For you, and maybe your husband, or mom, or close writer friend. Oh heck, even a little for twitter. Why not share some positivity? We shouldn’t only feel free to share the negative. These are moments of victory because we work in a vacuum and we have to be able to feel highs over what we’re doing or we’ll get all broody and wretched. Or, at least I will.
It took me a long time to arrive at a point where I felt like it was okay to love what I was working on. I just thought you weren’t supposed to. But sometimes I DO! And when I do? It all feels so much better. I writer faster, I write happier, I write with Bruno Mars playing in the background!
Then, of course, I have to hit send and that’s when I find the need to wrap up in a little needed…’doubt’. I don’t think doubt is really the right word, just as I’m not sure ‘ego’ is the right word for those moments of office victory, but you know, for the sake of the structure of the post…
When I send the book off to my editor, I have to let go of that fuzzy blanket of ‘your book is perfect’ and put on the prickly robe of ‘you’re going to have to accept that it’s not perfect so you can objectively fix it.’
The transitions aren’t easy. It’s easier to doubt while you work, get annoyed when you have to revise, but it’s not helpful. But this is why, maybe, well, one of the reasons why…writers are a little crazy. Because it’s about knowing when to let these parts of yourself run rampant, and when to keep them in check.
Now, when is self-doubt not your friend? When it stops you from writing, and when it keeps you from enjoying your work. Then it has GOT TO GO. Even if you just have to try to banish using the old Stuart Smalley trick. I mean it. If you have to go stand in front of a mirror and say you’re good enough, smart enough and GOSH DARNIT PEOPLE LIKE ME!! Then do it. Fake it till you make it and all that.
Ultimately, we need elements of both of these things, the doubter and the egotist, inside of us. We just have to be able to exercise some control over them. Know when to take them out, and know when to tie them up, put duct tape over their mouth and put them in the trunk of our car.