Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Ego is an often vilified human characteristic. Regarding one’s self-image, confidence, and esteem, we all need some ego. Without a healthy ego, a person can become easily manipulated and hesitant to take the risks needed to put herself out there and achieve life’s goals. Self-published authors especially need that last one in spades.
Authors take big risks by releasing their work into a world that may be unkind. Writing something that readers may arbitrarily skewer for a plethora of substantial and tedious reasons is damn scary. I once had someone give my book a lower review because they thought I didn’t show how the main character was Muslim (the character wasn’t) and another because they didn’t like “all of the racism” in an interracial romance.
Yeah, exactly. It takes a humongous ego to read helplessly while people slice and dice away at something that took blood, sweat, and tears—I am not exaggerating—to create. Doubts can slow down and stall one’s writing process. Authors need to swallow a big ole bottle of courage to prepare their work for the world. A bigger bottle is needed for them to continue to write after some critics are through ebbing away at their confidence.
There is a high expectation that a person penning something has confidence and knowledge about their text. The word “authority” comes from “author,” meaning a person with authority writes books. Fiction writers ideally have mastery (authority) to write creative works in their genre.
Fiction writing involves learning and honing conventions and skills to engage in meaningful storytelling that satisfies readers and leaves them wanting more. Every time an author puts pages between the covers of a book, they are telling their readership, “I have a story for you, and you are going to love it.” They must have an ego to strut their literary stuff.
There can be too much of a good thing. Deluded that they are the next Toni Morrison or James Baldwin, authors may ignore productive critiques that can help them refine their techniques. The best writers constantly look for ways to be better, with the mindset that their work is progressive and imperfect.
A big ego can be a deficit if fed with an author’s self-grandeur without some self-reflection and ability to take the hits and learn from them. Writers should maintain a balance of ego and self-actualization, which allows them to accept themselves as authors and be realistic about the criticisms they get. Does the critic make a credible point? If so, the author should focus on the issue and improve their craft.
One reviewer mentioned that I had the tendency to slip into omniscience in my book. Once I stopped being pouty and defensive, I had to institute the advice I give writers; accept writing flaws, and work to eliminate them from your process.
I accepted that the person was right and hired a writing coach. I used my time with the coach to work through my penchant for the omniscient and a couple of other kinks in my novel writing.
A big ego is a must for anyone with the guts to publish. Just make sure to temper it with some realism and humility.
Let’s keep those keyboards clicking!
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