Look, here’s the deal, all artists, writers, authors, etc., are pretentious, egotistical maniacs. Balancing ego and humility as a writer is like a trapeze artist carrying an elephant on their back while they walk across a tightrope. It’s nigh impossible.
It’s also essential.
I suffered from this problem often (and still struggle with it) when I first hopped into the foray of writing as a young adult. The high of finding an art form I loved and the thrill of dreaming about being a writer somehow took over the idea of actually writing. I’d form stories in my head and dream of writing them down but rarely did. Yet, somehow, I dreamed of one day being a full-time writer. Ego and dreams had a seductive affect on me. Rarely did I check my ego at the door much less think I had an ego problem in the first place.
No doubt, my soul was ripped from my delusions of grandeur and thrown squarely in realityland. The few short stories I had written were rejected and after college, I wasn’t a writer, but a lowly customer service representative. The cold hand of adulting slapped me hard in the face, teaching me a valuable lesson.
Ego doesn’t a writer make.
Everyone knows a big ego is a bad thing, but why? Here are a few reasons:
It blinds you
A dark, hazy fog appears the moment you develop a big ego. Since you think you’re awesome, you have little self-awareness. In the writing world, this means you’re a bad writer because you have zero interest in growing and becoming better. You already think you’re the next best thing since a ballpoint pen.
It makes you lazy
In conjunction to being blind, you become lazy. You write up one draft, maybe tweak it a bit, and announce it to be the best work on the planet. No one need look at your masterwork before sending it off to publication. This, of course, is assuming you even get around to writing anything.
It kills motivation
Idolizing a concept, like being a writer, won’t make it an actuality. Ironically, it will kill your motivation to become one. By putting “writer” on a pedestal, you love the plush, cushy land of fantasy, but stepping outside of it is full of fire and thorny brier.
For others, it makes you a jerk
Enough said. If you haven’t done a thing but you’re strutting your stuff and bragging about being a writer, then sorry to tell you, you’re a jerk. Even if you are an accomplished writer, ego doesn’t do you any favors.
“But wait,” you say, “didn’t you just get done saying all writers are egotistical maniacs?”
Right. They are to a degree. I’m of the firm opinion that every writer has a larger ego than most people. The reason being they live in a totally different thinking space. The artist needs to adore the craft. The novelist, their worlds. The painter, their portraits. The sculptor, their monument. And so on. They need to be able to dwell in imagination land and bask in the glow. Such a love balloons ego.
Should the writer kill ego, then? I’d say no. But, control is important.
An ego controlled can actually be a powerful thing. It can stir passion. Passion to write the next project. Confidence in one self to see the project through. And an wild heart crazy enough to cut, rewrite, and spend hundreds of hours finishing it.
Simply put, writers need to put an ego on a leash. Don’t let ego control you. Control ego with humility, consistently humbling yourself, not by self-deprecation, but kind words. Sometimes humility hits a writer like it did me so many years ago. The cold hand of reality can be a good teacher of humility. But, regularly humbling yourself, dipping your soul in reality, should be enough to do the trick.
By balancing ego with humility, the writer now has a solid mind space to tackle their next project. They’ll write it up with confidence, rewrite it with vigor, and feel proud of the work they have done, but happy to rework it if rejected. They’ll learn, grow, and become even better. The dream will actually become a reality.
What better’s than that?