Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Ego (Again)

I'm always coming back to this subject, perhaps because in this writing community of ours ego is always manifesting itself. As an individual I wrestle with ego all the time - it gives rise to much of the difficulties in life. Although it's true we need ego to give us enough self-belief and pig headed determination to keep going in spite of the knocks and setbacks we face, ego can also be your worst enemy if you're not careful.

It's dangerous because of the lies it tells us. Those lies are necessary to help us succeed - they tell us we're great when everyone is rejecting our manuscript. But what happens when that manuscript is suddenly accepted? We no longer need the lies, but our ego doesn't know that. Basking in the joy of much longed-for recognition, old Ego goes into overdrive. See, I told you you were brilliant, didn't I? We don't need anybody. Just stick with me kid and we're goin' straight to the top...

So all those niggling self-doubts go out of the window and good riddance to bad rubbish. Except that they were our only quality control, weren't they? They stopped us from making a fool of ourselves by shooting our mouths off - now there's no one to censor us. But that's no problem, says old Ego. You don't need a censor. You're solid gold, baby. Shoot away!

And everything we commit to paper needs no checking, no revising, no peer review, according to old Ego. Surely we've proved we know it all now? Just get it out there, baby.

It's a danger lying in wait for all of us.

My last post was about great artists who died tragically young and suffered for their art. That suffering was the necessary struggle of ego because ego alone never produced great art. Ego only wants glory. He makes us rigid and closed when we need to be open and flexible. He isn't interested in producing something lasting, something that will resonate with others because of its inherent truth. To see the truth you have put ego aside.

And here's a good reminder of some of the pitfalls of success.


Patsy said...

I know what you mean. When I sold my first couple of short stories, I thought I'd arrived. I've long since realised it doesn't work like that.

Kate said...

Totally agree, Sandra. The bigger we let the ego become, the harder it falls - and it will fall in this game.

Melinda Szymanik said...

alternatively despite being accepted we can't shake off the thought that there must have been a serious fault with the manuscript for those other publishers to say no to it and the book when published will fail spectacularly