WRITERS EGO: MOUNTAIN OR MOLEHILL?
By Sherry Vaughn
Writers are egotistical people; they have to be. The question is whether they have an ego that will help them achieve success as a writer or one that will prevent it. New writers seem to be most susceptible to the high or low of ego onslaught. I guess its because theyre so vulnerable in a profession thats so hard to break into. However, those who truly want to succeed can solve an ego problem, both big and small. Ive always visualized a writers ego as a mountain range surrounding a serene valley where the creative soul lives. If the ego is too small then it cannot protect that creativity from the storms and damage of criticism and rejection. If the ego is too large, it protects the soul but starves it of any good, refreshing winds and waters it needs in order to grow. Knowing how to build that creative ego is one of the secrets to success as a writer. In order to find the answers, we took the mountain to Mohammed. We asked, Diana Kirk, a very successful romance novelist of the first order, how she managed her ego growth in this business. This is what she had to say:
Ego and authors
By Diana Kirk
There is a very fine line between a person with normal ego, one that keeps you writing and promoting your work, and an egotist, one who thinks the entire world revolves around him/her. All writers need a healthy ego to a certain extent. We wouldn't be writing if we didn't think we had something to say that might interest or entertain others. All writers need egos large enough to withstand the multitude of rejections before publication that inevitably ALL writers face.
However, I have also seen egomania in action, where a first, second, or third-time author becomes conceited and it's not a pretty sight. Upon publication, something that happens to this formerly friendly, helpful, critique partner that screams, "I'm published now and you must bow down and adore me."
If you encounter one of these people, run screaming from the building. He/she is a succubus who will destroy your creativity and suck you dry. This person will constantly want to have his/her work read during critique, but will be unable to spare the time to review anything you have to present. She will reject any helpful critiques you have to offer about her work and simply tell you, "that's the way I like it. I'm published, you know." She will also try and make you rewrite your work and turn you into a clone of her voice. At the RWA conference (or others) she eschews "How To," workshops because she's published and she knows everything there is to know about writing. She is always, either too busy to help another writer/author, won't offer to put in a word with her editor or agent because she has a reputation to protect (in other words, she/he thinks your work sucks and putting in a good word for you would reflect on her writing) or won't do anything for the chapter and fellow authors unless there is some sort of direct payback for her. Have I described anyone you know yet? These are examples of unhealthy egos. Egos run amuck.
But there are also people who have healthy egos. Look at Nora Roberts. She writes prolifically. She's won every award possible for her writing. She appears everywhere and is kind to ALL she meets. She's all over the net and corresponds readily with anyone who e-mails her. She (who should have the biggest ego given her extraordinary body of work) is selfless and kind. But she has a healthy ego. She is strong enough to defend her work when needed and even bring about legal action if necessary.
I'm always trying to be like Nora (ah, if only I could write like her :-D) and not that unnamed author in my example.
What do I do personally when I encounter bad reviews, critiques and revisions? Luckily, I haven't been given any bad reviews (yet) for my books, but I'm sure it's down the road one of these days. I have had editors slash and burn, however. And I've had more than my share of rejections. :-D I've been writing for 14 years. It took 12 before I was published. And I've had critique partners that have told me to NEVER write romance. I don't argue with them (it wouldn't do any good anyway), but that's where my ego jumps in and says, "you can do it. You can show them." And thus, PARTNERS IN CRIME, WYOMING WILDE and SONG OF ISIS were born.
I'm always trying to learn my craft and trying to be a better writer. I LOVE to go to how to conferences, because if I can pick up just one piece of information that will help/make/keep my writing fresh, then it will have been worth it.
When I do get a rejection, I allow myself ONLY one day to be depressed. "Boo Hoo, poor me, I'll never write again, Whaaaaa, sniff, call the editor a nasty name (to myself of course) or sometimes all of the above." Maybe I'll eat chocolate or cake or pudding (comfort foods). Then on day two, I kick myself in the behind and fix those errors in the manuscript and ship it back to the editor, or rewrite the synopsis/proposal and send it out again, or realize the book isn't gonna make it and shelve it. Luckily I haven't had to do the latter yet. :-D
Bottom line is my ego is healthy enough so that I know I can write and I have something to say that entertains at least a few people. :-D But that's where it stops. I'm no better than many, many unpublished writers just waiting in the wings and I certainly don't know everything there is to know about my craft so I spend my free time studying and learning everything I can.
Being a writer is a tough business and we certainly have enough obstacles in our path without creating them for each other. Yes, we all need egos to stay with this business or else we'd give up after the first rejection. But ego also needs to be tempered with moderation (as with chocolate or cake or pudding) and laced with kindness toward our fellow professionals.
And let my ego jump in here and tell you that I teach beginner, advanced, and detection for mystery writing at Painted Rock Writers Colony http://www.paintedrock.com/ If you're interested in taking one of my real-time online classes, contact Carmel@paintedrock.com
Sherry thanks so much for the opportunity to answer this great question and I'd love to answer any others you might have. http://www.eclectics.com/dianakirk/ Diana Kirk
ABOUT DIANA KIRK An electronic pioneer, Diana Kirk is no stranger to more traditional forms of writing. She is a playwright, novelist, and medical writer. Her mysteries are featured on the Hard Shell Word Factory Website. The 1992 President of the Nebraska Writers Guild, Kirk is currently a member of the Mid-America Romance Authors and Romance Authors of the Heartland. Her historical play, Prairie and Parlor: The Creighton Story, was produced at a local theater to rave reviews. She was also on the Board of Directors of the historic First Nebraska Literature Festival in 1991 focusing the spotlight on Nebraska writers everywhere. Each month, Kirk teaches basic, advanced and detection techniques for mystery writing and plotting at the Painted Rock Writer's and Readers Colony. By the end of the four-week course, students will complete a synopsis and three chapters of their mystery novel. Contact Carmel@paintedrock.com to sign up. Secretary, EPIC
A CADUCEUS IS FOR KILLING - HSWF reissue - December 1998
MURDER IN MUSICLAND - HSWF - reissue -Spring 1998
SONG OF ISIS - HSWF August 1998 http://www.hardshell.com/ Hard Shell Word Factory - Electronic Books PARTNERS IN CRIME - New Concepts Publishing July 1998 WYOMING WILDE - New Concepts Publishing January 1999 UNFRIENDLY PERSUASION - HSWF - January 1999 BAD MEDICINE - HSWF March 1999
Diana has free magnets for readers! To receive yours, please send a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) to: Diana Kirk P.O. Box 415 Boys Town, Nebraska 68010-0415