Wednesday 14 October 2015

The Writer's Ego

Learn to Balance your writer's egoA quick google search on ‘the writer’s ego’ throws up plenty of articles about it being something we must get rid of, and a few about how fragile our egos are. But nothing much about the middle ground - the balancing act we need to survive, let alone succeed, as writers.

If you haven’t mastered it yet, you should make the development of ‘The Writer’s Ego’ a priority. The best way to do this depends on how you naturally feel about your writing and, by extension, yourself.

·         Some writers are too confident in their work. They believe, even at the beginning, that they are already writing bestsellers.

·         Some writers have no faith in their work. They believe that everything they do is derivative and boring.

Neither of these attitudes are helpful to a writer - at least, not alone.

So, what is The Writer’s Ego:

Developing and maintaining The Writer’s Ego is an exercise in doublethink, a term from George Orwell’s 1984. For anyone who hasn’t read the book, doublethink is:
“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them...”
The two contradictory beliefs a writer needs are:

·         That they are the best writer ever and all their work is amazing.

·         That they are the worst writer ever and that all their work is awful.

Too much of the first belief leads a writer to produce a lot of bad work and ignore any criticism.

Too much of the second belief leads a writer to avoid producing much work for fear of criticism.

The benefits of developing The Writer’s Ego are many and varied, but the important ones, to begin with, are:

·         It enables a writer to build a thick enough skin to withstand critique, whilst still accepting the validity of the comments.

·         It allows the writer to look at constructive criticism objectively, accepting those comments that can help them to improve, but having the confidence in their writing to reject any they disagree with.

·         It  gives a writer the confidence to put their work out there, knowing that it is of the best quality they can currently produce but that it doesn’t define them and that, in the future, they will probably look back on it and cringe.

Learn Doublethink to nurture your Writers egoDeveloping the writer’s ego does take practice. Of course, we all have moments when we want to tear pages out of notebooks, delete files from our computers or sneak into our editors’ houses and steal back our manuscripts. Equally, we all have moments when we forget that we aren’t actually as amazing as we think we are… These moments are important, and useful, parts of being a writer. They serve their purposes, either keeping us humble or giving us that boost of energy we need to finish a piece. But, they should only be moments. If either attitude becomes a writer’s default state of mind, it becomes very difficult for the writer to progress.

To borrow from Nineteen Eighty-Four again:
“If one is to rule, and to continue ruling, one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality. For the secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one's own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes.”
And, though it doesn’t always feel like we’re in charge, what are writers, if not the rulers of our creations?

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