Letting go of our egos

Don’t let success make you or failure break you.

Wow. We authors have to walk a tight line between believing in ourselves/our stories, and becoming arrogant and hard-headed. We must pitch them with confidence and passion, but remain teachable. I like how James Scott Bell just gets the hard truths out there and over with. People are opinionated. Some just let you know with a little less tact and a lot less love. We have to prepare ourselves to be skinned alive and not allow it to affect our ability to function as people, as writers.

So, how do we prepare? I think we can tell ourselves that we won’t crash and burn after a horrifying review or critique, but we are human. Until we actually face the “haters”, it really is just platitudes. We have to walk through that experience. Or crawl. After we pick ourselves back up and continue on, we grow as writers and develop a healthier confidence. Of course, it all comes down to a choice. Do we allow it to embitter us or empower us?

On the flip side of ego, maybe some of us don’t have a problem with negative reviews. Maybe we think we are great and refuse to listen to feedback. Or we are surrounded by people laying on the love, filling our heads with even more greatness, but there’s no truth behind their words. And if we don’t face the truth, we can’t grow.

I’ve not met anyone like that. Have you?

Toward the end of the chapter, Bell seemed to take a more, would you say, an aggressive tone concerning the rising number of arrogant up-and-coming writers, but I like what he said in the following quote:

“…being a published writer is a privilege you earn.You’re not going to earn it by tooting a horn no one wants to hear. You’re going to earn it by knuckling down and writing, and letting the writing itself do the tooting for you.”

Truth=Pain=Growth=Freedom

So, what say you?

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7 thoughts on “Letting go of our egos

  1. C.L. Dyck says:

    “You’re going to earn it by knuckling down and writing, and letting the writing itself do the tooting for you.”

    Truer words have never been spoken, and in fact, there’s a lot of peace to be had in them. It allows us to take a weight of responsibility off our personality, networking abilities, and all those other challenges that plague a writer.

    It’s a great blessing that skill can act as a passport–it leaves us free to learn, to let go of the need to prove anything, when the proof is vested in and carried by the writing. I think that’s one of the amazing gifts of story, that it has such a power to carry us, its creators, into new places in life.

  2. J. L. Mbewe says:

    Yes! Where’s my like button? 🙂

  3. Kessie says:

    I’ve been reading James Scott Bell’s columns over on The Kill Zone, and he’s such a nice, down to earth guy. His post today, about how the hard-working little authors are the ones who are going to make the money, seems to go along with this. If you can be hard-working and teachable and not let the haters get you down, you’ll go places.

    The bit about the arrogant up and coming writers is so true. I know some and you can’t tell them anything because they know it all. It’s discouraging. I hope I never get like that.

    • J. L. Mbewe says:

      Oh, I didn’t know he did the Kill Zones. I know you had mentioned before, but I hadn’t had a chance to check it out. Now I gotta. 🙂 I like how you put it: “If you can be hard-working and teachable and not let the haters get you down, you’ll go places.”

      Is there a chance of becoming arrogant when you are aware of it?

      Constant vigilance! 😉

      And friends and family to keep us grounded. 🙂

  4. J. L. Mbewe says:

    Here’s the link to the Kill Zone article Kessie mentioned, in case any of you are interested. http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2012/03/you-dont-have-to-be-star.html

  5. C. Garrett says:

    Has anybody seen Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” that just won an Oscar? I recommend it for two reasons (and trust me, this all eventually ties into this discussion). First, it’s about a writer, which is always fun. Second, it’s about 1920s Paris.

    The reason that fact is interesting is because I also just read Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”, which contains his stories and anecdotes from being a struggling writer in 1920s Paris, and probably forms a lot of the source material for Woody Allen’s movie. (And full disclosure, J.L., I wrote an article for The Next Chapter about this that you might see next month!)

    Okay, why is this pertinent to this discussion? It has to do with both hard work and believing in your stories.

    First, as he describes in “Feast”, Hemingway worked very hard at his writing. To him, it was all about craft, and putting in the hours needed to hone his craft. He knew he needed to eventually write a novel for his career to go anywhere, but he felt he had to work up to it, writing longer and longer stories. Eventually that led to his first novel “The Sun Also Rises”, which pretty much assured his literary reputation and set the stage for a long successful career. To get to that point, and throughout the rest of his life, every day he put in at least 4 hours of writing. (Longhand, pencil and notebook, later to be typed on carbon paper) Not everybody is Hemingway–shoot, hardly anybody is Hemingway–but that’s a model for the dedication it takes to succeed as a writer.

    But there’s something about Hemingway’s time in Paris that is even more amazing, and I’m not sure if it crosses the line from believing in one’s writing to verge on arrogance. At that time, Hemingway was supporting his young wife (Hadley) and his young son (Jack, affectionately known as Bumby) solely on his writing. The more lucrative career open to him was stringing for newspapers, which he did now and then, but eventually he quit the guaranteed pay of journalism entirely in order to focus on his craft. That made him–at times–desperately poor, without enough money to even buy lunch. His wife and son suffered for it along with him. But he made that choice because he believed in his stories and his writing. He was disappointed at first:

    “I had not been worrying, I thought. I knew the stories were good and someone would publish them finally at home. When I stopped doing newspaper work I was sure the stories were going to be published. But every one I sent out came back.”

    But we know the end of this story. He kept working at it and he believed in himself (which maybe later truly became arrogance, but hey, he was Hemingway after all). That said, would I have the courage to quit my day job, risk leaving my family hungry, on the sheer belief that I could see what I wrote? Answer: no. So I’ll aspire to be maybe half like Hemingway.

    • J. L. Mbewe says:

      Thank you for a good thought-provoking response. I love writing, creating, constructing new worlds, drawing the maps, telling a story and would love to see it in print, but I cannot and will not allow it to hurt my kids. I’ve read a little bit by Hemingway but never did a study on him. Now I am curious how his dream/desire/beliefs affected his family. I look forward to reading your article, in the meantime I got some research to do. 🙂

      That said, it leaves me wondering…

      I’ve heard/read/seen many times where aspiring artists, whether in theater, music, art or literary, sacrifice so much in pursuit of their dreams, and maybe they achieved it or maybe they didn’t, but if we don’t follow suit would that make us any less of an artist?

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