You hit SAVE, take another sip of the cup of coffee you’ve got sitting on your desk, and close the Word document that contains your just-completed magnum opus. You feel confident, smug even, because — let’s face it — there’s nothing quite like finishing a manuscript.
There’s only one problem: You’re in love with it. Even worse, you’re in love with yourself.
Counter-intuitive? Maybe. True? Absolutely. When you fall in love with yourself as a writer, you hit a plateau in your talent which is impossible to escape from — until you hit rock bottom. Until the rug is pulled out from underneath your ego.
The trouble with being an artist
Part of the trouble with being an artist is that success is equated with fame. We infuse our creative process with delusions of grandeur in which our work is received with universal acclaim.
But let's not kid ourselves: This will not happen.
What is likely, however, is this: Feeling self-satisfied, we will “finish” our projects without returning to them with an objective eye. At the peak of our creativity, breaking new ground (in our minds), we won’t bother making sure the work is good.
What happens next
Inflated with over-confidence, we submit our writing to contests, reviews, publishers, editors, agents — whomever we can coerce to read the unfiltered outpouring of our egos.
And they will reject it. Ignore it. Defame it. Lambaste it.
Once we've been thoroughly disgraced by our failure to impress others, we will retreat into timidity and bashfulness. And fall further into obscurity, bitterness, and self-doubt.
So if that's where our ego will lead us, what should we do instead?
Don’t fall in love with yourself; fall in love with writing
Your convictions and affections should be tied to the act of writing, to the process itself, rather than the culmination of your efforts. If your ardor is solely for the work, you will be:
- less easily discouraged by negative feedback
- more eager to revise your work (because you know it is never really finished)
- more likely to impress your peers, because you are continually improving your process and honing your talent
Does this mean you shouldn’t be nervous when submitting a piece? That you shouldn’t have anything at stake when writing? Not at all. If you fall in love with writing, you will begin creating out of passion. When you do that, it is impossible to create something that isn’t close to your heart.
So, go. Fall in love with writing. Write every day until you love it like breathing. And you will have done everything a writer and an artist can do.
How has your ego inhibited your writing? Share in the comments.
*Photo credit: Pablo BM (Creative Commons)