As a writer, it isn't terribly uncommon for me to stop and take a good, long look around me. People are fascinating. There are some six billion of us, and no one is exactly the same as another. Even twins, with confirmed identical DNA, have differing feelings and emotions. There is no one shared personality. Even if the variations in personality are small, no one person is an exact copy of another.
There is, however, one thing that all writers share. What's that, you ask? What could we all have in common beyond our odd desire to torture ourselves by writing novels and short stories?
Our egos. Our fragile little states of mind. Our emotional
Yep, that's right, folks. I went there. The delicate subject of our prides, our egos, and our self-esteems. Forget walking on egg shells, I'm going to drop a nuclear bomb on them. There won't be enough left of these egg shells to sprinkle in an urn. Fortunately, I'm not going to make fun of you.
I am, however, going to poke a lot of fun at myself. I might be a little worried at how many people I'm about to offend on my delving into this subject, as I have one very interesting ego, and I don't like to think I'm some unique, strange beast when it comes to my ego. I'd like to think I'm a pretty normal person. Proceed with caution. Egos abound. This is the story of my ego, where it was, where it went, and where it is now.
Sit a while, and listen.
Once upon a time, when sparkling pink unicorns roamed the fields of Whimsyshire…
Wait a second. Back up. No, me. It is not time to go play Diablo 3. We're procrastinating at writing here. What? You seem to think this is how one procrastinates at writing? Nonsense. Move along. I am obviously not at all at fault for this behavior! I'm perfect! Didn't you know that? Absolutely perfect! I've never written a bad word in my life. You must be completely mistaken if you think I need to improve.
Enter, the first incarnation of evil. I call this…
… Perfection Incarnate.
Before I learned how to really write, this was me. If you said I needed to fix something in my story, the above scene played out in my head, complete with teenage rage and angst to back it. I'm rather embarrassed about admitting this. Frankly, I'm not just embarrassed by this, I'm completely and totally ashamed of my behavior in the past. My Perfection Incarnate Ego rampaged for far longer than I want to think about. I promise you I was still an adult before I managed to beat it into submission. It wasn't pretty.
This was me when I wrote my first novel.
I can still hear myself thinking about this, the echoes of my idiocy ringing far too loud in my head: “I wrote my first novel. It is certain to be a bestseller.”
We all know how wrong I was. The poor people who read the book knew how wrong I was. They even tried to help me and tell me how wrong I was. So, Little Miss Perfection Incarnate didn't believe a word they say, but her ego remained intact for a while longer.
Dum… dum… dum… Realization Strikes! Enter the Useless Waste of Breath and Space Ego.
I'm not sure when my ivory tower came crashing down, but it came down in a cloud of dust and debris that makes the fall of the Tower of Babel look minor in comparison. To make a long, painful story short, I quit writing for months at a time. I was helpless, hopeless, didn't know what to do, because I wasn't perfect and neither was my novel.
Cue additional frustration on the part of my friends. I'm so sorry. ::weeps into tea::
Oh, Hopeless Ego, how I do not miss thee, though we learned a lot together. Mostly, we learned about the art of wallowing and not writing due to wallowing, but we learned.
The dust, as it will, did settle over time.
Enter, the Struggling Author!
The ego lives! Barely. After a good wallow, the self-esteem picks itself off the ground, but approaches writing like the dangerous, scary beast that it is. It burns us, precious. It burrrrrnnnssssssss!
But we're better than that, aren't we, little ego? This was the time for improvement! The time for knowledge! The time for accepting any and all of the advice evers!!!! This is the time for… er.. making every mistake absolutely possible.
In a way, this isn't a bad ego-state to have. It does allow for learning. It's humble enough. Painful, though. Like the wallowing stage, except self-inflicted.
Sometimes I wonder why I did this to myself. Why I willing choose to do this to myself, even now.
At least during this stage, my fragile ego and me were relatively good sports about it.
But, something changed. Something dark and nefarious took place. It didn't happen overnight. Oh no, the prime evil doesn't just come overnight. You know how this story goes. It starts with one or two corpses rising from their graves to start eating the people of Tristram. It starts with a dark stranger walking through the world.
… okay, so maybe not. But, it didn't happen overnight. I'm being serious about that part.
Somewhere along the way, I became a smart ass.
A holier-than-thou smart ass. This is the grade A smart ass, the one who has been around just long enough to have the egotistical pride of a senior without actually being one. That's right, I relived my junior year of high school all over again. Except my soap box wasn't tempered with “this is just my way of doing things, do what you will with it” or anything nice like that. It was my way or the poop chute, baby. Complete with mouthing off with no foundation or true knowledge, and the experience of a muskrat at the high dive.
Okay, so I'm still a smart ass, but at least I'm a smart ass who has at least part of a clue. Not a huge one, but at least part of one.
I am glad that soapbox broke from beneath me. I'm even more glad that it happened fast. Instead of being a complete and total holier-than-thou smart ass, I converted to the way of the critique. I tried to offer commentary that could be applied. Supported by fact. Bolstered by personal taste. Safely smothered in ‘My own opinion' sauce. I became serious about helping others.
I grew into someone who cared about other writers in my community. A Helper.
Granted, I was a helper with an attitude, but hey, once a smart ass, always a smart ass. It isn't a curable disease. I just toned myself down a bit. Got off my high horse (and sent him to rehab) and bowed my head a little bit.
I was starting to learn my ego wasn't doing me any favors.
Odd, it still doesn't do me any favors. We get into fights every other day or so. It's hard being me some days.
Oh, crap. That wench is back. Perfection Reincarnate.
I think she's still around in some form or another, but I had the help of some agents and their rejection letters to beat her back to the Dark Portal. It didn't spare me the heartache of rejection, but then again, rejection never bothered me too much anyway. It was just enough to put the Perfect Little Bleep into remission.
Oh, look at that, we're back to wallowing. The world is full of people better at writing than me?! Woe is me.
The dark, dirty truth?
All of these egotistical little ladies are with me even today. Our egos aren't a curable disease. Mine just goes into rehab and remission for a little while until they strike again, and hope we fall on the helpful, considerate, kind, understanding, willing-to-accept criticism ego more often than not.
My ego is currently saying, “I better go edit for someone because that's all I'm good for right now.”
The rest of me is throwing a temper tantrum and is giving that part of my ego a royal beating.
What's your ego like?