Bookfox: Writerly Questions #6

Hi there. I hope you’ve had a great week. Let’s start this week with the sixth entry in the Bookfox series and get ourselves all worked up for blitzing through another word-count goal!

Question: Does a big ego help or hurt writers? (Question found on Bookfox’s blog, here)

Answer: I think the answer to this depends on the context. I think I have a pretty big ego, myself. I can be horrifically selfish at times. As a writer, you need a bit of that. You need to be comfortable with telling the people around you to leave you alone for extended periods. You need to be happy knowing that the next three-to-four hours might be spent entirely in your own little Land of Make-Believe. When you’re in the middle of a work-in-progress, you need to have self-confidence and a sheer ‘”so-fucking-what” attitude to other people’s opinions of your writing. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done. You won’t make time for your writing, you won’t work through ideas in your head and you won’t ever feel happy about the little black marks you have made appear on your screen.

MarmosetCare
Look at it. Plotting world domination. With its machine-gun nose. picture from marmosetcare.com

When you have your laptop open and you’re sitting at your desk or in your comfy armchair or cross-legged on the end of your bed, you need to know – with total fucking certainty and clarity of mind – that your story about a small-town schoolgirl learning how to stand up for herself against bullies whilst simultaneously fighting off an invasion of space-marmosets with machine-gun noses is just the best story ever written.

At the same time, you don’t live in a bubble. There are real people all around you who need your attention and interaction. If you have a partner and/or kids, your life simply cannot be all about you. Selfishness will only serve you so well. Similarly, self-confidence can easily become arrogance or cockiness. As soon as you show your work to anyone else, you have be prepared to have it criticised. You need to just let your beta-reader tell you that it is implausible for space-marmosets to have machine-gun noses as their bodies could not possibly house the manufacturing apparatus necessary for the production of bullets.

britannica
This is what one looks like when it has a flamethrower nose. pic from Britannica.com

In which case, your response should not be to storm off, muttering about how they could not possibly know that; after all, who knows what space-marmosets could do inside their bodies. It’s not like they’re real marmosets, is it? Instead, your response should be to go away, fire up your laptop and change your antagonists to space-marmosets with flamethrower noses.

If you want to improve as a writer, you have to be able to accept that other people might want something different from the story than what you have given them. Believe it or not, not everybody likes pizza (I know, freaks, right?!).

What do you think? Should a writer be absolutely assured of their magnificence? Should a writer be open to any and all criticism? Can you make it as an author and stay an all-round nice person? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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