I’ve never really considered myself an egotistical person. I do not think I am all that and a bag of chips. Insecurity, doubt, and self-loathing all have their place in the inner workings of my psyche from time to time.
As writers who are aspiring for publication, there has to be a little ego hidden in there somewhere. How else would we have the courage to hit send, get rejections, and then hit send again. How else can you hear “your heroine is not likable”, “your plot is contrived”, or “your internal dialogue is boring” and STILL keep writing, keep submitting, but most of all keep thinking: I can do this!
It’s ego that drives us. The belief in our work or our characters that it and they are interesting and well thought out and that a large group of people will want to plunk down a portion of their hard earned money simply to read about them.
In some cases, that is a good thing. I mean, anything that keeps you writing, striving to be better, submitting, etc… has to be a good thing. But, ego can become a bad thing too.
So, when is your ego getting in the way of your writing career?
1. You read a published book (especially by the publisher you’re targeting) and think my manuscript is SO much better than this! Books are subjective and if you compare yourself to published books (whether with too much ego or too little), you’re not doing yourself any favors.
2. You get a rejection and publicly bemoan how stupid/short-sighted/mean-spirited/etc. the editor was. You shouldn’t feel it privately either, but it’s REALLY bad when you do this publicly. I’ve been surprised at the amount of people who do this. Especially when they got personalized feedback.
When I got responses to my New Voices entry that my heroine was unlikable to some, my first instinct was to defend her. But, I had to get over that defense, that love of my character, that ego, and realize if multiple people saw that as a problem, it probably was. Because these multiple people are the people paying to buy books. In the end, I still kept the heroine’s feisty temper and still kept her true to the character I envisioned, I just toned some of it down in the opening scenes. And I think it was successful. If I’d let my ego rule, people would still be recoiling from her.
3. You get feedback from a contest, CP, beta reader, whoever and go through each point and argue with them for being wrong and stupid. Now, you don’t have to take every piece of advice a reader gives you. In fact, you probably shouldn’t, but if you immediately dismiss it because of who gave it or how it was delivered, you’re letting your ego fool you out of making some changes that might improve your manuscript.
Don’t let ego take over. Life is all about striving for balance, and this is no difference. Have confidence in your work, believe in your work, but realize we are all human and no person or manuscript is perfect.