Pride in our writing…

It’s often interesting to do some soul-searching. Why do we write? We all take pride in what we write. Or just call it satisfaction after spinning a good yarn. (I’m obviously talking about fiction, but you can extrapolate to your circumstances.) Some people, even readers, might think that our pride or satisfaction makes us narcissists. Admittedly some writers carry that pride a wee bit too far.

I can see it in some blurbs or descriptions of books. Here’s a recent one: “Compelling! Provacative! Informative!” There are worse: “Sure to be a bestseller!” Or “Author Hits a Home Run!” The rest of the blurb might actually provide some information, and maybe they were written by PR personnel with an acute case of superlativitis, but if they were written by an author, narcissism might be indicated.

I’ve seen it in book fairs. Authors full of themselves extolling the virtues of their writing. Authors reading from their magnum opus in a boring monotone, offering a cure for insomnia instead of perceptions about their book, including its important themes. Worst case: authors reading for their own audiobooks! Next worse case: authors in love with the pronouns I, me, and mine in book trailers (at least Patterson seems to avoid that). I’ve also seen great humility. Being humble is a virtue. Nowadays there are many good books and good writers. I feel lucky some reader chooses to read one of mine.

Some creative people want to put themselves on a pedestal so that other mere mortals can worship them and bask in the light of their self-defined genius. Of course, non-creative people do that too (we even have a president who’s a narcissist—if that were his only sin!). It’s all about ego. While some feeling of self-worth is better than depression and suicidal tendencies, a balance must be struck. Relating to other people is a skill many of us lack now (including the U.S. president), but huge ego trips don’t help.

If you’re writing for self-aggrandizement, don’t. In fact, if you’re writing for any other reason than love of writing, your motivation is ill-conceived. Odds are you won’t have a bestseller, but you’ll maybe have a few readers who are fans. Odds are you won’t hit a home run in Yankee Stadium with your book either, but you might with your after-work softball team. (I’m guessing it has to be a print version if you swat at the ball with a book—hey, baseball season is almost upon us!)

Writing should be fun. Sure, you can take pride when you tell a good story. Hell, I take pride when I can remember that bon mot in the literal sense—sometimes I just leave an X until I get it right. A pithy piece of dialogue can be the best reward I receive from hours of writing. But it’s all fun, even when the final product is such a disaster I erase it from my hard drive. If it isn’t fun, don’t write.

Hardy in his interesting little tome A Mathematician’s Apology had a big ego, but he also made a big point: not everyone can be a great mathematician. For those interested in the history of science, he was the English fellow who discovered the Hindu mathematician Ramanujan, arguably the most gifted mathematician that ever lived (the book and movie The Man Who Knew Infinity told his story). We can extrapolate Hardy’s comment: whoever the creative person is and whatever area s/he’s creating in, there are persons who will do it better and those who do it worse. (OK, Ramanujan might be an exception. By the way, Hardy was a terrible writer!)

Note that I’m not talking about being an eccentric. Writers often have quirks—it used to be there were few of us and those few were often quirky people. People often consider me strange because I’m a writer; it’s not quite as bad as when I used to tell them I was a scientist. That popular opinion about our nerdiness goes with the territory, but I’ve known gregarious writers and scientists. Whether eccentric or outgoing socializer, though, writers shouldn’t be narcissistic oafs and boors (in other words, don’t emulate the president).

There’s a fuzzy area between pride in your work and narcissism. We can use humility to tred on the side of caution, taking personal enjoyment in what we’ve created but avoiding narcissistic thoughts and actions. Numbers of books written, numbers of readers and books sold, awards, great reviews, and so forth are just stats we might take pride in—they might even mean we’re making a living at what we do—but we shouldn’t allow them to inflate our ego like the Hindenburg. We all know how that story ended.


The Midas Bomb (2nd ed). If you are waiting to get started on the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” this first book in the series about the crime-fighting duo’s first case, is on sale at Smashwords until March 1 for $0.99, a 67% discount from the original price—in all ebook formats, including .mobi (Kindle): use the Smashwords coupon code PV57D. Of course, it’s also available on Amazon as a .mobi ebook and print book (the ebook isn’t for sale there, though). All books in this series are complete and independent stories, and you can read them in any order. #7, Gaia and the Goliaths, will be out soon.

In libris libertas!


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