Letting Go of Your Writer’s Ego

Writer's Block 1

Writer’s Block 1 (Photo credit: OkayCityNate)

This post might make a few people grumpy, and for that I almost apologize. I say almost because this really needs to be said and heard. This post is also explicitly about writers. Editors, designers, publishers, and everyone else in this muddled world of writing has an ego too, and they need to be punctured just as surely. But this post is mostly about writers themselves and not those that surround them.
I’ve participated in writers’ workshops, edited for a publishing company, edited freelance (which is very different), written books, and been part of writing groups and courses for a long while. One of the biggest things that annoys me is the ego with which most people address themselves and their writing. Any artist is going to be moody and protective of their work; this is just a fact of being an artist. It’s an irrefutable, inescapable phenomenon. And there’s nothing innately wrong with that. However, being moody and protective to the point of detriment to yourself and to others is not really kosher.

I’ve encountered writers that are convinced, proof positive, that their work needs nothing other than to be put on paper. Unfortunately this isn’t the case – everyone needs editing. Whether you pay someone else to do it or have a critique group do it… it’s a fact. Nothing we do, say, or write will be “perfect”. And that’s okay. But the first step on the road to recovery is acknowledging that there is a problem. And there is one.
When I talk about ego, I mean that guy at the writers’ group that every time you critique his work (and you do it nicely, too) he gets very unfriendly. He goes off about how you couldn’t possibly know anything, about how you are just a “tool of the publishing elite” or something, and throws a tantrum. I’m not talking about anyone specific in my experience (there are too many to be specific), but the general idea.

I’m also talking about that author who, when I worked for Divertir Publishing would send in their manuscript and get very, very unfriendly when we either a) rejected it, b) read the manuscript and then rejected it, or c) started editing and telling them that they had to change things. While what I do now is drastically different (I’m no longer working on a timeline, and the boss I have to please is the author) the principals are the same.

The big secret of all of this? It’s not a matter of ego. It’s a matter of art. Being able to accept (valid) criticism is the mark of the professional. And the mark of an adult. It’s tempting to stomp our feet and pout when someone changes something, or when someone says something we did is wrong. That’s human nature. But rising above that is an exceptionally important skill and allows you to learn when otherwise you would be so set in your ways that learning would be a remote, distant impossibility.

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3 thoughts on “Letting Go of Your Writer’s Ego

  1. KWhipkey says:

    Very well said! I completely agree. Nothing is more frustrating as an editor or critique partner than facing someone unable to take criticism. Not only does it prevent them from ever being able to grow as an author, but it’s a disrespectful waste of the reviewer’s time. That person gave up valuable minutes/hours to go over your work and provide thoughtful/helpful comments, the least you can do is thank them for that and listen to their criticism.

    Thanks for the pingback as well! Those are always very much appreciated. 🙂

    • E. Harvey says:

      Absolutely! I enjoyed your article on the different types of critique. Your sense of humor is great, and you’ve got a really down to earth viewpoint on this kind of thing which is very refreshing. Thank you very much for the “like” and the comment!

      • KWhipkey says:

        You’re very welcome. Glad you found me. I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. Sounds like we have quite a few of the same viewpoints. 😉

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