Saturday, 13 December 2014

Egomania vs insecurity

Sometimes I feel like being a writer is like swinging on a very large swing.

Up and down I go. Up and down. One minute, I'm high up in the air, the next I'm barely above the ground. And then up I go again. Up and down. Up and down.

When I'm up, I'm the greatest thing ever. I write the greatest stories in the history of storywriting. Everybody in the world will want to read them. They will change people's lives. They could even change the whole world.

Then, before I've even had a chance to think about it, I find myself right back down again. What am I thinking? What makes me think that my stories are so great? Why would anybody ever want to read them? What even gives me the right to think about putting them out anyway? After all, there are already so many stories out there, mostly written by writers who are far more proficient than I am. How presumptuous am I to even think about putting myself in the same league as them.

And then, before I completely give up in despair, I'm right back up again, marvelling at the wonder of what I've been able to create.

It's a pretty odd sort of world, swinging between such extremes of egomania and insecurity, but in a funny kind of way, I suppose they're both essential to an effective writer.

The egomania is essential because without it, what would keep you writing? You need to feel that you have something to say that other people are going to want to read. Otherwise, what's the point of the exercise in the first place?

As for the insecurity, it helps to realise that maybe what you're writing isn't the most super-fabulous thing in existence. That way, you're more likely to spend the time trying to improve it - to iron out errors and fix it up so it shines in every possible way.

So that's why I reckon swinging between egomania and insecurity are perfectly normal and perfectly healthy for writers. I guess the secret is not to be overwhelmed by one or the other - not to get caught up with thinking you're the greatest thing since Dickens or Tolstoy (or whoever else rings your bells) and also not to fall in an abject heap.

So, whether you're right up at the top or right down at the bottom, hope you have a happy and productive week.

1 comment:

  1. Preaching to the choir, Jonathan, preaching to the choir. And I doubt there will be many (if any!) writers out there who don’t get it. I wonder how many plumbers go through the same cycle, thinking no one can plumb like them and then lying awake at night imagining all the leaks, drips and puddles. The simple fact is we’re not plumbers. If we were we’d be pretty bad ones because we virtually never get it right on the first go. Or the second. Or the third. Maybe the fourth. It looks so easy, stringing one word after another and occasionally it is. Occasionally we get ten minutes when our heads are clear and the phone’s not ringing and the universe is on a toilet break. And we are brilliant. I’m brilliant maybe two or three times a year and it’s brilliant being brilliant. But most of the times I look at my books and I realise just how much they’ve been patched up and stitched together and I’m glad that my readers haven’t a clue the messes I’ve made along the way. And then the reviews start appearing and I realise that maybe I’ve not done that bad a job. Maybe there’s a half-decent writer lurking in here after all. And after a while I forget what it took to write the last one and I get cocky again and think: Why not? Why not have a crack at another one? Oh, foolish men that we are.