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While attending a recent writers conference I overheard a woman say “That author's ego is really out of control.” The catty remark was aimed at an author who did seem pretty full of himself. But it got me to wondering: Is there room for humbleness when it comes to writing?

The dictionary definition of “humble” is “Not proud or haughty, not arrogant or assertive; offered in the spirit of deference or submission; ranking low in a hierarchy or scale; insignificant; lacking all the signs of pride.” Does this sound like the traits a successful writer?

The simple act of putting pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard announces to the world, “I have something to say. My thoughts are unique. My words are important!” That mindset is what drives writers, convinces them every day to sit in a chair and hope for the flow of ideas that will translate to the right words on the page. This is what deprives them of family time, TV time, sleep, and their favorite past time, reading. This is what makes them snap at people, growl at interruptions, overeat and add fat to their butt.

So, from where does this arrogance spring? I can only speak for myself: I'm inspired by the scribes before me. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Homer (not Simpson—Doh!). Their words lasted centuries—will mine do the same? In the lightening pace of today's plugged-in world, is it possible for my words to last longer than the next tweet?

Writers have to be overly proud of what we're doing—and yes, I'm in the non-humble crowd. We are out there trying for truth and recognizing it our fellow authors. Ego and believe in ourselves is what shores up our confidence when family members look skeptical at our efforts. Friends encourage us with pats on the back as if we've just escaped from a mental institution. Authors are other people, not people they know.

We struggle alone and wait for the spark, that “Aha!” moment when our consciousness takes a giant leap onto the page. That's the moment when the pleasure of writing is transformed to the power of writing. There's no turning back.

The next hurdle is ignoring the censor in your head that says “Can I write what I really feel and get away with it?” Don't look for the green light from family and friends. They're already worried you're going to spill the dirty laundry. You can't wait for Granny and her church friends to die.

On my list of the most daring, soul-barring authors I've come across are Philip Roth, who never let me look at liver the same way again. James Joyce, whose run-on sentences go on for pages. Joan Didion slouching toward Bethlehem. Erica Jong diminished my Fear of Flying. I never understood a word of Henry Miller's Cancers but am incensed that he was censored. Anais Nin who opened up her sexuality for public viewing. And my favorite author, Chuck Palahniuk, always makes me want to write brave, to bare my soul, not bar it.

I tell beginning writers that they must always stand by their words because critics are out there ready to tear them apart. Break new ground, break down barriers. Take old ideas and turn them around like a prism until they see light from another angle. Find their voice and use words that excite. What I don't tell them is in the process they're going to cut their emotional wrists and bleed all over the page. It's messy and some aren't going to survive.

I used the word audacity in the title of this piece. Definition: Bold. Disregard for normal restraints. Intrepidly daring. Marked by originality and verve. Exaggerating one's own worth or importance. And yes, arrogant. Writers should be all that. We cannot afford to be humble.

Views: 26

Comment by John Brantingham on July 13, 2012 at 10:53pm

Absolutely yes, audacious and even arrogant. But I hate it when I go to a reading and the author puts the audience members down. That drives me out of my mind.

 

On the other hand, the belief that you have something to say and that other people should listen to you, that takes some bravado and courage and arrogance. But that's all right if it's well deserved.

Comment by John Brantingham on July 13, 2012 at 11:38pm

This got me thinking about my worst author experience. The man kept hitting on my wife.

Comment by Sunny Frazier on July 13, 2012 at 11:57pm

How funny! You have to write a blog about that!

I think I'd call it confidence. Or, perhaps passion for what we have to give to the public. 

 

Comment by Juan Gonzalez, Jr. on July 14, 2012 at 3:54am

I see your point.  I can definitely understand the pride one can have in the words they place on paper.  I'm just starting off with my writing and am doing my best to take strides toward what I regard as success.  

Maybe my words won't last longer than my life time (or even less) but I know that my efforts will not be in vain.  There will be someone who was impacted by my take on words.  Just like I was impacted by words from the books I have read. And during this time I will make sure to take pride in what I write. Great advice!

Comment by Sunny Frazier on July 14, 2012 at 5:42am

I only met you less than a week ago, Juan, but I can already see that you are learning and absorbing. instead of being afraid or misinformed about this world of writers you want to be part of, I know you will keep your mind and heart open and enjoy the process. There is so much more to this than writing a book. in fact, that seems to be the easy part!   

Comment by Libby Belle Bryer on July 16, 2012 at 5:02pm
Ahh, but alas, I look forward to watching my ego spill over when my first book is a success!
Comment by Sunny Frazier on July 16, 2012 at 9:46pm
Oh yes, that's the fun part. Be loud and be proud!

Libby, I see you are monitoring the posts of some of my friends. John Braintingham, Velda Brotherton and John Lindermuth are all part of my marketing Posse. It's free if you want to be part of it. Just contact me at sunny69@comcast.net. I teach authors how to build a platform and market before they are published.

P.S. I'm an acquisitions editor. What's your book about???
Comment by John Brantingham on July 17, 2012 at 12:05am

Yes, it's a really great resource. I've found out so much from it that I never would have known otherwise.

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