Monday, 4 March 2013

Coping with the ego

It would be nice to think my head didn't get a bit bigger or my tone a trifle boastful when I finally found a publisher. Perhaps employing a trumpeter to precede me through the town was a bit much, in hindsight...but honestly, I shouted it from the rooftops. People did get a little weary of the topic. But since then, I have hit a point at which ego shrivels and insecurity unpacks his bags for a long, long stay (probably in my new bedroom, which has just had a makeover, but that's another story).

When I started this blog back in whenever it was, I was struggling with fear of failure. But also a terror of success. The compulsion to write overcame both, which was handy since it propelled me to write a number of books, but I had no real expectation of getting published. It was a genuine shock to be longlisted for a competition, but just a dream to find and agent and then a publisher. I hadn't been craving that all my life. I'm not looking forward to seeing my book in a shop. I'm terrified of the publicity.

There is a little piece about me in Mslexia this month. Although 80% of my interview was probably about my book and the process of writing, the piece seems more about me, and the competition that made it all possible.

The stark reality is that you get a book deal, and an editor expects you to deliver a product on a certain date. At this point, I realised that my book wasn't good enough, would never be good enough no matter what I did...I will never be happy with it. A Baby's Bones was easier, but still, I can talk about it without wincing because it's far from finished or polished, and I don't have to deliver it for ages. It turns out, the beautiful jewel of a story in my head is nothing like the words that end up on the page. Book 2 is an example of a great idea that's turned into a muddled draft of story strands I can't see how to untangle.

So, now I swing wildly between my ego telling the few people in the world who don;t know about my book, and my insecurity apologising for it. Worse, a small chorus of writing friends are shouting (invisibly) 'stop whinging about your incredible good fortune and get on with it!' I wonder, are we ever happy with our work? Or does the drive for perfection make us our own worst enemies.

Jennifer Blanchard writes an incredibly helpful blog about procrastination, the sort that stopped me writing for decades, and one post in particular helped me.
"...people fear success because they don’t want the recognition or honor. (This falls along the lines of people who don’t like receiving compliments. They are fearful of acknowledging they have good in them or that they look nice or that they did a great job because they often don’t feel that way about themselves.)" Jennifer Blanchard
I'm terrible at getting compliments. I'm embarrassed about doing well. In fact, I was thrilled that my agent managed to get us a book deal. I boasted more about the fact that magic lightning struck and I got a book deal than I had written a book that publishing professionals think people will enjoy reading.

I think I need to find a comfortable middle ground between raging ego moments (I still have them. This might be one...where's my trumpeter?), and wanting to change my name and live in the woods. Or I could just stop whinging about my incredible good fortune and get on with it...


  1. I hope you get comfortable with your success. This is your job. My assumption is you wouldn't be uncomfortable if you worked a normal job and your boss told you that you did a great job. It sounds like you did a great job on your books.

    1. You're quite right, Tonja. I hope it starts to feel like a job at some point, but I hoped and wished for so long it seems to be taking a long time! Good luck with your writing...

  2. Fortune favours the brave, Reb.

    Saw the Mslexia piece and was able to crow, "I KNOW her!" to the Hub.

    1. Oh, funny! Now, time to polish up that first few thousand words for the new competition?

  3. I don't know, it all sounds pretty typical to me! And yes, the best cure is to keep at it, go through the bad days as well as the good, and know it gets better with time.