Friday, June 9, 2017

Ego Calling, Line Two

Once upon a time, a book sold. It was the author's first. The reviews were good, but then, the book was declared a finalist in two categories in a nationally recognized contest. That's when things got weird.

The author's agent started saying things like, "You're brilliant."
Readers and other writers started treating the writer as if she were suddenly an expert in the art of peering into the future of publishing. There were interviews and generally just attention that this writer simply wasn't accustomed to. Then the editor echoed the agent's words. "You're brilliant."

Terror sent the author racing to the hotel room and the phone for a call to Mom - to someone who could speak sense and point out that the writer hadn't changed. She was still herself. The flattering attention, while startling, was part and parcel of the profession. So it was up to the author to find her ground before her ego started feeding off of the attention like some kind of emotional vampire. The author need not have worried. The attention didn't last. It couldn't.

But the author did come up with some resolutions to keep the ego on an ultra short leash, should it ever again be needed:
  1. Clean the cat boxes. Nothing keeps you from imagining you're hot shit than scooping some other critter's poop. If there are no pets, do the dishes. Scrub your toilet. Anything less than glamourous that reminds you that you aren't exempt from being human.
  2. Ground. You keep your feet on the ground by returning to the places where you're rooted - the places where you are most purely you. For some that's within the family. For others, it's a retreat in the woods/desert/mountains/by the sea. It can also be that group of friends who laugh and gently puncture you when ego starts inflating.
  3. Ask the agents/editors/whoever to rephrase the praise. No saying 'you're brilliant.' Want to say 'brilliant?' Fine. Say the writing is brilliant. It's a fine line, but it's praise for the work, not for the person.
  4. Work. Keep your eyes on the next story. And the next. And instruct the crit group(s) or beta readers to slap the crap out of you should you imagine you're too important to be edited.
  5. Be of service. This is especially useful at conferences when the spotlight might feel a little unrelenting. Go cart boxes for other authors. Volunteer to help set up a room or clean up a room. Stuff reader bags. Whatever the conference needs done. It helps to be reminded that this is for the readers. Not for the author.
Not that you can't have some fun. Drinks in the bar are absolutely within reason. Just make sure that if other people are buying you drinks that you buy for someone else. Spread the good will.