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The Writer's Ego
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Writers need a strong ego. We have to deal with a lot of rejection. In order to set yourself a task requiring a minimum of a year’s hard effort, you must have an unshakable confidence in your ability. And you need to believe that you have something important to say. Do you have the writer's ego? If not, your chances of succeeding in this  tough profession are very limited.

I think it’s essential, however, to make a distinction between a strong ego and a big ego. The former does not necessarily imply the latter. A strong ego equates to self confidence. A big ego is usually a cover-up for a sense of inferiority.

I’ve always admired a person who’s in possession of a quiet self-assurance. They are enfolded, as it were, by a special aura or magnetism that draws me to them. I want to know their secret. But the exact opposite is true for the big ego person, the boisterous, overbearing type who has to bellow everything he says in a stentorian voice as if it were the most brilliant statement ever made by a creature that walks on two legs. This sort of person repels me. And so it is true in spades with authors.

Whenever I attend a party where there will be an abundance of artists and authors, I am always on guard, wary of being pounced upon by the writer with an overdeveloped sense of self importance. I have a very low tolerance for writers who proclaim themselves to be among the chosen ones, the intellectual elite. They give me a searing pain in the posterior region. And for some unfathomable reason, this type of person always finds me irresistible.

Sadly, the brash writer will always get more attention than the bashful one. And in today’s highly competitive literary environment, those who have a big ego are much more likely to succeed than those who are blessed with nothing more than talent. A strong ego is no longer enough to single you out for recognition.

The social conditions under which authors must sell their work -- through self promotion and self marketing -- demand that writers cultivate a larger-than-life persona or at least a presence that declares themselves to be both important and powerful. The expression that “he’s full of himself” is certainly apt here, and may in fact be mandatory in today’s economy. The mantra for an aspiring author may well be “all the bluster you can muster.” And at the extreme, we now have to put up with authors who must announce to the world that they are undiscovered geniuses. All I can do is ignore them. And the louder they shout, the faster I run.

I find all this noise and pretentious posturing to be incredibly annoying and distracting. I want to be told which  books are worth reading, but not by the author himself. I’d rather get that information from someone whose opinion is impartial. I confess I feel a kind of nostalgic longing for the days when there were fewer books being published and fewer authors on tour. There was much less noise then and much more quiet reading and serious discussion. If an author like Norman Mailer was an exhibitionist and a shameless self promoter, he was generally looked upon as a oddball, a rare species to be watched for his ability to amuse and surprise us. In Mailer’s case, of course, it was his great talent that brought him the attention he so craved and possibly deserved. That is not the case with most self-proclaimed geniuses today. Time will tell, I want to reply. But all I do is shrug and walk away, thinking that a little humility goes a long way.