To both my readers, thank you for returning. As you probably know, this is the third installment into my writings at http://www.redroom.com. Today, I am going to talk about ego.
ego -noun, plural egos. Pronounced ee-goh or eg-oh.
Standard definition: The part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.
Standard definition 2: self-esteem or self-image
Standard definition 3: an inflated feeling of pride in your superiority to others.
(See dictionary.reference.com/browse/ego for these and several more definitions.)
When I first started writing, somewhere around the release of book 2, I would have had "Standard definition of 3." I would have said it was "Standard definition 2", but there was a bit of superiority complex there.
After all, I had "made it!" I was a successful author! I designed a 900-page tome and write a good bit of it in a very short time. It was written in 3 months. I was also working full time when I did this. Yes, I had no life. It is true, but as a author, I had made it.
Then, IT happened. Every published writer gets IT eventually. IT is the inevitable feedback at <insert your favorite book seller>'s feedback page for your book. IT usually comes in two forms. One of them justifies Standard Definition #3 and the other severely deflates it. I have found that in the fans' eyes, you are either great (yipee!), or you are a step below dung (argh!). And, I also learned that they don't mind telling you either way!
I remember being at the 1999 Linux conference in San Jose. I was there with my publisher signing books. I had the opportunity to meet a number of very cool people, sign a hundred books or so, and generally schmooze with the crowd. (I also watched Redhat go public while there.) That day, my ego was certainly swelling. The crowds were fantastic. Other vendors were coming over so I could sign their copies of my book! The engineers at the fledgling VMWare had me sign it, not in front, but in the appendix that I had included about their little gem of software. Everyone was excited. Then, I went to the web site for Amazon, and ego got deflated. There were thirty-five or so reviews of my book. While the average was almost four stars (out of five), the ones that brought the average down were harsh.
What did I learn from all this? Well, I learned the truth of the old adage "a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush"... No... that wasn't it. The adage was "An object in motion will be moving in the wrong direction." No, not that one either. Oh, yes, now I remember, it was "You can please some of the people some of the time and all of the people none of the time."
Writers, I think, fall into the same category as other artistic professionals. I believe this is true regardless of the subject of the writing. We use our craft to create something new and interesting and then put it on public display. The public then gets to publicly judge it. As the crafter, we have no say in how the public reacts. We do have a lot of ego involved, and we have to learn to separate it from the work. This is a very hard lesson. Reggie Jackson, Sammy Sosa, and Jose Canseco are three of baseball's greatest players. They are also three of the greatest strikeouts leaders of all time. I dislike baseball. I don't watch it. Yet I know of these players. They were great. They were also losers - as defined by strike-outs. I, and most people, separate their strike outs from their successes. They were great, dispite the strike-outs.
To new writers out there, I would suggest that you read the comments of your audience. I would also suggest that you not define who you are - either as a person or as a writer - strictly by them. You can learn a lot about what your audience is looking for and how to become better at your craft. If you are published with a major publisher, then they found something in your writing that made you a good bet. You have had an appeal and they think you will draw customers. After all, they are in it for the money. They are like little angel investors wanting to find risks that they think will pay off in a big way. Remember this as you read the constructive as well as not-so-constructive criticisms.
To you more experienced writers out there, I have nothing to add. You have figured out how to deal with feedback or you have stopped publishing. If you are good and have stopped publishing, it is a shame. If you were not good, then maybe not so much.
Either way, the question is, who are you writing for, and for what purpose are you writing? Stick to these. If you do, people, at least some of them, will like your expression of the craft. Then you too can go to conferences and have people buy you <insert good stuff here> just because you are the one who crafted that thing they love so much!