Authors Answer 144 – The Writer’s Ego

Everyone has an ego, right? The ego is an interesting thing. Some people have a big ego and think very highly of themselves. Others are the opposite, and don’t have much of an ego. They still have an ego, though. It has to do with self-esteem as well as self-importance. But we usually hear about the self-importance part. So, how does it affect authors? This week’s question is from Eric Wood.

Question 144 – Does having a big ego help or hinder a writer?

C E Aylett

I’m sure there have been cases of both — the genius who knows it to be so and is uncompromising in taking advice from others ‘beneath’ him/her and wins out in producing a masterpiece and the humble author who listens openly to suggestions and takes on board what fits with what s/he’s trying to accomplish.

However, in most acknowledgements in most novels, credit is given to those who gave sound advice to the authors during the creation of the book.

If you mean ego = confidence, I don’t think there’s any harm in having confidence in what you do, because nobody else is going to do that for you until you’ve been published and proved yourself to the wider world. Also, if you don’t have some confidence – or ego – in yourself, you’d be too scared to put any of your work out into the world and push for your goals. But ego that takes on arrogance is only going to end up making you look silly if you fall on your face, no one else. I’m thinking of those self-pubbed stories that completely lack a sense of self-awareness because of the author’s ego telling them they’ve written the best story ever without first finding out if that is the case in accordance with the rest of the world.

A writer’s ego is a fragile and conflicted creature, too scared to be brazen yet needing to be so in order to realise its own ambitions. Sweep it too far under the carpet and it will never resurface into the light, but buff and polish it to be too shiny and people will naturally turn away from its garish nature.

H. Anthe Davis

A certain amount of confidence is essential to being able to wade through the pain and suffering of endless edits, rewrites, concrits and reviews. Believing oneself to be the be-all and end-all of writership, though… Well, I guess it works for some people, but personally I believe it eventually turns one’s work into a parody of itself, and keeps one from growing as a writer. It’s important to be able to consider criticisms as well as shrug them off — and big egos can’t do that. If you’ve ever had a favorite writer whose quality of work seems to have gone way downhill the longer they’ve written, ego-issues could be at fault; like a celebrity, a writer can reach a point where they’re only surrounded by yes-men, and lose the ability to edit out their bad ideas.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I think it can be a little bit of both, to be honest. On the one hand, having a big ego can mean that you’re unwilling to accept criticism, even when it’s absolutely warranted. I’ve met fellow writers who were so full of themselves that you couldn’t give them even the tiniest bit of advice, which is a terrible way to be if you actually want to grow as a writer. On the other hand, having no ego at all can also be a bad thing because you’re inevitably going to take a mental and emotional battering as a writer. If you can’t read unnecessarily mean reviews, for instance, without being able to turn around, put on a smile, and know that the reviewer is just an ass who wants to put you down, you’re never going to be able to survive actually becoming popular in any sense. Remember, with views/followers/readers/etc automatically comes trolls.

Eric Wood

I don’t know. That’s why I was asking. I would assume since most writers are introverts, a writer’s ego is usually moderately sized, like a grapefruit. Unlike an athlete with an ego the size of a pumpkin. I guess it just depends on what kind of characters you create. A big egoed writer could more easily write characters who are more boisterous, full of themselves.

Gregory S. Close

Having a big ego will not make or break a writer. Talent will. Ego expressed as self-confidence may help in pursuit of agents or publishers without the pesky interference of self-doubt. Ego expressed as arrogance could alienate an author from fans and hurt sales. In the end, it’s just one trait, and that one trait probably won’t determine much all by itself.

Jean Davis

It would seem that having an ego is necessary to being a writer. If you don’t believe your work is good, you’re not going to submit or publish it. Yet, if your ego gets too big, you may not be open to criticism or advice which can hurt the quality of your writing. There’s a happy medium, somewhere between having your soul crushed and being on top of the world.

Paul B. Spence

I’m guessing a little of both. If you mean an ego about writing… I think it would hurt. A writer has to be able to self-critique and take advice from an editor. On the other hand… you need to have enough ego to put yourself out there and say, “I wrote this. Buy my book, you’ll like it!” You have to believe in yourself and not give up. I think that is at least twenty-five percent of writing.

D. T. Nova

Depending on the situation it could do either one, but I’d say it hinders more than it helps. Especially for anyone who doesn’t already have a big name to go with it.

Cyrus Keith

Depends on how big the ego is. A big ego dreams big, and doesn’t know the meaning of “You can’t do that.” A REALLY big ego has no concept of constructive criticism, because everything they do is “perfect, how dare you question my genius!” In my opinion, a writer has to have a big enough ego to fearlessly push the edge of the envelope without being so self-superior that he/she cannot receive correction.

Jay Dee Archer

It really depends on what you mean by big ego. But I’ll guess that it means someone who has a very high opinion of themselves, extremely self-important. So confident that they’re better than everyone else that they appear arrogant. That kind of person can be an incredible pain, but they also have a lot of confidence in what they’re doing. That can definitely help them. But the drawback could be that they can’t take any kind of criticism. I know there are actors like this. The directors and other actors hate working with them. An author with an ego like this could be difficult to deal with from the point of view of publishers, agents, and editors. That can hurt them.

An ego can be good in terms of confidence. But it can be a hindrance if it means they can’t take criticism.

How about you?

How do you feel about an author having a big ego? Is it an advantage or a hindrance? Let us know in the comments section below.