Yikes! Did I just say that out loud? Writers are arrogant?
You bet we are.
Because when it comes down to it, we have to be. Which sounds suspiciously close to preaching, as I’m not a proponent of shoulds, musts, have tos. But if we don’t have at least some of that arrogance from the ego—my work is great!—then we’ll never stick to this insane world of writing and publishing.
I say it often—publishing is a brutal business. The odds of breaking into the Traditional world are astronomical. And if you’re self-publishing, you’re diving into an ocean so vast that rare is the book that gets seen. Much less purchased!
So a little grandiosity can sure keep you going.
But let’s focus now on the 2 sides to writer arrogance that will trip you up every time. And I hear these amazingly often from folks who contact me. So much so, that agents and publishers tend to snicker about it behind closed doors. And while that isn’t a pretty truth, it’s one that can sure teach us something.
So, what are these universal sides to the coin? The one side black/other side white Mardi Gras masks that writers seem drawn to don?
Both fall under the category of THE GREATEST IDEA EVER.
Yep, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that one . . . An idea comes and no one’s ever had it before. And it plays out in these two ways:
- I want you to write it. “See,” someone says, “I have this fabulous idea for a novel—it’s the most unique plot in the history of the world. And I want you to write it! I’ll split the millions with you! You’ll be rich!”
Or some version of that. And while I understand that writing a novel is one of the most difficult tasks anyone can undertake, much less master, one thing I know to be true is that there are no new plots. Aristotle said this a while back, and as with many things, he was right.
I can pretty much guarantee that whatever idea someone has for a novel has already been thought of, in some form or fashion.
And the thing is, what makes a book unique is in the writing itself. You know (especially if you’re reading this!) the blood, sweat, and tears that go into fiction writing. “Why didn’t I just become a brain surgeon?” writers often ask. Because writing well is often just as difficult. Not to mention the pay isn’t as good!
2. Someone will steal this idea. That’s the flip side of number one above. “My book is so fabulous, so unique, how do I keep agents and editors from stealing the idea?”
And I know this part can seem real. Fear always seems real when it’s occurring! Doesn’t mean it actually is though.
Because here’s the deal: Agents and editors and publishers don’t want to steal your idea. Even if it’s that one very last unique idea in the universe. Because with fiction, anyway, agents and editors and publishers aren’t in the business of selling ideas. They’re in the business of selling books. You know the kind—the ones finely crafted, with storylines tight and moving, characters rich and full and jumping off the pages, prose beautiful and mesmerizing with images keen and true. You know the kind—the book produced by all of that blood, sweat, and tears you exerted over it!
These days a book has to be pretty much camera ready when submitting. In publishing’s changed world, rare is the writer taken under an editor’s wing in order to perfect her craft. Now the book must be perfect before even submitting to a great agent.
So the next time either of those faces turns to you, smile. It’s just that pesky writer arrogance that assails all of us now and then. And then take all that brilliance and get your butt back to the keyboard. It provides great energy!
How do you deal with arrogance that arises from within?