Leggo My Ego

I am a sensitive artist.
Nobody understands me because I am so deep.– King Missile

I can’t help it
Because I am so much more intelligent
And well-rounded

Than everyone who surrounds me. […]

I stay home
Reading books that are beneath me,
And working on my work,
Which no one understands.”

Yep, there are a lot of divas out there like this, particularly among those of an artistic temperament, so we writers are no exception. Well, becoming a teacher certainly knocked any such pride out of me, reducing me to such a state of humility on a daily basis that I finally learned it’s okay to admit when I don’t know something. No one could know all information, master all skills, and we certainly won’t grow in any respect until we can learn to acknowledge our limitations and accept help from others. 

That’s what I’ve been enjoying so much about the blogging community I’ve shared in for the last year—aspiring writers who are proud of their work, yet willing to put their vulnerabilities and uncertainties out there in their blog posts for all to know and empathize with. By doing so, we’re learning and improving. We also learn and improve from having our work critiqued, be it by peers in a writing group, an informal beta-reader, editor/agent feedback, etc. When taking on such a personal task as writing that inherently possesses so much passion, however, it can be difficult to accept criticism of our babies. What we write is who we are, and who likes hearing that they’re anything less than perfect? I’d say not a single one of us, if I were a bettin’ man (or a man at all, for that matter).

Yet take it in stride we must. It’s hard to control how another will respond to our work, but we can control how graciously we respond to their feedback. I love the tale I’ve written and certainly want to retain ultimate creative license, but as agent rejections already start rolling in (2 so far), I understand that there will always be something to adjust. And in this case I just hope I can handle it as gracefully as the author whose work I’m presently editing. I just got her edits back, along with this lovely email:

“I must say, your editorial was wonderful, so user friendly and in tune with what I was aiming for and didn’t quite reach.  I particularly appreciated how you explained why certain patterns weren’t working or how they could work better.  I believe that your input will benefit my future writing as well, and not just this work. […] I did take your suggestions to heart, and I’m pleased with the result. Really, your editorial was invaluable. I’m looking forward to your opinion of the revised work.”

Not that I’m letting this go to my head ;)…but it was an inspiration, not to mention such a relief! So time now to get over myself and help this author reach her personal best. Ego begone! But confidence, stay.

How about you? Has a dose of humility ever caught you getting a bit too stubborn during the writing process? How do you know when to assert what you believe are your strengths and when to concede your weaknesses?

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About thefallenmonkey

Primate that dapples in writing when not picking others' fleas or flinging its own poop. View all posts by thefallenmonkey

18 responses to “Leggo My Ego

  • Glen

    I agree with an awful lot of that.

    I’m trying so hard to learn this art, as you know there is a huge difference to being able to ‘make up stories’ and being able to write them down well. I’m aiming to improve all the time – it’s slow work.

    One of things I hoped to get out of blogging was genuine critiques (I suppose I was looking for free education!). However as with most bloggers, my early posts went unread and when people do start reading your work they rarely dare criticize it (quite understandably – it takes a brave person to do so, braver than me I fear)

    I am someone with a highly controlled ego and can take genuine feedback, even if it is bad, as long as it is explained and fair. Random opinionated insults are a different thing.

    I’m not surprised that your work in editing is being received well – you clearly know your beans and have the ability to explain it well.

    Only another hundred rejection letters to go then – don’t worry I believe persistence is the key – I have confidence in you.

    • thefallenmonkey

      Aw, thank you so much for that :). And I have to say that you are both able to make up the stories and write them down well – and that’s not me being afraid to tell the truth. For as many “rules” that are out there that seem to render writing so formulaic, what really makes writing great, in my opinion, is when the writer runs with his/her own style and voice and ideas…not to cater to what’s commercial or to sound like successful published authors out there, but because it’s one’s own writing identity, the unique thing brought to the table while the other lemmings go flailing off the cliff. You’re that kind of writer – your wit in and of itself seems to manage the pacing and flow of your words in a way that seems so effortless, even if it isn’t.

  • Eva

    Hm, as always an excellent question! As you have been following my own humble blog I guess you know that I have struggled quite a bit with my own sensitivities over the last couple of months, with thinking up a new title for my first ms while sticking stubbornly to my male protagonist in ms 2 …

    I try to let my gut decide. Even if some feedback hurts, I am often able to see the objective point in it. While if my inner confidence says that I can go and convince my agent that my chosen gender is right, then I will at least try. So far, it did not let me down. But so far, I have not published, so I will keep you posted. 😀

    And wishing you all the strength and resilience for those rejection letters. It is the true initiation rite into becoming a writer. Hopefully you will be blessed with some useful feedback to get out of, too. And if things become tough – just lean on your blogosphere friends … We’re there. 🙂

    • thefallenmonkey

      Thank you, m’dear – I must say on getting that first form-letter rejection, I really did feel like a real writer! 🙂

      I think there’s much to be said for going with one’s gut. I feel like whenever something I’ve written is criticized, it’s something that had already nagged me in the pit of my stomach a bit, so the feedback wasn’t surprising. Alarming, though, when there are other elements that give me that feeling that haven’t been called out on yet, which I have so far stubbornly avoided addressing on my own as a preemptive strike…I think my real predicament in that case is that I do want someone else’s feedback and advice on how to improve it. So what I want and what I dread are the same thing, I guess…

  • Ollin

    Yes, admitting your shortcomings is just as important as acknowledging your strengths. How else will we improve?

  • Melissa

    I love all of this. Are we sharing a similar brain wave? Fabulous!

    Editing/critiquing has become one of my favorite things; it ushers in fresh air to my creative half and it truly is amazing to know I’m helping someone else. To be honest, affirmations of help received make me feel like I DO know what I’m talking about, I DO know what I’m doing, and I’m not just a bump-on-the-log wannabe.

    • thefallenmonkey

      Yay, I’m lovin’ the empathy! And I so agree with you that helping others with their writing is one of the most validating experiences. It reminds me that I’m not going into my own writing blind—I do know a thing or two, and even if I regardless make mistakes in my work (that’s inevitable), those critiques hold a mirror to it so I can see it with more clarity. And it’s also just a good feeling to step outside of my preoccupation and attain creative inspiration by learning from others.

      • Melissa

        Preeeeecisely. A crit partner told me my crits were “pretty much perfect” for her. Considering how highly I praise her writing and her talent, it was a huge compliment. And very needed during the “WHYAMIEVENBOTHERINGWITHTHIS” path I happened to be wearily trudging.

  • Milo James Fowler

    As a recovering perfectionist, I try not to consider my work “perfect” when I’ve revised it and edited it to death and submitted it to a market I think is a perfect fit. I try not to be crushed when the editor responds with “not very interesting” or “good idea spoiled by some poor writing” — OUCH!

    “Ego begone. Confidence stay.” That’s going to be my new motto. I can always make my work better, even when I’ve deluded myself into thinking the “final” product is perfect.

    • thefallenmonkey

      Ah-ooommm…ah-ooommm…[that’s me meditating to our new mantra]. Yes, aspiring for perfection is a dangerous thing (yikes, especially now after I’ve literally just gotten back from seeing The Black Swan) and just downright unrealistic. It’s the imperfections that can give character and edge, anyway…and at the very least something to analyze and talk about. I’m sure you find that when you’re teaching a novel to your students, now and then you have to present one that you don’t care about much or one that could’ve been so good if not for some flaw, in your own personal opinion, yet that’s what can make for the best discussions. And there’s still always someone out there who loves it and thinks it’s perfect, so it’s all subjective anyway!

  • Cities of the Mind

    Great post! And wow, did that song ever make me laugh!

  • Nicki Elson

    Brava, Madame Monkey! #1 for delivering your edits in such a way that the author understands what an invaluable service you offer her, and #2 for this brilliant post! I think showing my vulnerability is exactly why I had such trouble getting rolling on this blog thing.

    But I have to say, I enjoyed the editing process on my own story—it’s an amazing feeling to have somebody else give your work that much care and attention. And that’s exactly what you gave this author.

    And lastly—out of nowhere the Monkey pulls out King Missle. Once again, Brava!

    • thefallenmonkey

      Aw shucks, thanks Madame Elson! I’m with you on the blog honesty being something to warm up to. There’s a degree of anonymity to hide behind, and yet ultimately people you know become aware of it and read it, too, so I have to try to block that out if I don’t want to inhibit my ideas.

      Thanks so much for the award! It’s maaahhvelous. The Monkey shall wear it with pride :).

  • Nicki Elson

    OMG—I was so starry eyed from your post, I neglected to tell you that I’ve got an award for you at my blog. 🙂

  • Hedging an Investment in Myself « The Fallen Monkey

    […] really rather bored by this publishing racket and those swept away in it. I recently wrote about letting go of the ego that can have so many writers sucking their tongues from the roofs of their mouths and heaving a […]

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