Skip to content

Self-Satisfaction, or, Letting My Pain F*** My Ego

May 19, 2010

Is it wrong that sometimes when I read other people’s writing–on the internet, via friends who want to show me something or edit it, while flipping through books labeled “classic”– I smile and feel SUPERIOR? “Wow,” I say, “my prose has so much more wit and vivacity!” And even though only one or two people in the world have read some of the pages of my WIP, and even though that same WIP needs editing and work, I feel as if success is inevitable, as if one chapter of brilliance can make up for five chapters of crapula.

I wonder if this is ‘constructive egotism,’ if maybe we need to be viciously and sometimes unrealistically proud of ourselves in order to keep writing and not give up.

Anyhow, this whole coversation reminds me of a quote from the 2008 musical Passing Strange:

“I let my pain fuck my ego and I called the bastard art”

There’s been talks around the blogosphere about whether writers need pain/unhappiness/loneliness in order to write (I feel like either a) yes, we do OR b) writers are just naturally attracted to the dark side of the moon, so the two go hand in hand).  In Passing Strange, this quote is meant to poke a fun at the artist stereotype, and how authenticity in the art world is largely determined by how pretentious and brooding you are. Personally though, I think you need a little self-satisfaction, a little, “hell yeah, I know how the world works, I understand things because I have an innate connnection with this painful experience and it is something you will never understand!!!” because sometimes, an artist has to have a little teenage angst.

But to get back to what I was saying in the beginning, I don’t feel like my ego-radar always works very well. One minute I’m as high as a kite, the next I read one measly paragraph and I’m drowning in puddles. And no, this isn’t just when I reread Nabokov, or some other author that could whoop my writerly butt with his/her pinky, sometimes it’s just when I reread the very thing I snarkily sneezed at. And when that happens, it makes it hard to gage how good/bad I am, or when my sweet, smug, self-satisfaction is a bonefied villian, instead of a trusted friend.Which makes me wonder, can I trust myself to know when I’ve written something good, and is it okay to think that I have?

When is it good to feel smug about your own work? When is it bad? Do you really need a good dose of pain and ego to make art, or is that just a load of baloney? You Tell Me!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2010 7:13 pm

    I think I know when something I wrote has been good when it feels vulnerable enough for me to be afraid to show it to people in a private setting. There’s something very empowering about the page, it gives you permission to say things you don’t want to say, and the closer I get to saying the things I really don’t want to say, the more I think I’m getting at something good.

    • May 19, 2010 8:35 pm

      Oooh, I like that, and it’s so true. Good writing hurts, it’s visceral, and it can only be that way if the writer was vulnerable while writing it.

      I feel that writing is about putting a little bit of yourself on the page–your ideas, perspectives–and you don’t get to defend yourself . The minute it’s out there it’s out there, you’ve spent more time and effort on it than you’ve ever spent on something you’ve casually said, so of course it means more, embodies more, because whatever is said speaks exactly to who you are. ‘Who you are’ is a scary idea, I suppose.

      Thanks for commenting!


  1. Tweets that mention Self-Satisfaction, or, Letting My Pain F*** My Ego « --

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: