Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pride

Somewhere in the annals of history pride went from being a virtue to being a sin.

While no one likes a braggart or a boaster, and being around someone who talks about themselves constantly is a major bore, I believe that many writers became writers because of a need to show off. After all, it takes a large ego to write words down on paper and believe that others will not only enjoy them, but pay you for the privilege of reading them.

This isn't too far removed from bringing home macaroni art in the third grade and expecting Mom to tape it to the refrigerator door. And what child doesn't swell--and rightfully so--at the sight of their hard work on display for anyone who reaches for a glass of milk or a sandwich?

I know I still get a giddy feeling when I see my new book or short story in print for the first time. I love getting email from fans, and reading reviews, and hearing friends and family share how they saw someone reading one of my tomes. This is a healthy feeling. In fact, with the many problems the publishing industry has, and the many pitfalls that go hand-in-hand with being a writer, sometimes feeling good about our work is all we have.

I've written fifteen novels and over a hundred short stories. Each time I pen "the end" I feel like I'm six-years-old again, and can't wait to show my mom my latest masterpiece. I still show my mom most of what I write, but my first reader is now my wife. I haven't written anything in the past thirteen years that she hasn't read immediately afterward, and I'm incredibly lucky to have her.

I think this need to show people our work helps tremendously. Not only does it boost productivity, but it also takes some of the loneliness out of a solitary profession. I'll often write a scene, or finish a chapter, grinning because I can imagine my wife's reaction to reading it.

Unlike many other careers that people seem to fall into due to attrition, luck, or apathy, writing is a career that is sought after, cultivated, and difficult to maintain. We should have a sense of pride in every success, whether it's finishing a short story or novel, getting something published, receiving fan mail, or simply hearing the laughter of a family member reading our words in another room.

I pity writers who tortuously labor over their prose, or who can never be satisfied with any accomplishment. Perfectionism is fine, to a point. But I know that I got into writing because of the joy it held for me. If I didn't have that joy, I'd be doing something easier. For me, the writing is the fun part, but sharing that writing is also fun.

It is possible, however, to be too into your own accomplishments. This not only annoys and alienates those around you, but it's not a very healthy way to live. Newbie writers are often guilty of this. Hell, even I was, and often still am.

So here's a list of Virtues and Sins for authors, centering around Pride.

Virtues
  • Feeling good when writing.
  • Feeling good when finishing a piece of work.
  • Feeling good when something gets published.
  • Feeling good when getting positive feedback.
  • Feeling good when getting a decent review.
  • Feeling good after a successful signing or event.
  • Sharing major successes with family and close friends.
  • Offering requested help and advice to peers, without being condescending.
  • Feeling good when seeing something of yours in print.
  • Feeling good getting fan mail.

Sins

  • Thinking you're entitled to success.
  • Bragging.
  • Conversations that revolve around your accomplishments.
  • Posting every little thing that happens in your career on your blog, website, favorite bulletin board, etc.
  • Talking down to anyone.
  • Fishing for compliments.
  • Sharing major and minor successes with everyone moments after they occur.
  • Offering unsolicited advice to peers.
  • Believing that the opposite of talking is waiting.
  • Hogging the microphone and/or spotlight at multi-author events.
  • Believing the hype.

That said, I'm ridiculously proud to report that Dirty Martini is my first hardcover to ever go into a second printing. Thanks so much to all of you who have bought this book--and hold onto those first editions, because they'll be worth more on eBay in a few years. :)

If you have any additions to the Pride Sins and Virtues list, I'd love to hear them, and so would your peers.