Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Writing and Ego

The film business thrives on ego and the allure of the big screen, and in particular, seeing your name up in lights. This especially applies to actors and directors. Writers on the other hand seem to be a much more reserved bunch, (dis)content with an isolated existence in their rooms with their computer and iPod, occasionally getting out to the pub to grumble to themselves in the corner.

But writing is an egotistical exercise in itself - having the will and desire to express stories to an audience more than one implies that writers think they have something interesting, entertaining or valuable to say, or possibly all three. Well then if that’s the case, ego’s a good thing.

A writer’s particular ego is probably borne out of an enthusiasm for storytelling and how other people’s stories affected them when they were younger and how they want to translate that feeling into their own work for others to enjoy.

This ego, ergo, is passion - the positive side to an indulgent personality. The dark side of ego is superficial celebs and talentless hacks just wanting everyone to love them for no good reason other than they’re on TV or have a part in a film or have written a three-act rip-off of the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

But ego’s a funny old thing, isn’t it? On one level, it is a writer’s passion and friend as it helps them through the rocky patches of uncertainty and rejection but on the other it’s a deluded mentor who continually urges writers to plough on regardless, ignoring the clear and present danger that they may have no talent whatsoever.

Like an animated germ in a toilet-advert, it’s possible to flush this delusional mentor away for good. Writers should remind themselves of their passion and commitment, and that other people have already validated their work (at some stage) so even though the rejections keep coming in, their writing doesn’t stink. On the contrary, something’s going to stick, real soon. The delusional mentor doesn’t really exist, it’s just a nagging sense of doubt that can easily be flicked away when they take stock of progress made and what’s been achieved so far.

Other people’s opinions might savage or critique a writer’s work, and this kind of criticism is difficult not to take personally (“I wrote it, of course it’s personal!”) but to stop writing at the face of such analysis is counterproductive to that burning ego and passion that rages within. If a living can’t be made as a writer, it certainly shouldn’t stop the need and desire to write anyway. No-one can tell anyone not to write.

Ego rules and ego rocks. Listen to ego, it sings a good tune.


Dominic Carver said...

Ego is a slippery slope to arrogance unless tempered with doubt. Doubt is good, it keeps you sharpe and makes you question what you write. With out doubt most writers would write shit total in their belief that their Oscar, Golden Globe or Bafta is just around the corner.

Ego must drive your ambition but doubt must apply the brakes from time to time.

As for criticism, constructive or otherwise, it should never be taken personally. What is being said might highlight errors in your work you've previously been blind to. I welcome all criticism, I just filter out all the crap.

Anonymous said...

Hm interestng stuff Danny. Age and experience subjugate (but don't diminish) the ego somewhat methinks and no bad thing either. Ever read Kureishi's "My Ear At his Heart" - a kind of discourse between (son and father) success and failure and ego and ego..?

Danny Stack said...

No, but will try to check it out...

Anonymous said...

I love you Danny and if I wasn't having somebody else's babies I'd have yours.

Here's to our crappy weeks getting better!!!

Tim Clague said...

Obviously I can't match Lucy's offer.. but anyway..

It will come as no surprise to most bloggers that I think writers need MORE ego. Its your script. Your story. Other people should count themselves lucky enough that you want to work on it with them.

This shouldn't be mixed up with arrogance. But we should value or work (and out time) more.