Leggo My Ego!

The following is an essay written for the Writers' Circle, a group to which I have belonged since 2001. It was my turn to inspire them. Poor souls. Note: the group is based on Writing.com, a writers' community online.


I'm sitting in front of my laptop. It mocks me with its cool white iMac grace. It's ready to receive my brilliance and disseminate it to the universe.


Instead, I turn to iChat and dial up my dear friend Frank Fradella. Frank is the author of VALLEY OF SHADOWS, SWAN SONG, DEAD THINGS and other terrific tomes. He's the publisher of New Babel Books and CyberAge Adventures Magazine and has his fingers in all sorts of interesting pies.

He's been slugged by Harlan Ellison, man. That's a quasi-elite club.

ME: It's my turn to write an inspiring essay on writing for the Writers Circle, and I'm empty. I already used my Mozart speech on them the last time.

FRANK: Talk about the importance of ego.

ME: Mine or theirs?

FRANK: Theirs. To be an effective writer, you have to be able to sit down with the belief that you have something worth saying that has either a) never been said in quite this way before, or b) is so ground-breakingly original that people must read it at once.

ME: So when they don't have that confidence in themselves, how do you spur it on?

FRANK: Find a way to make one of those two things true. Because really, if you're sitting down with the intention of just churning out crap, I'm not inclined to help you get better at it.

ME: I think most new writers suffer from the secret belief that everything they write is crap and no one will read it. God knows I did. But suppose they want to make it good, as well as sell it. Where do they look for the ego to put it out there?

FRANK: That ego already exists if they're writing. Writing isn't something that people encourage you to do. It's often quite the opposite. People always tell you to get a day job and pursue your "hobby" on the side. If you sit down to do this anyway, chances are you already HAVE the ego necessary to do this well. You just have to find a pair of balls to go with it.

ME: So to speak.

FRANK: So to speak.

ME: So in short, we should all quit whining about how our stuff isn't good enough and work on making it better instead?

FRANK: You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else. Because, honestly, if you're just aiming for the middle... well... get the [CENSORED] out of my way. You're clogging up the slush pile. If you don't have every intention of beating me to the bestseller list, go do something else with your spare time.

Frank Fradella, ladies and gentlemen. He's actually a lot more easygoing in person.

When he said we should have an ego, the first thing I thought was, "Is he kidding? That was the first thing to go!" And it's true, the rejection letters or (worse) utter silence from those to whom you send your stuff will crush your soul like an empty eggshell. How's that for encouraging words?

But Frank's not talking about the kind of ego that made Harlan Ellison smack him one, knowing full-well he won't be going to jail. That's the kind of ego that some writers (not naming any names, but Harlan ain't one, and neither is Frank) decline editing of any kind, insisting that every word be exactly as she wrote it. That's the ego that can kill the work as efficiently as a crashed computer drive with no backup.

What you need is the kind of ego that pushes you forward through the story, because you just know there's something really cool around the corner. It's the kind of ego that fills up your chest with a happy rush not unlike that achieved with dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, clicking SAVE with a half-grin on your face, knowing that they're just going to LOVE this one.

The question is, who is 'They'?

'They' should be more than your immediate family and close friends. 'They' should be more than your writers' group, even a large one. Save me from sacrilege - 'They' should be more than Writing.com.

The ego comes from knowing what you've done is the best your muse and your brain could distill from the ether, and it's worth Their time to read and enjoy it. There may be nothing new under the sun, but those of us who love books know that there's always something new on crisp pages beneath a really neat cover.

Bolster that ego. Trust that satisfied feeling between your heart and your gut that says, "This rocks, babe." When you can't wait to keep writing because you want to see how it turns out, your excitement shows through to the reader - and They will love it as much as you do.

Eventually, They will even pay for the privilege. Shocking, I know. But They pay for Frank, and They pay for me, a fact that continues to astound me and feed that ego, in a healthy way, I hope.

They'll pay for you. So buck up that ego, and send your stuff out to the universe.

Or I'll let Frank smack you.

P.S. I apologize for the pun in the title. I couldn't help myself. It's a sickness.


  1. That's so funny. I never knew you posted this. :-)

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