January 18th, 2007

How Full of Yourself is Too Full?

 As with most things in life, it’s a fine line between knowing exactly how great you are—and believing you are God’s Greatest Gift to Planet Earth and its Inhabitants. And like most tightropes, this is a tough one to walk. Think about it: how often are you way too hard on yourself? And how often do you get too cocky, and realize it after you're shot down and plummet back to reality?


I guess some people never plummet. Which explains the horrible phenomenon known as “American Idol.” (And the equally horrible phenomenon known as Ryan Seacrest.) Also Paris Hilton. And some people that I know personally. Like one acquaintance who seems to believe that every spotlight in the world is trained on her.


She sincerely believes every man in the world is after her. (Even one who she simultaneously thinks may be gay. That’s how great her powers of attraction are. I guess.)


When she was featured in the back half of a local paper (the kind most people kindly describe as “throwaway”), she bemoaned the fact that now everyone would see her  picture. (As a friend, I found it incumbent upon myself to remind her that no one really reads that paper anyway. I should know. I write for it.)


I get it, though. Even shy people like to be the center of the universe now and then. So really, writing is the way to go: you get the glory of seeing your name in print, knowing that other people are going to see it in print too, of seeing your words, your voice, splashed across the pages—all the attention without having actually to stand in the spotlight (at least until Regis and Kelly come a-knockin’).


It does give me pause every once in a while. When I’m re-reading a particularly horrific first draft, I sometimes shake my head and wonder why I ever imagined anyone would want to read what I’ve concocted. How the readers will roll their eyes! How the critics will pan it! If, that is, I even manage to get that far. I start plummeting to reality without actually having gotten too cocky beforehand! Lucky for me I have a friend who’s such a fan of my work (a fan! Go, me, go!) that she gets annoyed when I’m overly self-critical and soon pummels me back into some semblance of self-confidence. (In fact, when I confessed that I’d rewritten my juvenile fantasy—and further admitted to removing a couple of plot elements—she got upset. “But the wind was my favorite part!” she cried. Ah, well. It’s never too soon to learn you can’t please everyone.)  


So why this constant dance between self-doubt and self-pride? Why jump on that emotional roller coaster in the first place? What it comes down to, I think, is a fundamental craving to connect. While many of us appreciate bouts of solitude to gather our thoughts and simply veg out, few people want to be alone—and I doubt anyone at all wants to be lonely. Isn’t that why writers write? Why musicians play or sing? Why actors act? (Why bloggers blog?) We want to share our perspectives and experiences to show our audience that they’re not alone in feeling the way they do; and we want them to tell us that we’re not alone in feeling that way either. And if we end up slathered in adulation, so much the better—right? Luckily, we’ll—okay, I’ll—have plenty of plummeting to reality along the road to Readerly Reverence: requested revisions, plot inconsistencies to rectify, cardboard characters to flesh out. Oh, the things I have to look forward to! 

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