All writers are Narcissists. I mean come on. We put our thoughts down on paper, sometimes loosely camouflaged as a story, send it off and expect people to pay us money for it. Would you pay the homeless guy that hangs out under the bridge money to know what he thinks about the world? Probably not. How are writers any more qualified than lives-under-the-bridge-Paco? Well, they probably aren’t. Sure, some of you are bristling, saying “but I put a lot of time into my characters, and really researched this or that.” Yeah? Well, Paco’s been living under a bridge for the last four damn years. I bet he could write stories that would strip the spray-on tan off a Kardashian.
The truth is, writers aren’t really any more qualified than anyone else. Sure, some writers may have actual “training” in the form of a Creative Writing degree or MFA. But, that is just a certification that you’ve put time into it and did a passable enough job to get at least a C in all your classes. So, they gave you a piece of paper. That doesn’t mean you’re any good at it!
Writing is an art (creative writing that is. Let’s not debate whether anyone here considers technical writing an art. Well, maybe my friend Jessica would, but she is strange like that.), and like any other art, it is a combination of several things that determine if the artist will be successful. Three of those are: talent, skill, and what I will blithely label as “ego.”
I don’t mean you have to be a raging a-hole that only cares about himself (I chose the male pronoun here not because I’m sexist, but because most a-holes are guys. Okay, that is sexist I guess…). But, you DO have to feel that what you have to say is worth reading, that your words have enough value that a stranger can pick them up and be moved by them. Otherwise, what is the point?
Successful artists tend to believe their work has the ability to change the world in some small way. Whether that be by changing the mind of a single person, or by changing the way the world sees itself as a whole, or some combination of the two.
Does that mean that if you don’t have that attitude that you won’t become a world-famous author? Yes. Of course it does! Unless you are immensely talented, the only other way you are going to succeed is by being driven, driven by the need to get your words out into the world to incite change, no matter how small. Stand up behind your work and demand that it be read. The more you believe in your work the more passion you will pour into it.
Nothing can make up for hard work, dedication, and a little talent. But, believing in your work, and putting your money where your mouth is counts for a lot. And, let’s face it. As a celebrity obsessed culture, we are more interested in the tortured artists than the old granny that writes to keep herself busy during retirement.
So, what is my advice? Quit your job. Take up a self-destructive habit. Now, wear your hair all spiky, and wear some torn and dirty clothes. Look in the mirror for a long time and work on developing an expression that is both pained, deep, and a little bit like you just stubbed your toe. It is very important you do not smile at any time. Next, write some stuff. Take said stuff and show it to everyone you meet, telling them emphatically it will change their lives if they do.
That ought to do it. If not, at least your life can’t get any worse. I mean, you’re a writer after all, right?