Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Ego

As I pondered the post for today, I thought a good E word to write about for the A-Z Blogging Challenge would be Ego. Writers are notoriously egocentric. After all, they think that what they think/create/write will be interesting enough that others will invest time and sometimes money in it.

Yes, I am aware that this is a very complex subject. There are many definitions for the word Ego and a variety of beliefs surrounding the one simple word. For the purpose of this post, I’m not talking about the false center, the id, the superego or any Eckhart Tolle definitions of Ego.  I’m keeping it simple.  

For this post, Ego means a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance; that state of awareness which thinks of you as separate from the other. Sorry to dumb it down, but I’m talking about having a ‘big head.’

Even when the definition of Ego is taken at it's most common understanding, however, writers have a variety of opinions about the importance of ego in their work. Here’s what some writers say about Ego.
Opinions scattered indiscriminately about leave the mark of egotism. ~William Strunk
Writer’s block is simply a failure of ego ~Norman Mailer
Good writers are often excellent at a hundred other things, but writing promises a greater latitude for the ego.  ~John Cheever

Writers must fortify themselves with pride and egotism as best they can. The process is analogous to using sandbags and loose timbers to protect a house against flood. Writers are vulnerable creatures like anyone else. For what do they have in reality? Not sandbags, not timbers. Just a flimsy reputation and a name. ~Brian Aldiss

I have always been a huge admirer of my own work. I'm one of the funniest and most entertaining writers I know. ~Mel Brooks
Take egotism out and you would castrate the benefactors. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Automobiles are free of egotism, passion, prejudice and stupid ideas about where to have dinner. They are, literally, selfless. A world designed for automobiles instead of people would have wider streets, larger dining rooms, fewer stairs to climb and no smelly, dangerous subway stations. ~P. J. O'Rourke

I know perfectly well my own egotism. ~Walt Whitman

I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. ~Henry David Thoreau

Mastery is often taken for egotism. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have nothing to declare except my genius. ~ Oscar Wilde
I am the only person in the world I should like to know thoroughly. ~Oscar Wilde

If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or my music, then in that respect you can call me that. I believe in what I do, and I'll say it. ~John Lennon

Do you think a writer must have a big ego? What are your thoughts on ego in general?


  1. I love all the quotes, but Wilde's are the best imho ;) Happy A-Z!

  2. I loved Mel Brook's comment. Funny. I tend not to think about ego when I'm writing. I just hope somebody reads what I wrote. To read my "E" blot post please go to the top blog at

  3. I like those quotes a lot. I think a writer DOES need an ego, but for a little different reason. Creative people who put their work out for the world to see take a lot of hits--they get torn down. Without some internal belief that what we've done is GOOD, we couldn't keep doing it. And I guess I think of 'big headed ego' as thinking of ourselves as BETTER than someone else--in THAT case, i don't think it's necessary (or that I have it)--what I have is confidence that I can write well and move people (provided I put enough effort into it, get enough feedback, and improve it from the original...

    I may be better than a lot of people at WRITING (namely, those people who DON'T write--and probably only BECAUSE they don't love it enough to improve the craft through doing it a lot) but better generally? Not so much.

  4. Great quotes! I especially like the Emerson one.

    Funny thing about writers--and artists in general, I think. I think we tend to alternate between believing that we have something wonderful to share and worrying that we not only have nothing worthy to say, but wouldn't have a clue how to say it, should a decent thought ever come our way. ;O)

  5. I feel ego is needed for sure, because when you lose it you feel it in your writing. This however, was wonderful in my view! And my view is the only one that matters! lol. Loved it and great job and thinking point.

  6. I love your site and as I browsed your blog I decided to award you the Powerful Woman Writer Award.
    Go to and pick up your award.

  7. Unfortunately, some need less of one. I've been to writer's conferences and meet-ups where I'd like to shove my finger down my throat. I hope I never think I'm the goddess of writing when I'm finally published. I hope to stay down to earth and approachable. It's not fun dealing with someone who lives with their head up their arse.

  8. Yipee, I got an award. Thank you for the recognition Deirdra Eden-Coppel. Receiving the Powerful Woman Writer Award is good for my ego! ;)

  9. We definitely need enough ego to withstand the rejection-love and keep at it. Ego + love. So, not ego alone. :) By ego I mean a belief in ourselves and confidence, but not a swelled head. That's not constructive.

  10. I don't think writers have big egos at all, but I do wish that having taken hours to write the most amazing articles, thousands of people would come and read them.

  11. Excellent ego quotes, Langely! I DO think writers have big (or at least healthy-sized) egos. They think they have something to say that others will be interested in. They also think they can begin and end writing something successfully. Hurray for ego! :)

  12. Great quotes! Lennon's is my favorite and describes how I feel on the topic perfectly. :)

  13. This is a keeper. Love the Facebook badge. You have such a great smile...and it shows in your writing.

  14. To answer the question. I think you need a healthy ego to succeed in many/most forms of writing. And I've seen both excessive abundance and lack of ego in writers who do well. There is a difference to for say one who needs to establish authority vs. say a poet.

    But I can't say I correlate ego with appeal, fame or success by a measure -- maybe there is a study.

    I find it is sometime overstated and compensatory. My favorite form of brilliance is when others say so, not the person themselves saying it -- displaying neither false modesty or pretension. But that's me.

  15. I guess ego is a good enough word for having the confidence to put your creations out there as targets for others. I loved reading all the quotes.

  16. I don't think writers need a big ego, but they do need to be confident enough that a few bits of criticism don't make them abandon their craft! Maybe 'thick skinned' or 'self confident' is more what I'm thinking, but I think it also has a definite link to the go and the self-perception that what we're doing is worthwhile for ourselves and others!!
    Lizzy Ford

  17. It must be true, that writers have ego issues... so many people used "Ego" as their word today. Strange. That it is so close to the surface that many people used it that is.

    Why do we sign up, post, comment, if its not for our own ego. If it was simply the joy of writing, for myself to enjoy creating, I would leave it safely tucked away in notebooks and hard drives. Unless my ego prevents me from risking ridicule?

  18. Great quotes on EGO!
    Our creative works are expressions to satisfy our egos.

    Expressive Impressive
    visiting from A-Z challenge

  19. I love those ego quotes!

    just another writer breezing through on a to z :)

  20. Great subject; I loved the quotes! We have to have ego to continue, too big it gets in the way. If ego is lacking the work doesn't get done!

  21. I think you are dead on. I have never thought of it that way before. Your quotes are great!

  22. Norman Mailer's observation that writer's block is a failure of ego struck me as reference to ego with a small "e," the spiritual core of self-identity, rather than the over-confident, or "big-headed" aspect of the word.

    A writer with a shrouded ego is reluctant, or afraid to recognize his/her own inner worth. Writing, or any endeavor of import for that matter, is difficult -- daunting. Perfectionism, and ironically, the fear of perfection, that is, taking responsibility for one's success (worth!), become hindrances in order to preserve the status quo. Thus, the resolution is -- no action...


    The ego fails to launch.


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