Narcissism: the Aspiring Writer’s Achilles Heel

Truth: 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them.

Another Truth: If you’re among the group of people who think you have a book in you, you might be a very annoying person.

I’m not trying to be mean. I’m trying to be truthful. I have spent most of my life pretending I am not a writer. I never introduce myself as a writer. Up until I published my first book, I had close friends who had known me for years who had no idea I wrote at all.

Why?

Because I was trying very hard to disassociate myself from the “writers” you meet at parties who want nothing more than you to bore you to tears with a plot description of the novel they haven’t even written yet.

The truth is, aspiring writers are often convinced they are the best thing ever.  If you’re an aspiring writer, these narcissistic ways of thinking might be interfering with your chances of  success:

1) Narcissistic writers think they are pushing the envelope

Joe is worried because his book doesn’t fit into tidy genre categories. Joe is afraid this will hurt his chances of getting an agent or a publisher because everybody knows genres have rules. Joe doesn’t like to follow rules because he is creative, but he also doesn’t want his book to be ostracized just because he is the first person to ever have the idea that vampires and spaceships could be in the same novel.

Wake-up call for Joe

Nothing fits into tidy genre categories. You are not pushing the envelope. You are not the first person to write about vampires on spaceships. And I’m not picking on Joe. NOTHING is tidy when it comes to books. And there is no such thing as an original idea.

Why this way of thinking is narcissistic

Joe is convinced he is special, that the millions of published books that are classified by genre are in some way inferior to his (as yet unwritten) work because those books are labeled (and therefore on shelves in bookstores, I might add).

2) Narcissistic writers think they have more/better ideas than everyone else

Cindy just can’t finish a book because she keeps getting inspired! Every time she sits down to work on one book, she ends up coming up with a better idea. So she abandons the first book and starts fresh. But then she has another great idea and so she has to switch again. Because she is so smart and so original, she is constantly getting interrupted by her own genius. She has never finished a novel.

Wake-up call for Cindy:

You are not alone in your ability to think of things to write books about. Almost everyone has an idea for a book. Most writers have entire notebooks full of things they might one day write about.

Why this way of thinking is narcissistic:

Cindy’s complaint about having oh so many great ideas to write about implies she is somehow more special and more important than all those boring old authors who have committed to an idea long enough to write an entire book about it.

3) Narcissistic writers don’t read

Pat is a writer. He writes all the time. But don’t ask him what he’s read lately. The truth is, he finds reading boring. Because, you know, it’s just hard for him to stay interested in work that’s so  inferior to what he’s writing himself.

Wake-up call for Pat:

All great writers read. You are delusional if you think your work is better than anything anyone has ever written. Nothing great has ever happened in a vacuum.

Why this way of thinking is narcissistic:

Pat’s belief  he is too good to spend time reading implies he is above the poor sots who have to work to get good at writing.

Why narcissism won’t help your writing

No one loves a narcissist except himself (and maybe his mom). But more importantly, thinking you are great at something is the most foolproof way to ensure you don’t improve at that thing. Ever. Your whole life.

So dump these harmful ways of thinking and go write your book.

4 comments on “Narcissism: the Aspiring Writer’s Achilles Heel

  1. Luke on

    You came up high on Google for the search. Many people/writers must not be asking themselves this question—which is a shame. Thank you for the article. I’m 34 and every point you’ve listed I have noticed in myself at some point over the last 10-15 years. Well done. Thx.

    Reply
  2. narcissist writer on

    Surprise surprise, the Queen of Narcissism herself isn’t fond of your post (although it did give her the giggles). The thing that gets me is that you’re obviously not a narcissistic writer, so how can you go about giving lectures on narcissistic behavior? You see, I’m guilty of all these things, but I’ve got reasons. I’m so in love with all my ideas that I feel like they all need attention. However, I have finished two novels, and am quite far along on my third. There are reasons why most people who think they have a book in them don’t finish their “masterpiece,” but being a narcissist is certainly not one of them. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

    But anyways, I rant and ramble about my stories until someone shuts me up because I’m just so excited to have created an idea that I believe is totally worthy of all the love and praise in the world. It just happens that most of my ideas get me that excited. It’s kind of like having a kid, parents act like their kid is the greatest kid in the universe, and sure, some people get annoyed by it, but in the end everyone understands that they just love their kid.

    Now the not reading part, that I have no counter for. I personally have never neglected to reread Harry Potter because I thought JK Rowling was beneath me, but I am often of the state of mind that I don’t need to read to be a better writer, (guilty as charged) I just do it because I enjoy it.

    My point is that you can’t go about pretending to understand narcissists. Narcissists are extremely self involved and often love themselves and all that they do more than is considered normal, but for the writing craft, that could actually prove to be beneficial. And just so you know, there’s often times a difference between a narcissist and a snob.

    Also, while you and others may find it annoying when writers talk nonstop about their ideas, being so in love with your work and what you do/have created is quite a blessing, and if I were you I’d be envious of their enthusiasm and quite honestly I’d be honored to be even remotely associated with someone who is so in love with their work that they aren’t ashamed in the slightest to share their love and enthusiasm with the world. See narcissist writers can be pretty great when you look at them that way. Just sayin’.

    Whoops that was longer than intended. Hope you don’t mind me chucking my two cents at your face. I often come off as a total ass but I honestly wasn’t trying to be rude, it’s just my personality. Ha. Anyways.

    –QoN

    Reply

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