In defence of arrogance…the good kind

You need it.  OK, I need it.  Publishing, both as a writer and as an editor, is about as subjective as it gets.  No one needs your book.  They need food and clothes and cable tv, but they don’t need books.  They have to want them.  Confidence sustains us, but arrogance, no matter how much you deny it, rationalize it, and otherwise dress it up in self-deprecation, is what pushes us…me.  No one is waiting in a store plaintively looking at the space on the shelf where your book should be.  I checked this out.  I went to a bookstore and stood near the D through F section and at no time did someone come up to it and threaten to immolate themselves over the lack of a book by Chris Evans (I partly blame the ban on smoking in all public places because it’s clearly made flammable protests that much harder.)  Arrogance, when used properly, is that (hopefully) silent drive that kicks us in the ass when we wonder why we bother.  This isn’t an argument for being obnoxious, but for recognizing that ambition and goals are fed by more than belief in oneself.  We want people to read what we have to say, and we want them to react.  Scrawled notes on tear-stained napkins are a cry for help, full-length novels are a wailing moan for attention. 

I suppose I’m doubly cursed/blessed.  As an editor my very existence is based on a certain degree of arrogance.  I don’t just believe that a manuscript will be a good book, I then convince my publisher to spend a lot of money to prove me right.  Maybe calling it chutzpah sounds better, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s all a bit Field of Dreams.  We have to believe.  Of course, therein lies the trap.  Believe, have faith, but keep your eyes and ears open and your brain functioning.  Arrogance tempered with humility.  When I was at Clarion Sean Stewart talked about the various stages a writer goes through.  At one point, you look at the books in a store and say to yourself ‘my crap is just as good as their crap’ or something close to that.  So what pushes you past form letter rejections, tepid reactions and the complete lack of burn patches in the carpet in front of your alphabetic placement on the shelves?  Indeed.

  1. arcticghost

    Hmm, I’d never considered it from the arrogance angle. Not one of my strong suits, I think I may need injections.

    However, I have stood in front of the D-F and visualized a certain “E” being there. Of course, that went along with visualizing a certain “C” proceeding it šŸ˜‰

    Reply
    • admin

      It’s a provocative way to describe it, but at the core of wanting to publish and get paid for it in the complete and total absence of humanity’s need for another work of fiction we rely, I submit, on a deep-seated irrationality that tells us we’ll succeed no matter what the odds. I suppose you could call it arrogance as a defense mechanism. Even with it, this is a very daunting process. But like I said, I’m not advocating obnoxious behavior, just a recognition of the ‘drive’ that motivates us through overwhelming odds, like seeing our names out there among the stars, er, shelves.

      Reply
      • arcticghost

        Oh, definitely, I do agree with you; I’d just never attached that word to it (for myself). But it’s the same type of arrogance that makes you the best at anything. I don’t see it as any different than the kind of arrogance that a fighter pilot has; it’s a supreme belief in yourself and your ability to do it, and do it better than anyone else. The ‘drive’ as you say it. It might be cocky even, but like you say it shouldn’t be obnoxious, it just does it and the knowledge (as in belief) that you will do it.

        Reply
  2. ccfinlay

    For me, it’s the near-pathetic need for love and approval manifested in the form of approbation and validation by a community of individuals self-organized around the mutual enjoyment of a set of familiar but constantly evolving narrative tropes which reflect a collective mythos of shared and underlying affirmation about the role of the individual in a multitude of possible universes.

    Ah, screw that. I just write things that entertain folks.

    Reply
    • admin

      Sure, or that. It’s not like any of us really want the fame and fortune that come with this, but if that’s the price one must pay to provender those in need of literary sustenance then it’s a burden to be borne with a quiet dignity, altruistic intent and noble heart…hey, I wasn’t struck by lightning while writing that!

      Reply

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