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.