Riding the Ego Wave

This is a stained-glass window in the Albert & Victoria Inn, where I’m staying one more night.

Isn’t it pretty? Apropos of nothing at all.

I thought about trying to wind it into a theme, but mostly I’m thinking about ego today and I’m not seeing how an antique rose window fits into that.

The problem is, I have a lot of complicated thoughts about ego right now. Probably a long essay’s worth, maybe even a whole book’s worth. So I clearly can’t write a succinct blog post about it.

But this is the core of what I’m thinking: A bloated ego leads to insanity.

By this I mean that, when the ego grows, it limits a person’s ability to see the world in a rational way. The larger the ego, the more distorted the person’s world view becomes until they reach a point where they cannot interact with other people in a sane way.

When people wonder how Tiger Woods thought no one would notice he was sending out for women to tend to his needs? Ego. He thought the rules didn’t apply to him.

How on earth did John Edwards think he could disappear, blithely mention backpacking in South America and that no one, not the national media would check? Ego. He said it, therefore it was true.

How can writers rant at criticism of their books, accusing the reviewer of everything from sour grapes to being fat and unattractive? How can they rant on their blogs about how people read their books wrong, because the books themselves are perfect? How can a writer blast contest judges for giving them a low score, saying that it’s just plain mean and they’ll get revenge?

Ego. Ego. Ego.

I’m not linking to all examples of this stuff, because, really, it’s enough for a PhD thesis.

The thing about ego is, it starts small. I’m thinking of a writer who just published her first book. It was snagged from the slushpile by an agent, sold to a publisher, movie rights sold. The book is doing well. I read it. It’s decent. A good read that I enjoyed. I think there are some serious flaws, but there it is.

The thing is, this writer is dispensing advice on how to get published. Offering up the rules. “If your book is good enough, it will get sold.” She’s proud of her achievement, as she should be, but I’m alarmed by her total lack of disregard for serendipity. Her book was EXACTLY the right theme at the right moment. I bet that two years ago, even one year ago, no one would have looked twice at it. A year from now it will be over. Great timing, super good luck for her — how can she not see it?


The ego leads us to believe we do all this ourselves. “*I* am great and wonderful!” screams the ego. “Look at all I’ve done!”

I’m thinking that’s the moment you start to lose touch with reality, when the I is greater than the world around you. When a person doesn’t see how the world is working.

For example, it’s well understood in the publishing world that a writer simply cannot write to market. Even if you’re fast, by the time you draft the novel, revise, sell it, edit, and put it through the publishing calendar, the idea that was so hot and fresh when you started is now last year’s news, at best. What will be hot when the book hits the shelves? An entire industry wishes they could predict it and they can’t. It’s luck. That’s the deal.

So there are my rambling thoughts on ego for the day. I probably haven’t done it justice and will undoubtedly return now and again. Likely I’ll repeat myself. Possibly mumble in a vague way, from time to time.

Just remind me to give myself credit for the hard work I do, give thanks for the random blessings the universe bestows — and the sanity to know the difference.

4 Replies to “Riding the Ego Wave”

  1. I picture a little demon dancing and chanting, "Ego. Ego. Ego."

    It's damn difficult to be rid of him once he sets up the party in your brain.

    How many recovered egomaniacs are there? Has-beens seem to retain the 'tude, so is there a cure?

  2. oooh, I love the ego-demon image! I should needlepoint that onto a little wall hanging, to remind myself!

    And that's an interesting point – are there recovered egomaniacs? You're right, they seem to retain the petulant "everybody's after me" vibe. Maybe only those that take the truly great fall and rebuild themselves?

    Could be an interesting character, if you could get the reader to stick through the hating them part!

  3. I don't think Tiger and Edwards are good examples for ego. I think what you see on display there is the inherent male tendency to believe whatever is convenient where sex is concerned. I'm sure there's the force of millions of years of evolution behind it, but guys just suspend disbelief when they see someone they want. This is the whole foundation of why strip clubs work. Every guy there thinks that he has made some special connection with the nice dancing lady even as he waves a dollar bill to get her to look his way.

  4. But isn't that tendency ego-based, Kev? It's ego that makes a man think he's the special snowflake that the stripper is actually attracted to, among the masses of faceless men. It's harmless ego, for the most part, at this level.Sadly, it can grow from there if you let it…

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