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.

Fancy Hill

Tonight I’m in Abingdon, Virginia.

You know! Home of the Barter Theater?

No? Well, okay. Well, we were promised this would be the jewel of our work trip. The shops are cute. But the town? I’m not quite getting the buzz.

But, we’re staying at the Victoria & Albert Inn (that’s my room), and I’m sitting by that selfsame fireplace, only lit, while snow falls outside and my mahogany bed awaits. It’s pretty damn wonderful. The website is lacking, but don’t let that dissuade you: the Inn is possibly the best B&B I’ve ever stayed at. Very romantic and cozy.

Too bad David isn’t here…

Overall? I liked the town of Lexington better. Maybe I’m just a college-town kind of gal. But, as we were leaving, we took Route 11 south out of town to connect with the interstate, at the advice of our innkeeper there at the Llewellyn Lodge. I would be remiss if I didn’t note that our two nights there were lovely, comfortable and I slept like a log. And ate breakfast with cardinals. Birds, not priests. They have a gorgeous song, did you know? The birds, that is. Anyway, as we were headed out Route 11, we passed several horse farms and a number of beautiful homes, the oldest and most gorgeous of which had been slapped with a highway sign that said “Fancy Hill.”

And my colleague noted that everything around here falls into two categories, hillbilly or fancy.

I think Val has a point, actually. I like that way of looking at things, that if you’ve gotten your act together, you get to be “fancy.” If not, well, at least you’re wholesome and charming. I think I’ll adopt this as my approach to life now.

Hell, I even feel fancy!