I made a comment to my pal Jen Hendren this morning that this business (the book industry) is all about confidence. It’s about a lot of other things too, but really it has to come down to confidence. We, as writers have to be confident that our story is worth something, that someone–an agent or a publisher–is going to like it enough to take a chance and publish it, and then that other someones (with luck, lots of someones) are going to like it enough to actually buy it. That’s a lot of pressure there! I have to feel like I’ve done a really good job with my books, otherwise I would feel terrible if someone were to spend their hard earned money on them. So we owe it to our readers to put the best of ourselves and our talents between those covers.
Lawrence Block observes in Telling Lies For Fun & Profit: Most of us have big egos to begin with. We have to in order to sit down and make up stories in the expectation that other people will want to read them. But at the same time we are generally insecure about our work. We need to be reassured, and this doesn’t seem to wane in the presence of critical and commercial success.
Now this is an interesting concept to me. I have a hard time envisioning Nora wondering if what she’s just written is complete tripe. But the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. That critical and commercial success is even MORE pressure. Any author worth her salt is going to feel compelled to live up to that previous standard. Once you have a following, you’re duty bound to deliver a book of at least equal quality, if not superior quality to the last one. Oh my God, the pressure! It’s no wonder we’re, none of us, decent judges of our own work. We are often our harshest critics. So in the face of that harsh criticism, it comes back, again, to confidence. If you’re not confident in your work, at least on some level, then you don’t have the chutzpah to continue to slog through the long and difficult process toward publication. It’s confidence that keeps you sending out queries and partials and fulls in the face of rejection letters. Or maybe stubborn determination or desperation…in any event, everything comes back to confidence.
A bit of ego is a good thing.