I’m not necessarily someone with a Jungian world-view, and, also, I have no academic knowledge of Jungian concepts, but it seems to me that for a writer or artist, the ego is always our shadow companion. (And, I’m not talking about ego in the Freudian sense either although there is overlap.)
On the one hand, we need enough of a sense of entitlement and/or confidence to think we have something to say that others would want to see/hear. If we don’t have enough of this confidence, we will never begin. So, healthy-enough ego platform to begin. (Mind, some people might be revenge-writing, and that’s a different model, and I’m not going to be exploring that, here. And, come to think of it, there could be writing as a form of self-love, self-solace, too, which would place a public as a secondary concern. Yah– lots of people write out of different reasons….)
I think that there’s a perfect storm of complications with published/public writing that greatly affects ego. I’ve been thinking on this for a while, and mulling on all the different permutations of ego that is affected by writing for a public. It’s an ever-changing beast, morphing, and unfixed. It can also be two beast at once– say, a deep and profound sense of insecurity around being accepted, on the one hand, but also a sense of arrogance and entitlement on the other But no matter where we stand, a great many artists/writers pour into their art work something strongly personal of themselves. Conceptually, we may feel like we understand the boundaries between self and project, but on an instinctual and/or intuitive level, our project can truly feel like an extension of ourselves. When there are reviews or critiques or dismissal of the project, at an immediate and emotive level, I can perceive it to be a critique of something personal to me, and I feel the criticism keenly.
Bad Voice can then be triggered and I can swirl in a pool of negativity for several days. I allow myself three days to get over this kind of thing. A time limit is a wonderful mechanism! Come on, I scoff. Jesus rose from the dead in three days (Note: I’m not a christian, but some of those bible stories are super interesting. Not a big fan of the vindictive old testament tho that ufo story was neat, but the new testament, not too shabby! And revelations are super tripped-out mind boggling!)! What, you’re gonna let a rejection letter ruin your life? Get-over-it! I also remind myself that I dislike more books than I love, so there you go. Why would everyone like your work? Irrational.
Published work enters the public domain where we are opening ourselves up to being seen/viewed. I am explicitly putting out work for the public, and one of the goals includes the story being read by many people. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be making it public. Once the work is out there, I am waiting for some kind of feedback that the book was 1) read, and 2) appreciated and/or thought about.
We all have baggage. I really can’t imagine anyone being completely unaffected by the social/personal aspects of being a published writer. So, when we enter this public space, and little attention is paid, it’s demoralizing and ego-bruising. It’s not just an ego-stroke that I desire, though ego-strokes are pleasing. It’s also about the labour and effort that went into completing the project being recognized. The publication of a story or poem, the first book contract, the first postive review– these are all signs that indicate our efforts have an audience, that our projects have a social place, and they function. We are looking for engagement, and there is a pleasing sense of accomplishment in meeting that need, to feed our healthy ego, in order to continue with the creative project that loops back into the social structure. For published writing is about contact and communication, after all. Without it, writing is inert. I don’t think it’s unhealthy or egotistical to long for positive feedback. It’s important, I think, to acknowledge that this need can be a part of our process. It’s only BIG TROUBLE when this becomes the DRIVING FORCE behind the projects. (Then, it’s time to seek counselling. ~__~. Counselling, goooooood. But we needn’t be like that NY writer who married his adoptive daughter.)
On top of this, some artists and writers are trying to eke out a living with art practice. So, compounding the challenges to the ego in putting the work out there and dealing with the responses to only the artwork (and a robust and adaptable ego is such an asset in this line of work!), are the economic challenges! If, on top of poor response, there are economic struggles, ego can take a double-beating as our self-esteem is also weakened when under financial duress. A swirl of creativity, ambition, goals, irregular material returns on artistic (and hard work) efforts, against the backdrop of the cult of commercial product/personality and we’re not the “It Girl”, and we’re likely to never be her– WAAHHHH! WE’RE DOOMED!!!!
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After my head explodes and my tiny mouse heart spasms, I gather up the pieces and I turn back to the page. To the story, the language, and the ideas, where it all began. And begin again.
Because for many of us, even before we imagined an audience, we imagined a story, or a scene, or an image, or a character. This little seed whispered softly. Make me….