Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

This is an interesting question. I can see where people might assume that, to get published, one had to have a big ego. That would mean you trusted the value of your own words—nay, your sense of the value of your words must be intrinsic!

When I left a Ph.D. program, I scooted far from it, from San Diego to far-flung Mendocino County on the Northern California coast—and tried to lick my wounds. One of the best ways I discovered for licking those wounds was writing fantasy fiction. I shaped my main character to be a woman who fled academia (she was a full professor, though) who, while working a mundane, data-entry job, stepped into another dimension and experienced the medieval languages she’s been researching in their own time. I sort of lived through that character at that time, feeling magic in the small town where I actually lived and placed her.

Both in trying to write a dissertation that would gain approval, and in the first sharing of my fiction chapters, in writing groups, I found it hard at first to read aloud. I found it terrifying, in fact. I realized that the issue was the difficulty of “owning my words.” That was hard to have confidence that I had something of value to say.

I think part of that is growing up a woman. I didn’t feel heard as a child and particularly as a girl. My words, my voice, my reasoning, were often not taken seriously. The less assertive I felt, the less I was listened to.

But as I started to shed that skin, reading my writing aloud each week, a new self emerged, one who could see more clearly, hear thoughts more profoundly, more accessibly. And guess what. It’s not about big ego. Big ego is bravado. It’s about healthy, well-rounded, grounded ego. When ego that’s disconnected from soul falls away, one can find universal emotion. And that’s the gold-mine of writing, I think.

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