Tuesday, February 3, 2015

On Ego and Writing

My father is a terrific writer. He is one of my writing idols, in fact. He is surgical; precise; fast; and modest to a fault. He's been a professional editor and writer his whole career. But it took until his late fifties—when he got a regular job as a writer and reporter for The New York Times—that I felt like “The World”--capital T, capital W--had finally recognized what a truly gifted writer he is.

After all, The Gray Lady doesn’t give “just anyone” a column or let “just anyone” write articles and report for them every week. And even though I stopped keeping up with his work after awhile, my heart would swell with pride when a stranger would notice my last name and ask if I was related to “The New York Times reporter,” or when one of his articles appeared on the “most e-mailed” list.

But the truth is that nothing changed between the day my dad started writing for The New York Times and the day before, at least not as far as his talent was concerned. He was always a great writer. And not just because The New York Times suddenly knew it.

Yesterday, I read something really great. It was a blog post that a professional television writer posted on Facebook and that is currently going viral all over the internet. Because we have several mutual friends, I wrote the guy a note to compliment him on it, and sent him a link to my blog. I didn’t expect to hear back, and of course I haven’t. And yet, I felt sad and jealous and offended. I could feel the green-eyed monster emerging from its cave like it does every month with the college alumni magazine.

Why?

Unlike both my father and my husband, and the guy I just mentioned, I’m not a professional writer. Writing is a big part of my job, but it’s not my job. It's a diversion and a hobby. There are plenty of professional writers who toil in obscurity and poverty and never receive any recognition at all, or are only recognized posthumously.

So why do I care if anyone reads my blog? I really don’t want to care, but I do.

Maybe it's because no matter what our hobbies, interests, or jobs, all of us have some part of our ego invested in external validation. I strive to minimize its prominence in my life, and yet it’s a daily battle. We all want to feel good about ourselves. We all want people to like us and tell us we are talented. And we especially want to hear it from sources we deem authoritative and credible on the subject, like The New York Times and television writers in Hollywood. We want to hear that stuff even when it's just a hobby, not a job. Whatever we have to do, or like to do, we all say to ourselves at one point or another: “Wow, I wish I had done that.” Or, “Wow, I could have done that better.” 


And then, inevitably … “Yeah, but I didn’t.”

Ultimately, I write because I love to. Not because I have to. And not because I need The World--capital T, capital W--to give me a pat on the head and tell me how great I am every day. 
Some days, though, it's just hard to remember that.

2 comments:

  1. I read your blog. I am lawyer who wants to be a writer. I know lots of lawyers who read your blog. Keep writing, please.

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