Do you know that writers have superpowers?
Well, we do. We have the ability to create whole entire worlds and put bad guys away. We can make bitter enemies love one another and shape happy endings out of even the most dire circumstances… all with the influence of our minds and the speed of our fingertips or the might of our pens.
How are those capabilities not superpowers?
Problem is, there isn’t a single superpower-possessing person out there that doesn’t have a fatal flaw. Superman, of course, can’t be around Kryptonite. Batman can’t handle his own emotions. (Seriously, that guy is moody.) And the Green Lantern apparently can’t handle the color yellow.
Which is weird. Not to mention kinda lame.
When it comes to writers, however, our fatal flaw is arrogance. The proper amounts of gratefulness – aka writitude – for our amazing abilities can too easily turn into something utterly obnoxious that can sully our gifts and turn us from superheroes into supervillains, not to mention our own worst enemies.
So this day-after-Thanksgiving, while you’re still full of turkey and stuffing – and maybe back to stressing out about NaNoWriMo – take careful note of Writing Rule #45 if you want to keep on using your superpowers for good, not evil.
Don’t let your writitude grow smug.
Yes, writing is an awesome gift. And yes, we writers should be very grateful for it. Yet that doesn’t mean we should elevate ourselves as being above everyone else.
History is already filled with too many arrogant writers who misused their writing superpowers. Do we really need another one added to that obnoxious list?
The answer should be a resounding “No!” by the way. Arrogance makes the world go round in a topsy-turvy manner instead of spinning on its axis all nice and neat like it was created to do. And we writers have contributed an appalling amount of that chaos on both small scales and epic ones.
Consider the 2004 Guardian article, “Vain, self-pitying, arrogant; now the truth about writers.” In it, Amelia Hill begins by saying:
Vain, self-dramatizing, self-pitying, arrogant, callous, foolish, censorious and just plain selfish. Graham Greene claimed that every writer must have a chip of ice in his or her heart and, according to a new book, this is disturbingly close to the truth.
For the first time, spouses, children and parents of writers have collaborated in compiling their experiences of living with a scribe, remembrances which reveal the frustrations, irritations and sheer madness of sharing a roof with an ink-stained genius.
Judging by the rest of the article, which you’re more than welcome to read right here, “ink-stained genius” is code for “self-focused jerk.”
And don’t think that non-fiction writers are superior to their creative counterparts in this regard. They’re not in any way, shape or form.
I could name a number of former colleagues of mine who were – and doubtlessly still are – some of the most annoyingly self-righteous and self-consumed individuals on the planet. But instead, let’s pick on Karl Marx, who I’ve been reading about. Founder or co-founder of the concepts behind communism, he most definitely is not anyone we should be building an economic model off of.
The man was such a parasite, expecting his parents to pay for his largely unprofitable writing lifestyle that, when Mommy and Daddy finally told him to start acting like an actual adult, he sulked so badly that he ended up causing the death of at least two of his seven children (four died in infancy or childhood altogether), one from the elements and the other from complications of malnutrition.
That’s pretty much the definition of using your writing superpowers for evil: destroying the life of a child.
So writers, have as much writitude as possible. Love your gift! Own your awesome abilities! And by all means, enjoy the fact that you can handle the color yellow!
But in all of that, don’t forget that you can destroy just as easily as you can create. Like Writing Rule #45 says, we’ve already had our fill of writers with arrogance issues. The last thing we need is another superpower run amuck.