Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Humble

When I was a kid, I had a T-shirt that read: "It's hard to be this great when you're as humble as I am." Back then, I had no idea what it meant, but the adults who read it always thought it was funny. Now, years later, I get the joke. My mom, also a writer, has a really twisted sense of humor. I mean, who would slap that on their child and parade them around in it? I digress... defines humble as: not proud or arrogant. Yes, there are other meanings for this word, but this is the one I'm going to focus on today.

As writers, we're told we need to believe in ourselves, believe in the value of the stories we write, and to never give up despite the massive rejection we face. And that's really good advice. I'm not here to dispute that. I mean, if we don't believe in ourselves, no one else will be believe in us. But when does that unfaltering belief turn to arrogance? When do we cross the line from humble belief to I'm-the-greatest-thing-since-sliced-bread attitudes?

Allow me to throw out some hypothetical scenarios...

You get a request from a dream agent and/or publisher for your full manuscript. You squeal with delight. Tell all your friends. Announce it on social media. Then you sit down to actually send it. In your reply email you gush about how excited you are and thank him/her profusely for wanting to read your book. But you don't stop there. You continue to ramble on about how unique and wonderful your book is. You let him/her know that it's a bestseller waiting to break all previous sales records and you've already starting putting together your dream cast for the movie adaptation. You know he/she is absolutely going to love it and can't wait to have "the call" with them.

Humble belief or arrogance?

You've finally gotten a sweet book deal and you're so super excited you're telling everyone you know. You've told the story so many times you could recite it in your sleep. Then you get the (dreaded) editorial email. It's pages upon pages upon pages detailing everything that is wrong with your story. You take it personally and even shed some tears. After your rant fest with a few of your closest writing pals, you take a deep breath and reread the email. You see the value of the edits and realize you're story isn't as perfect as you think. Although you don't agree with everything your editor has suggested, you resolve to try and compromise even though there are certain things you absolutely refuse to change and you will be as stubborn as a  toddler throwing a tantrum on those points. 

Humble belief or arrogance?

The line isn't so clear cut is it? And the line will absolutely be in different places for different people. But the lesson is the same: Think about what you're saying and how you're presenting yourself to others. Stop and ask yourself, "If someone said this to me, would I think they're an arrogant jerk?" If the answer is yes, then chances are good if you say it, someone will think that way about you, too.

Believe in yourself. Believe in your talents. Believe in your ability to write a stellar story. But balance your belief with a healthy dose of humble pie. The world will thank you for it :-)