Monthly Archives: April 2013

H is for Hubris

This title is a bit tongue in cheek because I think you actually need to be pretty hubristic to use a word like hubris. People who regularly slip Greek and Latin words into everyday sentences are mostly doing it to prove how much cleverer than you are they are, and they need to just shut up. But I was stuck for a letter H.

Being a writer requires you to possess hugely contradicting qualities. On the one hand you need to be sensitive and emotionally aware; you need to be able to lay yourself open and bear your soul. On the other, you need to be thick skinned with an ego that you can bounce rocks off. It’s tough. You sit in your little garret, typing away day after day, nurturing your piece of art. Then suddenly you’re thrust out into the world, blinking in the daylight from under your messy hair, brushing the toast crumbs off your top while everyone examines you under a microscope. You need to be pretty self confident to do this. You’re exposed, everyone has an opinion. It’s like when you’re pregnant and suddenly everyone is touching your stomach. You don’t want them to touch you, or hurt you, but you still want them to tell you how fantastic your baby is.

However, there’s a fine line between self confidence and arrogance and I regularly see authors hurl themselves over this line with abandon, arms flailing wildly. I have to admit that a part of me wishes I had this cockiness, this thick skin. I wish I didn’t really care what people think. But then if I didn’t care about this kind of thing, about feelings etc, I’d probably wouldn’t be able to write. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

But I really hope I don’t turn into one of those writers. The writers who think they’re above it all. It’s often the writers who haven’t quite made it yet, but they’ve had enough attention to feel that they deserve to have made it. These are the same writers who hassle the agents (See the A is for Agent post). Their manuscript isn’t accepted? The agent/publisher must have been having a bad day. The rejection letter? That particular agent must secretly be a wannabe writer themselves and are just jealous, they’re obviously trying to keep all the good books off the market so that when they publish their book there will be no competition.

They argue with their proofreaders, who obviously don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t need suggestions, they don’t need advice, they’re above all that. They nod and smile and look like they’re taking it all in but inside they’re rehearsing their speech for when they win the Booker prize. They’ve written their book, they know it’s a masterpiece, their mum/wife/husband/dog has told them so, there’s no need to change anything about it. It is perfection.

Hubris tends to mean extreme arrogance and having an exaggerated view of your own abilities that blinds you to the truth. In Greek tragedies this often ended in that person’s ruin, and while I don’t want to see any arrogant writers end up being horribly mutilated by a bull, it is still quite satisfying to see them poke themselves in the eye a little bit with their lyre as they sadly retweet their latest rejection letter.



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