Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Toolbox Tuesday: Humility

This isn't a big surprise.  Aside from being in the writer toolbox, this should be in your good human being toolbox. 

Have you ever met someone who just thought they were The Bee's Knees -- even though they kinda suck?  Yeah, we're talking about not being that guy.  The people with the big heads.  The people with the superiority complexes.  The people who step on the little people.  Even if you're not as bad as this, you should endeavor to have some humility.

Let's, put things into perspective: You're one of how many billion humans on the planet?  And your work is one out of how many hundred thousand pieces of literature available?  And you expect to stay on the shelves for decades why?  You really think you're that good?  I doubt it.

You can be good, sure; but, you could be better.

Everyone has the capacity to be a better writer.  You should always keep that in mind.  It's that whole "there's always going to be someone better than you" mentality.  So what if you're published through a big house?  So what if you're a NYT Bestseller?  So what if people are practically falling over themselves to get you to be the guest of honor at conventions and you've got stalkers on five continents?  You're still not perfect.  Neither is your writing.  Get over yourself and realize that the only way you get respect in this industry is by trying your hardest to be the best you can be and helping others get there as well.

For all of us who aren't at that Bigheaded Moviestar stage of our lives, here's how to avoid getting there in the first place.

1.  When someone criticizes your work, take it seriously.  Instead of getting defensive about it and telling them they don't understand or scratching them off of your beta list, really think about what they are saying.  Ask questions and try to figure out why they feel the way they do.  In this way, you're taking the time to realize that your work may not be ready and you're showing that you're willing to step back and accommodate for changes.

2.  If you ever find yourself looking at another writer and getting a feeling of superiority, you'd better march yourself over there and make best friends with that person.  This isn't so that you can feel like the Queen of France for the next three years, this is so you can get to know this person and help them.  If you honestly feel that you have a superior quality, then you shouldn't be hoarding it.  Get out there and spread the love.  With others out there that are as good as you in this area, you'll "flood the market" and there will be no reason to feel superior.

3.  If someone is better than you, acknowledge it and look to them for guidance.  No matter how many awards or bestsellers I get in the future, I know I'm never going to consider myself an equal to someone like Neil Gaiman.  Even if I were the next Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rowling, I don't think I could look Neil in the eye and say, "I've achieved what you have."  Or even that I've achieved more.  That feeling of awe in another will keep you humble.

4.  Be accessible and real to your fans.  You're a person, just like they are.  There's a line between slightly altering your behavior to fit your author persona and turning into a holier than thou demi-god.  No matter what, remain approachable to your fans...even the mouth breathing basement dwellers.  Fans make this industry, you cross them, you cross a sacred boundary of trust.  Be kind and accommodating to their wants and needs.

5. Count your blessings and remember the little people.  Never lose sight of the journey that you took to get to your final destination.  Remember the tears, the frustration, the self doubt.  Now, thank God, Gaia, Allah, or whoever you please for giving you the strength to get beyond that hardship.  Remember the people who loved and supported you, let you cry on their shoulder, and read edit after edit of your newest manuscript.  These are people that know you -- the real you.  Keep them close and appreciate them for everything they've done for you.  Never forget who you are and where you came from.  :)

6.  You don't know all the answers.  You never did.  So, don't act like you do.  Don't be afraid to ask questions or defer to others.  Always admit your mistakes and try to right them.