Necessary Arrogance


Writing is a tough business. Gratification (publishing) can be long in coming. If and when it does, royalties are usually insufficient to live on, sometimes even nonexistent, especially when averaged over the months or years and costs it’s taken to finish a manuscript and get it accepted for publication.

Once published, we have to sell ourselves. We have to create websites, blogs, develop e-mail lists, contact bookstores, apply to writers’ conferences. In short, we have to keep our books “alive” and out there. Publishers may do some of this but not nearly enough these days, unless we’re one of their top sellers. Yet even the most successful writers face pressures to get their next book out quickly, even while making the rounds of book clubs and writer’s events for the current book.

After publication, we face reviewers, some of whom aren’t kind and negatively affect sales. Then there’re those Amazon and Goodreads 1 stars that can deflate us no matter how many 4 and 5 stars we’ve received.

Two years ago, when Atlanta Braves’ star Chipper Jones retired, a news article referred to what Jones’ called “Necessary Arrogance,” the personal mantra that carried him through the ups and downs of his outstanding career.

If you’re a new writer hoping to get published or a seasoned writer who’s chosen “to stick with it,” Chipper’s mantra is for you. It doesn’t mean we’re to “swagger” or remake ourselves into arrogant s.o.b.s. It means writers need to assume arrogance (or less abrasively put “self-confidence”) when we contact agents or editors or walk into a venue to sell our books or stand in front of a large crowd to explain why our book is worth buying. Necessary arrogance is the pep talk we give ourselves when we’re nervous or intimidated or ready to quit writing altogether. I like to think necessary arrogance is protective armor in this difficult and often ego-bruising endeavor.


Note: For an excellent “reality check” for what it takes to persevere as writers, take a look at Rachel Shteir’s recent NY Times article “Failure, Writing’s Constant Companion.”