Your Ego: It’s Your Parasitic Twin

So I was initially going to write a post about people who write in coffee shops and how they drive me nuts–and then I thought to myself, ‘this is a little too aggro-specific. After all, it isn’t just the Starbucks fanboy with his Macbook Air that drives me crazy. Hell, there are a LOT of things that drive me crazy… why stop there?’

So I thought about why the Macbook guy and his fancy scarf get under my skin. I mean, my reaction to these people–these coffee shop writers–is immediate. As soon as I spot one my heart rate spikes, my hands get all clammy; I imagine myself losing all self-control and marching right up to that guy… In reality, I just stand at the milk-and-stir-stick station and crumple handfuls of napkins in silent fury.

But why? What gives this Apple geek so much power over me? Is it the pale blue glow of his fancy laptop? Is it his French beret cocked every-so-slightly atop his pointy head? Is it his tiny mustache or his shiny loafers? No. It isn’t any of that, though all of those things do make me want to roll up a newspaper, smack him as hard as possible, and yell ‘NO’ at him while wagging my finger. But it isn’t his fashion sense or his overpriced gadgets… it’s the ego. Oh god, the ego

And then there’s another breed of ‘writer’ that infuriates me: the word count obsessed writer that holds out his daily numbers like some yardstick of greatness. I wrote eight thousand words today. In one sitting. It only took me an hour.  You know what you can do with that word count? Bend over and I’ll show you.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m an advocate of speed writing, especially if we’re talking about the first draft. But what I am not an advocate of, dear reader, is blatant ego. Word count flaunting runs rampant in writing circles. It all goes back to the playground and who has the better sack lunch or who’s sneakers are cooler. I hated these kids in grade school. I kept my distance. And the more time I spend among these circles, the more I find myself doing the same thing I did when I was six; slowly backing away with my hands in a defensive position…

Writers are a weird group. There’s a lot of peacocking, a lot of forced niceness based on nothing more than affiliation. Now, before you get all comment crazy, I’ll be the first to say that some of these people are genuinely awesome. I’ve met a ton of writers who are amazingly supportive. But in the end, I don’t connect with these people because they’re writers; I connect with them because we have things other than writing in common, be it a sense of humor or a favorite television show or… whatever. People who can’t stop talking about writing? They get under my skin as much as that Starbucks fashionista. And that’s why, while I’m a member of many a writing circle, my participation is pretty limited.

I don’t like the Starbucks guy because he’s ridiculous. He’s at Starbucks because he thinks it’s chic–look at me with my laptop and intent concentration. I’m the next Ernest Hemingway!  Okay, yes… Hemingway did occasionally write in coffee shops, but Hemingway was also a Grade A douche. For the most part, he wrote while drinking himself to death in the comfort of his own home. If you want to be chic like Hemingway, I suggest a lot of alcohol and a shotgun for later.

And you word count whores… cut it out. Your word count makes you a better writer like penis size makes you a better man. If you aren’t going to cut the crap to save yourself from looking like an ass, then do it for the people around you who may very well be stuck at the bottom of the writer’s block well. Imagine someone talking about their 8k-A-Day success while you can’t even eek out a lousy paragraph. Not cool.

I’m a firm believer in silence. When I write, I don’t tell anyone about what I’m writing. I don’t announce my daily progress to the world. And I certainly don’t do my bidding in a crowded coffee shop so people can glance my way and think, Man, what a babe… what a totally smart laptop-using coffee-drinking babe.

If you need that sort of self-assurance, well… you need that sort of self-assurance. And that’s just kind of sad.

P.S. Zoe… if you bring on more crazies, I swear to god…

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34 thoughts on “Your Ego: It’s Your Parasitic Twin

  1. You probably wouldn’t like me right now either, in a pizza joint, typing on an iPad with a BT keyboard. 😉 ‘Course, I’m wearing jeans and a short-sleeve shirt with pockets, both non-brands. I’m not here to be seen though, I was here to eat lunch and then do some writing. Having succeeded at both input and output, I will now pack up and get back to the office!

    I’m sure you realize I’m laughing at the dude you described. Later!

  2. I agree with you–to an extent. Part of me sees the same thing you see when I see the very same image in a coffee shop, etc. But I believe some of these very same people–those who to you and me may seem superficial and all act–are simply who they are and have not a presumptuous bone in their body. Though I fail frequently, I try to live by the dictum, “live and let live.”

  3. Ooooh, how provocative. Emotions must be running high.

    Okay, this is simply a case of Actions Speak Louder Than Words, but for a writer, action is words, so I do think more understanding is needed for the WCH’s.

    Few things get me in a fluster, or annoy me in life, so, I can honestly say I don’t give a D about what you’ve described, but, that being said I can’t help but think the situations you’re describing (barring coffee shop guy) are ones you can simply avoid.

    Forced Niceness?? When did being nice become something to be forced? Word Count Whores? *te he* I don’t mind a writer telling me how they’re doing. If it makes them feel good, go for it. If I’m having a dry spell that’s on me, not them.

    I’ve found writers are (secretly) quite competitive, and with all things in life you take the good with the bad. So my philosophy is to just ignore/rise above/deal with it.

    *frowns* I don’t think I could write in a coffee shop … too Attention Seeker for someone like me … people would look over your shoulder … I would have to start throwing biscotti … and I like biscotti, so it would be a waste. 🙂

    I admire your frankness.

    • I don’t mind a writer telling me how they’re doing on a project either, but that isn’t what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about a very specific group of people who will trumpet their word count every hour on the hour. Yes, these people exist. I’ve seen them. And no, people aren’t asking for this info.

      I have nothing against writers discussing writing together. As I said in my post, I’ve met many an amazing person in the writing circles I’ve described. This is the stuff that gets me in trouble; people assume I’m generalizing, but most often I’m not. I don’t speak for writers as a whole, just what I myself have personally seen. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Your blog post cracked me up (on a day that has been less than smiley). I love your Starbucks guy. As I rarely frequent the establishment, I haven’t seen one lately, but I have to submit that perhaps his own toilet is clogged and hence the writing camp out at Starbucks. 🙂

    I personally couldn’t give myself over to a story with that much distraction around. And though I’ve never really reacted to word counts being shared (and don’t pay attention to them at all in my writing), I completely get what you’re saying. When I was in school, as a slow, deliberate sort of reader, the first student to finish a test and stride up to the teacher’s desk to flop it down with that cocky grandeur made me want to hurt someone as my mind went blank to all the test knowledge I’d crammed into my head.

    Great post, and thanks for the smile!

    • And thank you for your comment. It made me smile as well… on a day that’s turning out to be quite dramatic for me. 😀

      Keep an eye out for more snark. I’m full of it. 😉

  5. Haha, I like this post 😀 That said, I do tend to put out a tweet announcing my word count at the end of my writing session, like the chic egotistic motherfucker that I am, and I don’t even care what you say Ania so WHY ARE YOU BEING SO CRUEL TO ME.

    In all seriousness, I do agree with your points, and though I’m guilty of chucking a word count out at the end of a writing session, I don’t like seeing updated counts put forward to me and the rest of the world every hour. One post is good – I can congratulate you. I don’t want to pat you on the back every thirty minutes with your updated progress. We’re not in school anymore, kids, so stop fucking acting like it.

  6. Sometimes when I read people’s word counts, I get intimidated. They’re doing so well, and I’ll be lucky to get 500 words out in two hours. I think, what are they doing right, that I’m doing wrong? It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

    • You aren’t doing anything wrong. Maybe overthinking… maybe worrying too much about the finished product. But that’s why I don’t like the braggarts. And who knows if they’re even telling the whole truth?

      Just do your own thing the way you need to do it. 🙂

  7. I really liked this post! I have been guilty of the word count thing, but mostly if a story ends up being much longer than I thought it would, like “Wow, 7k this story just won’t end!” Before I started writing short stories, I never paid attention to word count. I wish I didn’t have to because I think it cramps me a bit, but so many markets are specific about their word counts. *sigh* As for those who feel self conscious because they don’t write as fast as others? I offer you a quote- A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket. ~Charles Peguy

    Was my quote pretentious? HaHa! Great blog!

    • Not pretentious at all.

      Here’s the thing with word count and markets–and trust me, I still have hangups about this myself. We’ve been trained to think to ourselves, ‘okay, I’m writing a novel, if it’s over 80k nobody will publish it. If it’s under, it’s too short.’ Unless you’re still trying for a traditional publishing gig (which granted, I’m not), word count becomes completely arbitrary. If you publish as an indie, there are no rules. You have no word count hanging over your head. Want to tell a story? Do it in 10k or 100k, it doesn’t matter… because you’re your own publisher and you make the call.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • I am with a small publisher, but I do submit to specific magazines and have had a bit of luck. I think it’s importanat to get my name out there. For instance, SNM Horror Mag won’t take anything over 5k words-I got 3rd there for this month =) I’m not bragging, just EXTREMELY excited! As far as novels go, I couldn’t care less about my word count! 😉

  8. I used to blast out my word count, then I stopped trusting it do to an update of Open Office which inflated the counts. So lesson learned there.

    As for coffee shops. The only Starbucks I write in, is the one attached to my work, then I am the only writer in there. The complete opposite of that guy. Aging netbook, no internet connection (its not a full Starbucks), I am in my work clothes (all smelly and dirty), and a baseball cap.

    But I have seen them. There is a nice chain of independent coffee shops in my town. Two are with in walking distance of my house. One, gets mainly blue collar workers and the people stopping in on their way to the best bakery in town (next door. Coffee and the smell of baking bread HEAVEN). Anyone with the ego, would get stared at until they felt like they had walked into a red neck bar.
    But the other one, can be full of those type. If I go there, my husband comes along. So you will see me hammering on my ancient piece of equipment. And my husband will have his sketch pad out. Nothing deflates a writer ego more than having an artist stare at you while they are sketching.

    • As long as you aren’t wearing your beret, you’re safe. That, or your skinny mustache… female or not. 😉

  9. Just came here to tell you I wrote twenty thousand words today in like three hours, in a cafe so independent I had to serve my own tea, while a team of hipsters spurred me on with bongos.

    Also, I was wearing a top hat.

  10. I don’t do the coffee shop scene just because I’m a total introvert. When I write, its usually in the dark corner of a room by myself with earphones or in my car during my lunchbreak at work. I can’t brag about word count because, well, for me its never consistent, always sporadic and rather embarrassing at times that I only got in about 200 words in a day (hey I have a dayjob too). I’m not a very organized writer, I write when I’m inspired or when it takes control over me to the extent that I cannot perform a single task without first writing down my thoughts. Funny post 🙂 Look forward to reading more.

  11. Pingback: Word Count… It’s for Readers « Zoe Winters, Paranormal Romance Author

  12. I did the coffee shop thing (with my macbook air, no less) when I was travelling, because most of the hostels I stayed at had no wifi, and I wanted to back up my work via Dropbox. In Paris, I probably even wore a beret, out of childish glee of Writing In A Coffeeshop In Paris.

    My point there is that you’re making a lot of assumptions about those people. And the implication that someone isn’t “allowed” to have an ego unless they’ve proven themselves to your standards is pretty naff.

    I used to get similarly angry about it when I was younger – people whom (I felt) had an undeserved pride in what they were doing. But there’s a difference between someone having an ego and accosting you with it, and both cases you’ve describe here are the former, to my mind. So why bother about them?

    The starbucks guy, in my opinion – maybe he does have an ego, but he’s not actually doing anything to you. He’s just sitting there, totally oblivious to you. Why let him get to you? He’s happy with what he’s doing, why do you have the urge to tell him he’s “doing it wrong”? Why waste the energy?

    The word-count-bleater may have any number of reasons for bleating. Triumph over adversity, achievement, or even forcing themselves to report it so they’ll actually write at all. Writers are an insecure bunch, and if someone else finds comfort in proclaiming how many words they wrote in the past ten minutes, then more power to them. They’re not hurting anyone.

    In short: projecting ego onto other people you don’t know and then getting irate over said ego seems a colossal waste of energy and emotion.

    • Actually… I agree with everything you’ve said here. You’re 100% correct.

      However, I did mention that the reasons behind these peeves is a mystery even to me. Pet peeves are pet peeves just as people are people. The only difference between me and the guy who screams ‘I love everyone’ is that I’m honest about my shortcomings. Is this one of them? Absolutely. The difference between me and the other guy is that I dare to speak my mind. Does it piss some people off? You better believe it. Does that bother me? Actually, sometimes it does… Is it going to change who I am? Not a chance.

      And so, here I am.

  13. Wow! What a first post for me to read. I laughed mightily (and while thinking I was going to type that, I scrolled down and saw you did the same thing to a comment. Another mighty laugh. Damn you’re good.) at hitting an apple geek with a rolled up newspaper. Maybe a new contest? The “Hit an apple geek in his pointy head with a rolled up newspaper for a chance to win a copy of Seed!” contest.

    Am I a crazy? Don’t think so, but I guess the true ones never do. It’s Zoe’s fault. She sent me.

    • I think I’m going to start blaming everything on Zoe from now on. 😉 But I’m glad the post gave you a laugh. I like your contest idea, but I’m not sure how I’d track the entries. Maybe YouTube footage or mug shots would work.

  14. What kills me about word counts is that they are meaningless. The number doesn’t mean the words were strung together properly or the result is worth reading. It always makes me think of Jack Nicholson in the Shining typing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” 1,000 times and then Tweeting his word count. So it doesn’t make me “feel bad” or inadequate as a writer. (It’s other people’s sales that make me feel bad and inadequate as a writer, LOL.) If someone says, I just finished my novel in record time and my beta-readers love it, that is meaningful and I totally get it. But as a lifelong reader I don’t think buy for one minute that readers care about word counts. I am devouring GRRM’s A Song of ice and Fire right now and even if HE were Tweeting word counts for another volume I’d be rolling my eyes, thinking, Tweet the release date, dude. BUT all that is IMHO and YMMV.

    • I agree. Word count is just that, word count. To think it stands for something more is a bit of a foreign concept to me, but hey… to each their own, right? 🙂

  15. My first thought is… WFT U doin in Starbucks?

    My second thought is… Apple Geek probbly pounded out his blog all how he digs tweaking the ass off uptight suburbanite writer-wannabees by wearing his 20s Paris ex-pat getup in their swank frappe shoppe & so on …


    I’m just teasing. Love your cover for SEED.

  16. Pingback: YAY! #ROW80 Update « Come Out and Play

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