Skip to main content

The Importance of Being (Slightly) Arrogant as a Writer

Webster's defines arrogance as "an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions." Basically, you think and act like you're better than you actually are — and possibly even better than other people. With that kind of definition, who in their right mind would admit to being arrogant? I would — solely because I want to publish a novel one day. And the truth is, if you're also a writer with a goal of publication: 1) You are, in fact, (slightly) arrogant.* (And that's OK. I only encourage arrogance in very, very small doses.) And 2) This is a GOOD thing.

Webster's defines arrogance as "an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions." Basically, you think and act like you're better than you actually are — and possibly even better than other people. With that kind of definition, who in their right mind would admit to being arrogant?

I would — solely because I want to publish a novel one day. And the truth is, if you're also a writer with a goal of publication: 1) You are, in fact, (slightly) arrogant.* (And that's OK. I only encourage arrogance in very, very small doses.) And 2) This is a GOOD thing.

(What to write in the BIO section of your query letter.)

Guest column by Donna Gambale, who works an office
job by day, writes young adult novels by night, and travels
when possible. She is a contributing editor to the
Guide to Literary Agents Blog and freelances as a
copyeditor and proofreader. She is the author of a
humorous mini kit, MAGNETIC KAMA SUTRA
(Running Press, 2009). You can find Donna on Twitter
and at the First Novels Club blog.

Image placeholder title

Here’s the logic behind the argument:

Part one: You are, in fact, (slightly) arrogant.

If you're trucking away at a novel or short story that you dream of getting published, that implies:

(a) You think your work is good enough to merit publication (meaning, it's comparable to or better than what's out there, and it will rise above all other competition).

(b) You believe that other people will enjoy and find value in reading what you write.

That right there, is arrogance at its two-part core — an attitude of superiority manifested in presumptuous assumptions.

Here's where the second part comes in: This is a GOOD thing. This arrogance is critical to your eventual success! HOLD ON TO IT.

Everyone talks about how getting published is approximately 98% butt-in-chair hard work and 2% stars aligning. I'd like to edit those percentages, because if it were that basic, and I was fighting through all those butt-in-chair hours, I'd give up way before reaching my goal.

The Writerly Pie Chart

Image placeholder title

Yes, the core of the journey to publication is still a ton of hard work, but there are so many stages of that journey in which you will get discouraged or frustrated or depressed. That's where the arrogance and optimism work hand-in-hand to get your butt out of bed and back in the chair. On the difficult days when you’re convinced that you’re the worst writer in the world and no one will ever publish your book, the one-two punch of arrogance and optimism will give you the confidence and drive you need to keep going.

As for the 1% insanity: You're spending hours and hours (and hours) of your life staring at a screen, compulsively making up stories about imaginary people — despite pretty terrible odds that those words will ever see the light of day. Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Sound familiar?

(Chapter 1 cliches and overused beginnings -- see them all here.)

But that's where that lovely slice of arrogance comes in.

One day, you WILL get different results.

One day, you WILL get published.

Embrace the arrogance — when the rough writing days inevitably come, ready to knock you down, you’ll be happy you did.

---------------

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Your Story Writing Prompts

94 Your Story Writing Prompts

Due to popular demand, we've assembled all the Your Story writing prompts on WritersDigest.com in one post. Click the link to find each prompt, the winners, and more.

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

Historical fiction relies on research to help a story’s authenticity—but it can also lead to developments in the story itself. Here, author Lora Davies discusses how inspiration and research helped shape her new novel, The Widow’s Last Secret.

Poetic Forms

Saraband: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the saraband, a septet (or seven-line) form based on a forbidden dance.

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

International bestselling author Karen Hamilton discusses the “then and now” format of her new domestic thriller, The Ex-Husband.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character give or face an ultimatum.

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

Sylvia Beach was friend to many writers who wrote what we consider classics today. Here, author Kerri Maher shares six things everyone should know about her and Shakespeare and Company.

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

Author Katherine Quevedo takes an analytical look at the creative process in hopes to help other writers find writing success.

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Award-winning author Nick Petrie discusses how he listened to the story that wanted to be told in his new Peter Ash thriller novel, The Runaway.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 596

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a punishment poem.