The Failure of the Ego

Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego. – Norman Mailer

We discussed this quote last night in one of my classes and, while I’m sure I’ve heard it before, it was especially fitting for me at the moment. I’ve been working on a lengthier piece (I almost hate to call it a novel since all novel attempts for the past 11 years have tanked in one way or another) and I’m constantly trying to edit myself as I go.

This is certainly not good for the ego as the first step of revision is realizing everything you’ve written is terrible. Or, as Hemingway so eloquently put it, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Therefore, since the hit to one’s ego is inevitable, I might as well put it off until I’ve come to a point where I THINK the story is finished. Then, once I go back and revise, I’ll realize it’s all awful. But that will be okay, because it’s only the first draft. 

Happy writing, if you write, happy reading, if you read. And if you do neither–think about picking one up. I suggest reading if you enjoy your sanity. 


So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

The Great Gatsby, page 180

I decided to give Gatsby a second chance after 4+ years. Mr. Fitzgerald’s writing redeemed it. All of the characters are still lost causes…but perhaps that is the point.

Our tragedy tod…

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

William Faulkner, Nobel Prize acceptance speech