Ego Management

I get the question all the time: of everything you've worked on, what's your favorite? I've heard other people answer this question and say "they're like my children, I can't pick a favorite. I love them all." I might have used that myself once or twice. But the real answer is one that I've also heard other people use: "My favorite is the one I'm working on right now." That may sound like a cop-out, or just delusion, or perhaps shilling. But in fact, it's not. If you hear a creative person talking about their favorite project and say that it's the one they're working on now, it's the truth. It has to be the truth. Because if you don't absolutely adore what you're working on, and if you're not convinced that the world will stop spinning without it, you can't keep the motivation to do it. To put it another way, if you don't think what you're working on today is great, why are you doing it? Just for the money? Most creative people aren't that soulless. The moment I think I'm working on "just another rpg book," or "just another short story" is the day I hang it up.

The problem is, of course, that some of us keep the attitude that what we're working on is the greatest thing since sliced pizza until well after the project is done. And that breeds ego and arrogance. Ego and arrogance is needed to fuel a project, but once it's done? It's good to back away. Oh, it's  fine to be proud of what you've accomplished, and I think that's healthy and normal. But overinflated egos can be a real problem in creative industries. Not only does it make one insufferable to be around, it's detrimental to one's interaction with the people one is actually creating for. It turns people away. (The flip side is, however, don't mistake self-promotion--something a good creative's got to do to eat--and ego. There's correlation there, perhaps, but not causation.)

I don't think there's anything I've worked on that I'm still not at least somewhat proud of, but I also know there's none of it that's perfect. Not one thing that I wish I couldn't go back and change, revise, or rewrite in some way. Ptolus, my beautiful and massive hardcover book is not without its errors. Third edition D&D? Plenty of balance issues, rules confusion, and design choices I would re-think if I could do it all again. I'm sure my co-designers would agree. My first novel? A bit cringeworthy, actually, but there's still a few passages I like.

I find it difficult to navigate in a world surrounded by massive egos. I and my peers--whether it be in game design or fiction writing--are  at best big fish in ridiculously small ponds. In the past, I have tried to remind them of that, but it hardly wins me friends, let me tell you. So now I keep it to myself. Ego and who is "deserving" of it, ultimately, is all a matter of perspective. Unless you've saved a billion lives, maybe, keep some humility. 

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Published on May 08, 2012 13:17 • 72 views

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