Monday, November 7, 2011

Narcissism and You

Not long ago, when you were in casual conversation with a group of friends, the judgment of narcissism was delivered about a particular writer.  You took this in with some interest because days earlier, you’d heard the same judgment rendered about yet another writer.  The judgment came from a literary agent who’d spent years in the saddle as an editor for major houses.  Two such references could be coincidence, but when you’d had similar thoughts about a writer, you had some hard questions to ask yourself about yourselves.

Because of his well-identifiable behavior, the designated narcissist from your group of friends falls into the no-contest category; his regard for himself radiates from his regard for himself as a writer.  He is argumentive in his pursuit of himself as a superb craftsperson, no less an advocate for his complete modesty in reaching such a state, content to let the facts as he sees them speak for him.

The other two candidates are persons you know at a closer degree, prompting the need for this disclosure to yourself:  You have not been able to bring yourself to finish any of the works of Narcissist Number One.  You are fairly comfortable with many of the works of Narcissists Numbers Two and Three.  This leads you to Plateau Number One, which is that you can and have enjoyed works from writers known to you to be narcissists.  In the logical bargain, you have encountered among students and clients unpublished writers whom you would classify as narcissists on the evidence they provide, which is in essence the superiority of their editorial judgment and storytelling ability.

This paves the way for you to examine yourself as a candidate for an advanced degree in narcissism.

You pretty well are comfortable with the way you see story.  A diverse enough number of editors and readers have found dramatic integrity in your vision.  The worst disagreement with such a person, himself a fine storyteller in his own right, was over a single matter in a single story, your heavy-handedness with the objective correlative.

Even though your last book was nonfiction, it was about story.  You took at least ninety percent of your editor’s suggestions without so much as a blink.

You are particularly open to notes from your agent, and you are as of now committed to following your editor to another publishing venture.

Such narcissism as you carry about it leavened by your willingness to listen to sources you respect, nor are you one to set such a high price on “sources you respect” that they cannot be found.
As a writer, a tad more than a person, you are willing to listen to suggestions in the service of making your dramatic and existential visions more acute and penetrating.  You have no problem with the construct that your ideas and visions are better served when they are vetted.

That said, you cherish the notion of independence, of being able to be on the alert for ways to be the most reliable person you know, the person you most enjoy spending time with, the person who, aware of his shortcomings, is neither afraid to admit them nor to educate himself to better cope with them.

You have two spectacularly close friends, the Yalie and the Brit, and a number of dear friends, women and men, among whom to exchange the gifts of self and closeness.  You carry plangent souvenirs of parents and sister, you have two mentors, Rachel and Virginia, and you have the ongoing gift of a relationship with Swami A, whom you served as disciple and as editor, as neat a give-and-take as you can imagine.

So you see where this is going, do you.

You are, with all these riches, and with all the riches of everything you have read and written, and all the music you have listened to and often hear in your sleep, without a significant other.  Do you, you ask yourself, need one?  Could you survive nicely without one?  The answer to either question evokes as much fear as your questioning your narcissism quotient.

You would not ask such questions if there were not someone you had feelings for any more than you would ask yourself if a particular piece were ready to go off without being edited.

Writers need editors.

Persons need friends.

Musicians need instruments.

Actors need a role they have interpreted.

Can you be productive and comfortable among your trusted selves?

Are you a self-delusional narcissist?

You think you know the answers to all of these.

The best editor for them all is your most vulnerable self.

1 comment:

Querulous Squirrel said...

If the best editor for them all is your most vulnerable self then you cannot, by definition, be a narcissist. A narcissist doesn't demonstrate vulnerabilities because he is better than everyone else, more accomplished and skilled, in constant need of admiration and adulation. A narcissist has no vulnerabilities, is arrogant, entitled and selfish. Though always, always self-delusional.