As we are now well into the period of Lent where many people – religious and otherwise – decide to give up doing something naughty for a few weeks in an effort to purge their souls or improve their waistlines, we at The Primewriters thought it might be interesting to take a look at the Seven Deadly Sins as they apply to writing and writers.
Kicking off the series for us is Louise Beech whose brilliant debut novel How to Be Brave was published by Orenda in September 2015.
THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS: PRIDE
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. – Michelangelo
Pride really has a bad reputation. There are so many negative connotations surrounding the word. It apparently comes before a fall. According to St Augustine it changes angels into devils. It makes us arrogant and selfish. But it is also a feeling of pleasure derived from our own success and that of those close to us.
And it can drive us like no other emotion.
Without a little pride I’d have stopped writing long ago. I’d have quit when my first novel was repeatedly rejected and never have written the second. Then when the second was rejected, I’d never have written the third. And when that was rejected I’d never have begun the fourth, which finally (after many more rejections) got me my book deal.
But I didn’t stop because I love writing like nothing else.
And I’m proud of my work. Is it false pride? No, because I’ve earned it. I’ve worked on my writing since I was a child. I’ve taken on criticism and suggestions, listened hard and read lots, and edited and edited and edited. Is it vanity? No, because I know my flaws – oh, there are many. I see weakness every time I read through my work and cringe. But I strive to improve rather than letting it set me back.
I love seeing pride in other writers. Love seeing them tweet about successes, share word counts achieved, and blog about what writing means to them. As with lions, we are a pride of writers.
Ten years ago, while in Rome, I saw Michelangelo’s glorious, breath-taking Sistine Chapel painting. The work took him four years and rather than lying down to do create it, he used wooden scaffolds to stand and reach above his head to paint. Imagine the agony of that? It was so painful that he wrote a poem about his misery, saying; My painting is dead, defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honour. I am not in the right place – I am not a painter.
How many times must he have wanted to wash his brushes and quit? But I’m sure – judging by his famous quote about aiming high – he knew that glory would involve immense work. And to complete that? Pride.
When we’re exhausted (and sweary) at reworking a difficult scene over and over, or feeling sad at some criticism of our words, the only thing that helps us rise above it is pride. In the name of love, as Bono sang in the 80s. In the name of loving our own work when it seems no one else might, and never giving up, but using that pleasure to know we are in the right place.