I had an amusing conversation with my rhetoric instructor Red Ball last week, in which we admitted to one another that we worry sometimes about being narcissists. It's hard to study figures in history whose personality disorders changed the course of millions of lives, to read their words and see their rhetoric, and not think, "Oh, no, I do that, too."
There's a big humongously thick line between essential human survival instinct (which leads us all, at times, to be a bit selfish), and a brain flaw that leads one to believe that one is at the centre of the entire universe all the time. We only have slices of the historical figures that are causing me angst, and sometimes the slices hit too closely to home. And so I wonder, "Am I more self-centred than necessary?" And the answer is: "Probably."
Dang. Not that I'm surprised; I mean, hello, I'm a blogger. And a Gen X-er. I'm a Gen-X blogger. Of course the world revolves around me. ;)
So... rhetoric. The danger in my rhetoric instructors telling me that I'm in the top five when compared to the rest of the class in terms of my writing ability is that I start to believe it. I may be irritatingly needy and insecure when I don't believe it (and I can see why an instructor would want me to stop dropping into her office on a daily basis), but when I do believe it I'm afraid that I become either: 1) Much too careless or 2) Unbearably pompous and convinced of my own ability. Usually it's #2.
When we got our second paper back, Red Ball also had a stack of packets to hand out. She announced, "I'm giving you two example papers that were particularly good." I thought to myself, "Please, God, let one of them be mine." (I say "myself" because if that was a prayer at all, it wasn't a good one.) My next thought, fortunately, was, "Get a grip, Su; every person in this room is thinking the same thing right now." And when I went up to get my paper, Red Ball handed me a packet. I didn't even have to look-- I knew from the expression on her face that she was handing me my own paper as a good example. And then I thought (embarrassingly enough), "Of course mine is one of the good ones."
It's the "of course" that I'd like to eliminate from my thought patterns, for multiple reasons: 1) It's downright obnoxious, 2) While I may be among the better writers in the rhetoric department at UT, that doesn't mean it will hold true everywhere else, and 3) I really don't want to get careless because I think I've "arrived."
NaNoWriMo has helped with that, thank goodness, because it turns out that writing fiction is considerably harder than rhetorical analysis. I'm feeling a lot less "I'm a writing genius!" now that I did on October 31st.
What about you? Are there any other geniuses among my readers?