Of course, we are. Fitzgerald once said something along the lines of, Writers write for fame, fortune, and the love of beautiful women. Even excepting the fact that he may not have been talking about female writers (or perhaps he was), if he was anywhere near the truth, isn't that the very definition of arrogance? Self-absorption? Self-aggrandizement? How can a writer be a writer and not be at least somewhat vainglorious, i.e., arrogant? Does anyone in the world actually know what we writers go through to become and remain writers other than other writers? I wonder.
And not only writers, lest we forget. It's as true with artists in every artistic field of endeavor. All committed artists (as opposed to hobbyists or "dabblers") seek to make a name for themselves by revealing their souls and their innate talents to the world. Do plumbers? Electricians? Doctors? Lawyers? Okay, so maybe scratch lawyers here. But non-artists, as a rule, work to provide a living for themselves and their families. And perhaps they derive some internal satisfaction for a job well done. Artists would like to do that, as well. Particularly the providing a living thing. But they seek far more from their talents than most "non-artistic" people. They seek to change the world. But, didn't we learn in Sister Margaret's fourth-grade Catechism class that only God can do that? Or didn't she stop to consider what we super-mortals can do?
Call me jaded. Call me Bohemian. Call me anything you want, but don't call me late for …
Oh, never mind.
I think you get my point.
Without arrogance, who could create for the world stage? Who could perform? Who could expose his or her innermost secrets, subliminal and otherwise? Who would?
That's my take on it. From a musician, painter, sculptor, photographer, poet, videographer, composer, producer, director, actor, and … let's see, now, wasn't there something else?
Oh, yes, a writer!
That being said, a little bit of arrogance goes a long way. It's a bit like comparing the painter van Gogh to Salvidor Dali. One cut off his ear and shot himself in the chest to atone for his lack of artistic success during his lifetime while the other waxed his mustache, went out on the town, drank champagne from women's shoes, and referred to himself in the third person.
Still, both were great painters.
Of course, exceptions to the rule may exist. Some artists may enjoy creating and be satisfied with that mere act of creation without demanding more. But, I suspect there are other words than "artist" that define those people better. Perhaps artisans or maybe even hobbyists. The one may love his artistic form of expression no less than the other, but the drive that motivates an artist to move from "creator" to "creative" must be driven by arrogance. Even if only a little.
Can an artist check that arrogance and balance it with a large dose of humility? Of course. But, there are no guarantees, and that possibility fluctuates from one artistic personality to the next. Herman Melville (I'm guessing here, since I'm not that old) and J. D. Salinger did. James Michener straddled the line. And, Truman Capote and Hunter Thompson leaped across it.
It takes all kinds, I suppose, even within the arrogant killing fields of the indoctrinated literati. The exemplars range from one extreme to the other.
That's how I view it, anyway.
Smoke if you've got 'em.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new eBook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere.