Narcissism in writers
- June 23, 2016
- Posted by: Reena Saxena
- Category: Thinking Maps
All of us are narcissists to some extent. Only the extent differs, and makes a difference to the people around us, as well. It controls the extent to which they find us lovable, endearingly tolerable or intolerable.
Writers cannot help, but be narcissistic. A writer can see his/her mental reflection, akin to Narcissus seeing his image in water, but can preserve it, only by laying it open to the outside world. Writing is a process of projecting a part of your innermost self, and one cannot do that, without loving that self, to some extent. Again, the extent differs. And the kind of writing differs.
Such pieces are compilation of information, presentation of research findings, analyses of facts or vanilla reports. There is a writer’s viewpoint and a creative input in the manner of presentation of each piece, and the personality of the writer does reflect. But primarily, the writer has to remain true to the subject matter, rather than his own view. Research theses, academic writing, business writing, technical writing all fall under this category. It is a challenge to remain objective, and the battle is to limit the impact of your own perspective, on the piece written. One has to be careful, to not cross over into the realms of fiction.
Creative writing is liberal, and is also gut-wrenching. One has to experience a situation, fully live it inside the head, distance oneself from it, and then, present it in an acceptable manner, for others to comprehend easily. It is an internal reflection on the external world – images that are absorbed, are processed, and the edited output that results. Confessional writing, self-descriptive writing , thinly disguised fictional writing and memoirs all fall under this realm. Poetry enjoys a higher degree of freedom, in creative expression, though. The pieces need to be structured and tailored to the target audience. It is a bigger challenge, to not hurt sensibilities of others in the process of self-expression. The sensitized reader is quick to catch the points, where the internal ends, and the external begins.
Self-projection has become a necessity, in the increasingly cacophonous and claustrophobic world. One has to do it, primarily to prevent getting lost, and then, to make oneself heard. Hence, I am wary of using a blanket description to cover all signs of narcissism in writers. I believe, there were no mirrors or camera lenses to help Narcissus, but an excessive presence of these devices in the modern world has changed life. Social media exposes the narcissist, like it has never happened in the bygone eras. It is a common mirror, in which the members of a community see their reflections, and see how others react to their own reflections.
I found this heart-wrenching image of the inability of a person to cover up. It is all out there, open and vulnerable.
The following behavior patterns on social media look suspiciously narcissistic :
- Including photographs or portraits of self, some of which might be controversial, especially, in case of women.
- Creating a coterie of cheerleaders.
- Lavishing praise on a piece, with emphasis on the fact, that it was an offshoot of their ideas.
- Promoting mediocre talent with the intent of creating an army of obliged admirers.
- Intermittent declarations of leaving a network, having people cajole them into staying on, and then, not going anywhere.
- Aggressive attacks on opposing points of view.
Narcissists will always be drawn to artistic expressions, as it allows them to give a form to their illusions or delusions about themselves.
The possibility of artistic success is particularly seductive to the narcissist because of the social construct of genius. The idea of ‘genius’ encapsulates the quintessence of narcissism- someone who is touched by the gods and who can effortlessly achieve great things.
– Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
But the sensitive reader will always know the difference. Any artistic expression does not hit the target, unless the viewer is able to relate to it. This reality should remain at the core of every social media expression, including those who are not writers or artists.