Peggy Bechko: Beware Narcissus


by Peggy Bechko

Let’s step away from the actual writing, business of writing, mechanics of writing for today.

Writers are an imaginative lot and I’m here to caution you about Narcissus. You’ve heard of him – In Greek mythology. He was a hunter renowned for his striking handsomeness. Son of a river god and a nymph, he had more pride than was wise and disdained those who loved him (don’t know if he was totally wrong if they loved him ONLY for his beauty, but that’s a whole other story). That was, until Nemisis, a goddess herself, took note of his behavior, disapproved big time, and lured Narcissus to a pool. There he gazed upon his own refection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely a reflection of himself (okay, that’s a little bit kinky). Unable to abandon the beauty of his own reflection Narcissus drowned/died (whichever way you want to go with the myth) and was no more. And that gave us the term narcissism –for a fixation with oneself.

So why am I telling you all this? Well when you let Narcissus take hold in the writer’s world it sort of translates into that anti-creative urging you, the writer, to take credit for anything good (yours or someone else’s). It can cause you, the writer, to focus more on being an ‘author’; how your name will look up on the screen as credited script writer, how it will look on the cover of a book than on the true work of writing. It tricks you into thinking and dreaming more of fame and fortune that’s imagined coming with those writing credits and a whole lot less about actually doing the work, writing. All this before you even get any real tractions with your writing endeavors. I’ve had these kinds of conversations with new writers focused a whole lot more on what it’ll be like to be optioned/published than on what their next creation might be.

Most of us realize (from thoughtful consideration or from bitter experience) that there can be a good many years of obscure poverty before any success is realized, but with the (back-handed slap) help of Narcissus the writer can extend that time even further by spending more time day-dreaming and pond-gazing than writing. Yep, if you let your imagination go beyond a brief flight of fancy you can waste a heckuva lot of time and lose your focus.

It’s not about you. It’s about the writing, the creativity, the productivity. And yes, thankfully, you’ll receive praise along the way along with the criticism all writers face over the stories they create. The ego will swell, at least for a while.

Hey, all of us indulge in a little fantasy now and again. We’re human and we have great imaginations. That’s what we’re here for! And those imaginations can spur us on to more productivity and possibly better writing. Most especially when we are fueled by even the smallest amount of praise.

But remember Narcissus. If you linger too long by the pool, you’re going to drown. Get past the temptation to linger and stare and marvel at your own ‘beauty’ and lock yourself down into the serious business of actually doing the work. Actually write something.

Don’t make me go into the myth of Sisyphus forever pushing that rock uphill. That you might do something really good, write something outstanding, but then pause so long to tell yourself you’re wonderful or listen to another’s praise that that rock rolls right back downhill and you have to start again to push it to the top (presuming you’re not squashed in the process).

Beware Narcissus and remain focused on your goals; the scripts, the books. The rest will come.

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.