There is a difference between a overly large ego and being filled with confidence. I think, that at first blush, it is hard to tell the difference. With time and exposure, the large ego rears its ugly head or the confident person emerges.
I suppose it could be argued that they go hand-in-hand where the ego and the confidence coincide. Perhaps, that is true, but I think not. I think they exist like the right and left arm; a part of the whole, but doing their own thing and come together occasionally to collaborate. The ego tends to be fragile, easily offended and hurt. It resists criticism which in a writers group setting comes in the form of critique. Confidence on the other hand is tough and resilient, where critique is considered against an existing base of knowledge and experiences and acted upon accordingly.
New aspiring writers have a low level of confidence, not a large ego. I don't think that, as most arguments would have you believe, it takes a huge ego to be a writer. If you wonder if your ego is unhealthy give yourself this test. Do I get upset when that other person, the testy, cranky, insufferable person in the Writer's Group publishes a gosh awful work and you don't? Do you secretly wish they would slip on the tire iron when changing a tire and break a finger? Does the steam build In the back of your head when someone says about your perfectly crafted prose that they don't understand it, or it's preachy or telling or clique and you defend it, of course? Answer yes to any of these and you probably have a overly large ego. An over-sized ego breeds envy.
Ann Lamott wrote in her book on writing, Bird by Bird:
If you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with [envy] because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know—people who are, in other words, not you . . .You are going to feel awful beyond words. you are going to have a number of days in a row where you hate everyone and don’t believe in anything. if you do know the author whose turn it is, he or she will inevitably say that it will be your turn next, which is what the bride always says to you at each successive wedding, while you grow older and more decayed.
It can wreak just the tiniest bit of havoc with your self-esteem to find that you are hoping for small bad things to happen to this friend—for, say, her head to blow up.
That takes me as to why write if we are not confident and our ego isn't overly large. I for one, like to express my thoughts and feelings in print. It may be for myself, solely (which is actually rare) or for the convincing of others as to my point of view or to be thought provoking by providing an interesting piece that someone would like to read.
If, as a writer, we want to provide work for people to read. Then, I think that we have to be respectful of the audience. We, over time, have a responsibility to write in such a manner as not to put off the reader. Foremost, this comes in the form of good construction of the written word. Now, on to content; to present interesting material that draws in the reader and builds on the argument or plot, if you will.
I think that there are very few of us that are looking for a place in history like Poe or Hemingway to be read, studied and remembered for all the rest of time. I, for one, would like to spin a yarn that a reader would enjoy as much as I enjoyed writing it. I don't care if Hemingway thinks writing, at its best, is a lonely life (as I sit here in the dark by myself, when everyone else in the household is in bed). I am comfortable with myself, I'm my second best friend after my wife. I would feel successful if my book was in the bottom of the barrel at Goodwill for Twenty-five cents. But, I have to write it before it gets there. Perhaps, the best validation of our writing is if someone gives us some money for it, from time to time, and we transition from amateur to professional.
Already, in the few sessions I've attended at the Kitsap's Writers Group, I like to think that my writing has grown and/or matured. Insights given are spot-on. The time and effort put into the depth of the critiques I have received is not to be under appreciated. In times past I have had a series of epiphanies that brought me to the realization that I am flawed. I don't always have the right answers to any given topic regardless of how passionate I am about it. I think disjointedly and truncate my writing as though I'm doing an "Operators Manuel" rather than a robust descriptive piece with depth and emotion. The aggravating thing is I can't see it until it is pointed out to me by the group. Then yippee… I can fix that.
As I read posts by published authors(on Google+), I smile when they comment about a discussion or debate they've had with their critique group on, say, Point-of-view, or Tense, or author intrusion, or whatever. I agree fully with those that feel a group is important; birds of a feather do flock together and everyone who writes would write better when swimming in the pool with other writers.
Ego is okay if healthy. Confidence is even better and if the confidence level is low, study, practice, and more practice will grow and strengthen it. So much the better for building confidence when a group of like minded souls lovingly contribute their two-cents. If you are a fledgling writer like I am, join a writers group. If you are seasoned and at the top of your game, join a writers group and share.