I like the term “hubris,” maybe because smart people use the term I feel a little smarter if I use it too. But that’s hardly the only reason because hubris swirls around us like the Earth’s atmosphere.
The ancient Greeks used the term to describe some crimes, when one person harms another for personal gain; referred to as “crimes of hubris.” In mythology, Icarus was given wings made of wax and feathers to escape the island of Crete. Despite his father’s instructions not to get too close to the sun, the wax melted as Icarus flew too high, thus melting the wax, destroying the wings, and he fell to his death.
How is hubris described today? Many terms are often used; for example “getting big-headed,” “arrogant,” and those afflicted succumb to “Murphy’s Law,” as anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Turn on the TV to find classic modern hubris. Most any episode of VH-1’s “Behind the Music” shows talented, well-meaning people gaining so much, so fast that they face a downfall by means of overwork, drugs/alcohol, and demotion in the celebrity sector that yields sobering and sometimes tragic ends. Entertainers are just one example; but businesspeople, ministers, and politicians often fall after soaring too close to the sun.
So what of writers, especially us new authors, are we subject to hubris? Of course we are. To try to carry the cross of humility to the point of sterility robs us of any chance to have our work recognized, let alone even seen, by other people. Hubris drives our ambitions, and when we new authors see the achievements of J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, it’s hard not to desire their success. Does that make us bad people, unworthy of successful achievements? It doesn’t have to.
Hubris is as much as equal opportunity virtue as it is a hazard. Without it, where would we be if people didn’t have the enthusiasm just to think? What authors need to remember is though the same ambition that takes you up can bring you down, it doesn’t have to be that way. Remember that the sun gives shine from a very far distance, and seeing how close you can get to it may make it brighter, but the heat intensifies. Fly, new authors, just don’t lose your wings.