Back to Back Issues Page
Writing hubris: Editor's Notes #306
February 05, 2020

We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants.
We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did,
not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they,
but because they raise us up,
and by their great stature add to ours.

—John of Salisbury

In this issue:

1. Writing hubris
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1. Writing hubris
Hubris is pride in the sense of arrogance, specifically, arrogance against the gods. Contrast that with humility, an accurate assessments of one’s abilities.

After spending two issues pumping you up, why am I coming out guns blazing about hubris? Isn’t that a contradiction? Not at all.

Everyone needs to be built up, to be encouraged to embrace the urge to write. Today I’m sounding a warning about what that really means. I’m saying that having an accurate assessment of your standing as a writer will protect you from hubris.

Writing hubris exists. I’ve seen it. Not often, but from time to time it rears its ugly head. I’ve even exhibited it myself. Here’s what it looks and sounds like. Writing hubris shows itself when a writer criticizes another writer without justification. "This is garbage. I know what I like, and it’s not this." It manifests to an editor when the writer refuses any critique at all, even after having paid good money for it. "You don’t understand what I’m trying to do here. I’m writing on a whole other plain than ordinary writers."

A writer who values writing has an enquiring mind about the art, the science, and the craft of writing. The writer who exhibits hubris is closed down when it comes to input unless it’s unmitigated praise.

Let me round the edges of this a bit. It’s normal to feel a sting sometimes when dealing with critique. That’s not hubris. Hubris is refusing to consider the possibility that the one offering critique just might be onto something.

And if the editor doesn’t understand what the writer is trying to do, that’s on the writer, not on the editor. The chances are that if the editor, who specializes in sorting out all kinds of tricky writing, misses the writer’s point, there’s not much chance that the general public will fall at the writer’s feet in adulation. Editors don’t critique to be mean, but to be helpful. Better to expose writing problems to someone who cares about getting the message out than to avoid critique and put out something of lower quality.

To avoid hubris, seriously consider the critique of others, especially those with proven records and especially those who make an argument for their opinion.

Who are we to cast aside all those who have gone before? Even if we want to, we can’t. None of us is inventing the written word, and only a minuscule few invent the forms we use.

If a writer is developing something completely new, and that writer may very well be you, buckle up. That writer needs all the allies possible. When searching them out, remember that it’s easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar. In this case, honey is an enquiring mind.


2.Tickled my funny bone
No matter how far you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.


3. Interesting Web site
Reading truly great books is one way to join the giants. Here are the favourites of a wide range of successful thinkers and writers.

4. Writing prompt
Choose one of the situations and develop it along the lines of hubris. Consider the motivations of the main character. How can you show those?

(1)Jennifer wants to be a hockey star. The coach offers suggestions for improvement and tells her to try again next time.

(2)Salesman Brad’s boss has turned down Brad’s ask for a raise in his commission percentage. The boss offers to pay one half of the fee for Brad to attend an upcoming workshop to help Brad hone his skills.

(3)The demo that Jack has sent to major record labels has received no response. When Jack complains to a local DJ, the DJ suggests that Jack investigate ways to build an audience while continuing to develop the band’s unique style.

Join Writer's Helper Facebook page at
Follow me on Twitter @AudreytheEditor

Link on LinkedIn (Email me first so I know how you know me.)

If you know a writer who would appreciate receiving Editor's Notes, forward this issue.

If someone has passed this on to you, you can get your own free subscription by signing up at

Back to Back Issues Page