I struggle constantly to get the right balance between the part of my ego needed to create, progress and achieve and the part which is unhealthy for me. Surely I can’t be alone in this. I pass on some words of wisdom for fellow sufferers.
Ego is what gives human beings the incentive to seek solutions to their difficulties. It generates the desire for self-improvement, for creative activity, and, ultimately, for self-transcendence. If the energy remains focused in the ego, however, instead of awareness, then instead of helping us to grow toward further understanding it becomes mired in pride and pettiness. If, at the moment of inspiration, the ego intrudes itself with the cry, “Look at me!” it blocks the onward flow of energy.
Among famous composers, indeed, the only one I know who doesn’t seem to have succumbed to this temptation at least occasionally was Mozart. So true was he to his musical inspiration that, when his publisher wrote to him, “if you don’t consent to write music in a more popular vein, you will starve,” Mozart wrote back, “In that case, I have no alternative but to starve. For I can only write what I have been given to compose.”
The ego’s role is, indeed, central to the creative act. The important thing only is that the ego join in the fun, so to speak, and not ruin everything by calling excessive attention to itself.
There is much more joy in offering ourselves up to a higher power, and asking that power to create through us, than in taking onto our own shoulders the burden of impressing the world with our “genius.” As Ian Fleming once said, ” Fame was fun for a while, but now it’s just ashes, old boy. Just ashes.”
Excerpted from Art as a Guide to Self-realisation by J. Donald Walters