Vanity And Self-Importance in Performance

I made an interesting discovery when I was inventing performance for myself.

Victor Poole, You Are Unbearably Conceited

I’m not nearly as conceited as I will be in the future. I’m still undoing rug-style prostration that was hammered into me by several malicious jealous persons in my extreme youth.

Anyway, while I was inventing performance I discovered that actors and writers who were full of themselves–genuinely, unbearably conceited–did a lot better than humble people.

Victor Poole, Your Selection Bias Is Showing

Look, I’ll even be specific: there was one guy whose acting was shit and had decent hair; he was full of himself and got local parts constantly. Directors didn’t like using him at all, and tried to replace him often, but he made himself available as far as his schedule went, and maintained the glossy condition of his excellent hair, and he got roles anyway.

But directors hated using him, and as far as I can see from the distant high-rise of the Internet, he’s stalled out in his career now. He had early success and then hit the peak of how far his juvenile vanity could take him.

This guy was not nearly as self-conceited as he could have been, and he wasn’t full of himself enough to break into legitimate film.

Film Requires God-Like Self-Worship

I knew another woman who got a lot of work in the midwest, and had a bit of a reputation, but she was full of herself in exactly the wrong way. She had conceit, but it manifested in moral boldness. The woman had no morals whatsoever, but acted as if anything she personally did was hand-written by the prophets as Meant To Be, and so she did glide along with a verve and panache that saw her through rough spots pretty well.

She had more success than good-hair-guy, but couldn’t get any real work in film, either. She did regional stage stuff, and is still doing so, as far as I can tell. She doesn’t have any friends, though.

Another Example of Vanity

A third woman I knew, a script writer, had talent and no confidence whatsoever. She was a literal welcome mat, as far as her functional personality went, and though her writing sparkled and gave off iridescent gleams of eternity, she never found genuine production (by which I mean, successful fleshing-out of her work).

People latched on to her writing and used it for their own ends, but her personhood never attached to the final product at all. She was like a privately-owned mine of words, delved into and dug up when occasion required good writing.

And One More Writer, A Man

I knew another guy, a writer in his thirties, who had consistent productions of his works and a lot of friends and acquaintances. He was vain in a steam-roll kind of way; he would push over objections and assume that everyone would help him reach his goals.

He was emotionally tone deaf, mostly on purpose, and he has also stalled out at a semi-permanent plateau, as far as I can see, and is held back by the same pushiness he’s used to advance himself.

Dead Ends Everywhere; Victor Poole, You Are So Bleak!

Oh, I’m a realist. Now, what I learned as I watched people be vain in different ways was that what we think of, as a general group of writers approaching work, as a good attitude is more like Kool-aid for chumps.

Because we’re supposed to be simultaneously full of ourselves, of a kind of preternatural belief in our ability to Do Something Special, and also consistently humble and embracing of Any Useful Advice handed to us by others.

Vanity That Doesn’t Go Far Enough Won’t Take You Far, Either

I can practically guarantee that you are not properly vain, in a useful sense. You are overconfident and shallow, and you doubt yourself.

How do I know this? Because I’m full of myself. : ) But also because I know people, and a person like you, who is reading a blog like this, has built a foundation of incorrect and toxic vanity.

What you need is to become properly saturated with self-conceit, with a belief in your inherent superiority as a judge and observer of human nature.

Two More Samples

G.B. Shaw was full of toxic vanity.

Shakespeare was bursting with healthy self-conceit.

Underneath Shaw’s veneer of confidence was a fear, almost shatteringly vibrant, of being really a fool. Shaw’s terror of himself led to an acerbic self-commentary in all but one of his plays.

Shakespeare was genuinely confident, did not fear himself one bit, and wrote whole stories on purpose to excite and exploit the audience in order to reap a profit.

Be more like Shakespeare. Embrace conceit.

Examples

BAD WRITING: LACK OF DESCRIPTION

Ris was a mysterious centaur; he was not one of the Northern breed, and his coat was entirely too sleek. Eueen did not trust him, and she wished that her father had sent him off when he’d had first come calling. Ris teased her and the other children for the way their forelegs lifted high from years of ploughing.

“Ye’d walk so, and ye’d been raised proper in the land,” Eueen’s father said.

“Aye, so I would,” Ris had agreed good-humoredly.

“I wish he’d go away,” Eueen told her sister, Marren.

“I think he’s good-looking,” Marren said, shifting her hips and looking altogether too worldly for words.

“You’re too little for mating,” Eueen snapped.

“Nonsense. I heard that in the capital, mares as young as fifteen are put to brood,” Marren said.

“You heard that from Clovan, and she made it up. She said so to me,” Eueen said.

“Well, I think he’s handsome,” Marren said.

“Are you going to tell him so?” Eueen asked.

“Shh!” Marren hissed, looking swiftly at the open door of the barn.

GOOD WRITING: PERTINENT DESCRIPTION ADDED

Ris formed an uncomfortable addition to their household; he worked in the fields, and lived in a rough stone hut he had erected in the forest to the north, but he joined the family for meals, and Eueen’s father kept Ris back to talk politics over the fire more often than not. Eueen thought Ris was frightening and ugly; his heavy black sides and the wild tangle of his hair as it fell over the bare skin of his shoulders reminded her of the ghost stories her granddam used to tell over the evening fire.

Ris was a mysterious centaur; he was not one of the northern breed, and his ebony coat was entirely too sleek for their own piebald herd. Eueen did not trust him, and she wished that her father had sent him off when the black beast had first come calling. Ris teased her and the other children; he called them farm morsels, and laughed at the way they walked, their white-splashed forelegs lifted high from years of ploughing the deep furrows of the valley fields.

“You’d walk so, and you’d been raised proper in the land,” Eueen’s father said, the first time this occurred.

“Aye, so I would,” Ris had agreed good-humoredly, and his teasings had passed without comment ever since.

The bare flesh of his chest irritated Eueen, which was strange. Her father and her brother had bare torsos, too, and all the male centaurs she’d ever known, but Ris’ nakedness felt like a personal affront. Eueen was deeply grateful that her own skin was thoroughly covered with her white and copper hide. She didn’t know what she ever would have done, if she’d been one of the mares whose skin showed bare.

Eueen was notable for the way her hide extended straight up her neck, covering her cheeks with delicate hair and running up into the hair of her head. She was the only mare she’d ever seen with hide over her whole torso and her face and neck. Her own mother had a bare face, and both her sisters, and her sister Marren had delicate, fair skin all down her back and to the tip of her waist. Marren’s front was covered with a tawny chestnut, up to the turn of her shoulders.

Eueen had heard of women with bare skin all over their upper bodies, just like the men, but she’d never seen such a woman herself. All the mares she’d ever known had hide covering their fronts. Eueen’s own excessively modest hide pleased her enormously, now that the disturbance of Ris had presented itself.

“I wish he’d go away,” Eueen told her sister, Marren, over the husking one night.

“I think he’s good-looking,” Marren said, shifting her bright chestnut hips and looking altogether too worldly for words.

“You’re too little for mating,” Eueen snapped, her own cheeks growing hot under her hide.

“Nonsense. I heard that in the capital, mares as young as fifteen are put to brood,” Marren said, her eyebrows arched.

“You heard that from Clovan, and she made it up. She said so to me,” Eueen said. Marren’s face turned sour, and she swished her red-gold tail.

“Well, I think he’s handsome,” she said stubbornly.

“Are you going to tell him so?” Eueen asked.

“Shh!” Marren hissed, looking swiftly at the open door of the barn.

And So

Toxic vanity is bad and saturated self-conceit is good. Embrace your preternatural role as Commander-for-Life of your own perception, and take away from yourself all scraps of in-chargeness over anyone and anything out of your purview, and you are likely to find great success in your endeavors.

Remember, you are the ultimate authority on your experience, your emotions, and your thoughts and opinions.

You know nothing in a real sense about anyone else’s experiences, true opinions, or deep thoughts.

Stay inside your fence of self and you can’t go wrong. Plus, your writing improves. And eventually, if you really sink in and become God of your own deepest self, you can learn to exploit and excite the audience in order to reap benefits and make them happy at the same time. Richard Burbage might agree with me. Unfortunately he’s dead, so I can’t ask him. But he is the dude who got Shakespeare worked up enough to write the role of Hamlet, which literally encompasses half of the text of the play by the same name, so, you know, copy Mr. Burbage also. He was presumably saturated with delectable self-conceit. The good kind.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m writing about the reputation man of the Viridi Vitae right now. It’s sort of delightful. His murder team isn’t in town yet, and he’s recruited a couple of men from the local Vitae branch to come follow him around and look intimidating. They have already terrorized a local cab driver (an alien who is going to receive a very large tip), and are about to go interview Ashley Kelly’s former roommates. Mm, interrogations.

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