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Confidence (or Delusion) Rison

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risonEarlier this week, the Atlanta Journal Consititution ran a catching-up-with piece that featured some juicy quotes from former professional football player Andre Rison. During his NFL career, Rison played for the Indianapoli Colts, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, and Oakland Raiders. He was a Pro Bowl performer five times in his career and won a Super Bowl with Green Bay.

Rison was also known for some of his off-the-field issues. As the article points out, the wide receiver lived a life of contrasts. “One minute, he was the highest-paid receiver in the game,” Darryl Maxie writes. “In another, he was being jailed for failing to make child-support payments.”

The receiver had some idiotic interesting comments when asked about his football legacy. “Best receiver to ever play the game,” Rison replied. “I can’t show my highlights because I don’t own NFL Films, but all my coaches in college, in high school, in junior college, they all told me I could be the best. But they must’ve lied because that title was already given to Jerry Rice. Just because you have stats doesn’t mean you’re the best.”

Now, after you clean up your desk from spitting coffee all over it in an explosion of laughter, you might ask yourself, “What does this have to do with writing? Aren’t professional athletes required to be self-absorbed by law? This isn’t news.”

But if you look closer, Rison’s exaggerated confidence wouldn’t be out of place at many writers groups, literary conferences, publishing message boards, and other places that aspiring authors haunt. Let’s alter those quotes slightly and see how common they for frustrated, egotistical writers.

Rison: I can’t show my highlights because I don’t own NFL films.
Frustrated, Egotistical Writer: I can’t publish my work because I’m not an industry insider.

Rison: All my coaches in college, in high school, in junior college, they all told me I could be the best.
Frustrated, Egotistical Writer: My parents, my friends, my writing instructor all told me that my book is the best thing they’ve ever read.

Rison: Just because you have stats doesn’t mean you’re the best.
Frustrated, Egotistical Writer: Just because a writer gets published (or make the bestseller list or win awards or whatever the complaint of the day is) doesn’t mean you’re the best.

Now, Andre Rison was a professional football player, something that very, very few human beings in our culture achieve. And he was a Pro Bowler, which means he was one of the better players of his era. So in many ways, he has quite a bit to be proud of in regards to his career. But to lay claim to being the best receiver ever is just absurd. As is assertion that he is “coming out with my own hall of fame” to honor his career.

And that Frustrated, Egotistical Writer on your message board probably does have somethings to legitimately be proud of in regards to his writing. He probably did well in some workshops, maybe won some awards here and there, and quite possibly wrote a good story or two. But to make the outlandish statements that we so often see from these egomaniacs is just hilarious.

So the lesson of the day is this: vent when you need to vent about the harshness of the publishing industry. Prop yourself up when necessary to keep your confidence from flagging. And rant and rave when necessary. But still keep some perspective. Going overboard like this only hurts you in the long run and makes everyone else think you’re crazy.

Oh, and be sure to read the rest of the article for more great opinions from Andre Rison.