Monday, January 19, 2009

Writers – vain, selfish and lazy?

Before you load your weapons, I didn’t say that! Honest. George did. (Ahem.) That would be Orwell, not Washington. Here’s his complete quote:

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention.”

Interesting observation. And Orwell should know, right?

I agree with his summary of writing. It really is an exhausting struggle, and when I’ve finally turned in my manuscript, I do feel like I’ve just recovered from a long illness. Suddenly, I can meet a friend for lunch again, make a trip to Pier One just for the heck of it, paint a bathroom that new shade of taupe I’ve been eyeing enviously. I feel like climbing onto my rooftop and shouting, “I’m alive! I’m alive. Hahahahaha. I’m alive!” Except that my roof is steep and I’d fall and break my neck and then I probably wouldn’t be alive.

But I’m pondering his assertion that writers are driven by an irresistible and incomprehensible demon. I understand my demon perfectly. I like to tell stories, I like it that other people like my stories, and I like being known as a writer of stories -- all of which make me a rather storied writer, n’est-ce pas? (Cough)

And his last comment? Are we all babies squalling for attention? Lazy? Selfish? Vain? I’ll lay claim to one, but deny to my death the rest. And I’m staying off the roof.