Writers and their selfish streaks

Sometimes I think that anyone who wants to write fiction has a streak of selfishness a mile wide, no matter how successful they are at concealing it.

While there are plenty of writers who relish an idea of impenetrableness, who like to think that their desire to squirrel themselves away to pour out words makes them someone untouchable (although critics soon put paid to that fantasy) there are plenty of writers who belong to an entirely different camp. A camp that tries to propagate the suggestion that they are no more selfish, nosy or downright obsessive than the next person.

It’s definitely the second one that appeals most to my sensibilities. To my personality too I suppose. But if anything, while I assume it probably makes me easier to talk to, it only makes me more dishonest. If you don’t paint a picture of yourself as someone who is desperately foraging for pieces of life to steal, to compress, to distil and to twist then you’re presumably lying every time you enter a dialogue.

And then, there’s something about wanting to captivate an audience, to make them pay attention to you and your craft alone rather than share the glory in the way that a screen writer or collaborative artist might that screams self-obsession. So while I can easily play the role of the listener in real life conversation, surely I’m a far bigger attention fiend than the people that ask me to bear witness to their torrid weekend – even when I’m reminding myself not to mentally take notes?

But that’s not all, what else does a writer demand more of than anyone deserves? Time of course. Time and space to let the real world take a step back so that its place can be filled with a fragile landscape of letters and paper. To take that time and attention away from the people around you must be the epitome of selfishness.

But if I want to feel as though I’m staying sane and on top of the swirling words and worlds in my mind I have to keep writing, even if it means embracing – or at very least tolerating – that selfish streak.

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