Via The Guardian: You think writing’s a dream job? It’s more like a horror film. Excerpt:
A YouGov poll that has just been released rates being an author the most desirable job in Britain – with 60% of people saying they’d like to do it for a living. This is a 24% higher than those who want to be a TV presenter and a remarkable 29% higher than those who want to be a movie star.
The mind boggles – or it would if authors didn’t spend a good majority of their time assiduously, and at tedious length, trying to avoid cliches. The fact that people fantasise about being an author only proves how little they know about the reality of the job – or how under-read they are in one of the greatest of that profession, George Orwell.
It was Orwell who wrote this description of the novelist: “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 which one can neither resist nor understand.“
This is not a view of writing that occupies a great deal of space in the popular imagination. On the contrary, authors are seen as rather serene, noble characters, licking their pencils, perpetually looking out the window for inspiration – which always comes – and floating in a bubble, enjoying an Olympian perspective on the world, not bound to the nine to five like the rest, but picking beautiful sentences out of the air like passing butterflies, which they trap and affix decoratively to the page.
If only it were like that. Some writers do, I admit, talk up the delights of creating fiction. All I can say is, I have been writing books for nigh on 20 years now – and it has not been out of choice but for exactly the reason that Orwell describes – “driven by some demon which one can neither resist nor understand”.
I have on more than one occasion longed for a different way of making a living, a hope that I understand now is entirely in vain, as it is my only marketable ability.