And speaking of vanity, I have, of course, a vast range of personal experience from which to draw, having succumbed to its allure more often and more deeply than most. What motivated me to begin writing, however, was not ego. I was driven neither by ambition nor altruism: my adolescence was an infinite desert of loneliness I survived thanks mostly to words on pages. Whether or not I had, or have, any natural aptitude for writing I can’t say, and don’t think very important anymore. I wrote then because the attempt to create other worlds was the most effective way to escape the nightmare world I was actually living in. I wasn’t trying to write literature or change the world, but it was still a vitally important and useful endeavour, if only to me and my survival. There was always a point to it. Which is not something I could say about much of my writing these past ten years. My motivation was cloudy. I wrote about things I didn’t care about, but which I thought other people did. I wanted to see my name in lights. I am glad I seem to have gotten that out of my system. For a long time I wasn't writing anything at all. But that doesn't work either. I still need to write even if no one else likes to read my writing. I believe I prefer to write when I'm not trying to please people I don't know for reasons I don't like.
I’m not sure that an awareness of audience is as important or as benign as Aristotle makes out. I think a lot of the time these days that awareness of audience is the seed that spawns the ego. The self seeking for itself recognition of any sort seems inevitably to be the beginning manifestations of the pride that’s next going to trip you up. Wanting people to like my stuff ensured only that the stories I created in this mindset were impossible to like: it made my writing sycophantic and inauthentic. I have enough flaws as a writer and as a person not to need to add these two to the collection.
The urge to please others as a way of validating the self is pernicious. Indeed, conquering one’s ego is so rare and so difficult that those who do manage to go the full Mt. Baldy, inevitably earn our admiration and respect. People get curious. They start asking questions. How did I become so humble? Funny you should ask...oh, sure, once there was a time when I was a regular Joe, why no different than you--vain, selfish, a man going nowhere until… And then it begins all over again. I think the worst thing that can happen to anyone is the one thing that motivates everyone the most—fame and recognition. I think you think more clearly when you get your mind to a place where nobody knows you and nobody gives a damn either way.