a certain bravery, a kind of recklessness and ignorance of consequences that is difficult to achieve when you have things like goals or desires in life or actually give a damn about something.
That’s because all good writing is destruction. All wit is also destruction. All pleasure in reading is pleasure at offense. Someone, some character, some institution, some idea, is getting skewered, getting revealed, laid bare in some way, and someone will be upset as a result. All heroes are the butts of not-so-secret (though we participate in a social conspiracy to pretend that they are secret) jokes.
Complicating this uncomfortable fact is the fact that the things that you know best about, that you’re most qualified to lay bare, are the things that are germane to your own relationships and the people that you know. In order to write well, you need to have noticed things that need wry complication and condescending critique, but because of the way social life is still structured, you’re most likely to notice such things amongst those with whom you spend your time, those who also the people you most likely need and want not to offend.
For this reason, writing well is tough to do, not as a mechanical task in isolation, but as a component of life, as a value, as a chosen action at the level of intent and habit. It basically requires that you be the black sheep, the alcoholic, the abuser, the misanthrope, the deviant, the hated. And while everybody likes to think that they like the writer that they know, in fact, the writer is invariably secretly (and sometimes not-so-secretly) despised. People humor the writer much of the time because at some level they fear him or her, and they enjoy what the writer says and puts into print inasmuch as they have a morbid fascination with the laying bare that the writer does to others (ideas, people, circumstances) whom they also know.
But at the end of the day as a prospective writer, you have to choose: you can be emotionally comfortable and make progress in life toward goals in the context of a stable social milieu that represents no threat and that you do not yourself threaten, or you can be a good writer and feel at the center of the storm always, be honest always with all of the consequences that that entails.
People are hypocrites, really, in a way. They love to read. And they’re happy to enjoy it, so long as it isn’t themselves they’re reading about, but an “other,” so long as they agree with the laying bare that you happen to be doing right now. Otherwise, the writer becomes the criminal, unjust, and obviously so.
To write is really not a category unto itself; it’s little more than a particular circumstance in which telling the truth is partially socially sanctioned (so long as you’re telling it about someone else; otherwise, the truth is big fucking no-no numbers one, two, three, four, and five, at least).