Vanity, Vanity

So you want to be a writer?

How much money do you have?

It’s a bad time to be a writer

Being a writer today is like being a fortune cookie after a Chinese dinner.
You’ll be read if you’re quick, short and flattering,
but only if you’re free.

Why should anyone really read a book anyway?
If it’s any good they’ll turn it into a movie.
If it’s important, they’ll talk about it on twitter,
and if it’s truly terrible, they’ll turn it into a trilogy.

It’s a bad time to be a writer

We don’t read anything anymore.
We don’t read books anymore,
We don’t read the news anymore,
We don’t even read text messages anymore.
We just glance at them,
while shifting gears or changing lanes.

If you really think about it, we don’t even read words anymore,
I-Y-K-W-I-M, If You Know What I Mean.
That’s the new language of the next readership,
I-N-C-Y-D-K, in case you didn’t know.

It’s a bad time to be a writer

The typewriter is dead.
The bookstore is dying.
The colour grey has been humiliated.
No good writer will go anywhere near it until the insanity is over.
But what if the madness has just begun?

It’s a bad time to be a writer,
but it’s a great time to be a certain kind of writer.

Bad writers, I mean some writers,
they make good money.
They’re rich, they’re famous, they’re popular.
They travel the world. They wax eloquent about social change.
They appear as judges on dance shows,
as you do, when you’re a writer.

I’m not jealous or anything.
I’m just saying,
calling out spades,
keeping it real,
Y-G-T-I, You get the idea.

Let’s be honest.
Good writing is rewarding work,
but it’s not “rewarding” work.

Writers and artists
have rich minds, hungry souls and empty pockets,
because pages don’t turn into paycheques,
any more than canvases turn into cash

But you still want to be a writer?

You think passion matters more than paycheques.
You think purpose matters more than profit.
You think a calling matters more than a career.
You think the satisfaction of service
matters more than the burden of some sort of common corporate slavery.
You want to be a writer because you want to be free.

Let me ask you something.

Are you vain enough
to be a writer?

All the wise men, the scholars, the Solomons,
the great teachers of the law,
they will tell you what I’m going telling you now.
All good writers doubt themselves.
You need self-doubt to be a good writer

It’s true, but it’s not true enough.

Doubt is desperately wicked.

“I’ve written a piece but I don’t want anyone to see it”
“I’ve written a book but I don’t know if it’s any good”
“I’ve got something in mind but I’m not sure if I should put it out there”
“I can’t really say I’m a writer because I haven’t published anything yet”


Let me ask you again.

Are you vain enough
to be a writer?

You need to believe that words matter,
to be a writer.

You need to believe
that your words matter,
that your thoughts matter.
that your work matters.

A writer’s thoughts can be like still waters that calm her fears,
or the troubled sea of dreams in which he is always drowning.

They can be the soul mate he cannot live without
or the sleazy, touchy-feely, drunk relative she cannot ignore.

They can be like wild horses,
charging towards him,
as if they’re coming for him,
as if they’re angry with him,
or the noble warriors
who go with her into battle,
snorting in their strength,
shaking the knees of her enemies.

To write, you have to harness your thoughts
To write, you have to learn how to run with horses

You need to believe in your words,
to be a writer.

You need to believe,
that if they are left unspoken, unwritten, unread,
you will hurt your neighbour.
You will stab your friend,
you will injure your soul.
you will spit on your mother’s grave.

I told you,
It takes vanity to be a writer.
Don’t say I didn’t say so.

If you don’t believe in yourself,
then delude yourself.
If you say, “Let there be light”
and there is only darkness,
then learn to live like a blind man.
Learn to crawl,
learn to walk,
learn to run.
And then learn to dance in the darkness,
because that’s what free souls do when they are freed from fear.
They dance.

Say to yourself,
“Let there be delusions of grandeur”
Then let the delusions guide you,
until you’ve lied yourself
into the truth.

Do you still want to be a writer?

Did you know it’s dangerous to be one of us?
Governments don’t like us.
Politicians want to ban us.
Dictators want to kill us.

Some want to censor us.
Others want to belittle us.
Everyone wants to steal from us,
(especially your publisher).

Do you know why?
It’s because even if you don’t believe in your words,
they do.

History believes in writers.
The future believes in writers.
You believe in writers.
Whatever you believe, about anything,
you believe because of a writer.

Writers are dangerous
because they don’t just see the world.
They see through it.

Where people see a hobbit,
a writer sees an adventure.
Where people see a farm with a few pigs
a writer sees a prophetic warning.
Where people see a poor person,
a writer sees the city of joy.
Where people see a rich person,
a writer sees a man who gains the whole world but loses his own soul.

Where people see a fearful child
who doesn’t believe in her words,
a writer sees the slow, steady journey
of fear turning into courage.

It takes vanity to be a writer.
But it’s no ordinary vanity.

I have to confess that I’ve lied to you.
When I say vanity,
I don’t really mean vanity.
I actually mean a strange sort of,
No, no, no, no, no.

Humility is not weakness.
It’s not foolishness.
It’s not in vain.

Good writers borrow,
great writers steal.
So let me tell you what I’ve stolen
from a great writer.

“True humility,
is not thinking less of yourself
It is thinking of yourself, less.”

You need to be vain,
to be a writer.
But you need to be vain,
for your words; not for yourself.

Your words matter.
Your thoughts matter.
But you? Eh, not so much.

You are the channel, the medium,
the forgettable instrument
of a greater glory.
So that even if,
someone else spoke your words to the world,
before you did,
you would still be satisfied,
as if you had written the words.
You would still have something to take pleasure in,
as if you had spoken the words.

Because the truth is what matters
the words are what matters;
and the truth has been spoken,
the words have been read.

Because with every new word written,
and with every new word spoken,
a great spear is thrown into the face of the night.
And the dividing wall of self-obsession,
that rules the minds of men,
has one more scrape in its side.

Maybe it will take a thousand other spears,
or a thousand other swords, to win this impossible fight.
But our much-needed victory will be a little closer at hand
because there was one less fearful person,
one more deluded writer,
just foolish enough,
just brave enough,
just vain enough,
to write.

Image Credit: vassilis galopoulos


Performed at a public reading organized by Infusion Studio and


One thought on “Vanity, Vanity

  1. Absolutely gorgeous piece, think I should print it, frame it and read it every morning, haha. I recently set off writing my own comic series: before every page there’s doubt and dismay, and after every page there’s rewarding respite. As you said, the words beg to be written.


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