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'The achievers and the strivers'

7 February 2005

'There is something about the contemporary scene that has made competitiveness, doing the next person down, a central part of the writing business rather than just a sideshow. Dominated by the marketing imperative, the publishing and bookselling process no longer has room for the semi-success, the slow burn, the author who was once successful or may possibly be successful in the future. Almost from the moment the first book contract is signed, a brutal bifurcation takes place between the achievers and the strivers...

It is a shock to many people to discover that writers can be as vain, competitive and boastful as those in any other profession, but add a snobbery all of their own.

It occurs to me that in writing, and maybe in most other walks of life, talent and generosity tend as a general rule to go together. It is the most successful who are least likely to bother with the trivial idiocies of gamesmanship... the most effective way of succeeding and staying sane is to concentrate on one's own project and let others get on with their own. Working well is the best revenge.'

Terence Blacker, author, journalist and former publisher, in the Independent