Clear off out of my way - I'm on the verge of becoming a major literary figure
I'd lay odds that it was two-thirds of the way through the book and halfway down the left-hand page, but I'm still unable to turn up the paragraph in Martin Amis's superb Experience in which he talks about "writers" being people who are always hoping that everyone else will very shortly "clear off".
I need the exact reference so that I can add this characterisation to the mental compendium on modern writers' habits that I've been assembling for the best part of ten years. The motive behind this research is quite straightforward. Although nothing I've ever done in my life suggests that I might be about to emerge as a major literary figure, I've always entertained the notion that, if I could effect sufficient symmetry between my own attitudes to the world and those held by "writers", then one day my sense of identification would be so profound that I'd have no other existential option but to sit down and knock out a major novel.
Of course, unlike their bearded, tubercular predecessors, modern writers are tricky subjects for generalisation, but my research suggests that they tend to get up rather earlier than the rest of us, so that they can complete their daily word count well before midday. They are also temperamentally opposed to instant coffee and usually smoke and/or drink to excess on the grounds that they are too preoccupied with the higher cortex to worry about the lower abdomen. It is also axiomatic that "writers" never belong to health clubs or gyms, although they may play a little low-life snooker and indulge in the odd game of table tennis.
As I learnt from Roland Barthes, "writers" also find it difficult to take holidays in the same way as the rest of us because writing, unlike cost accounting or software development, is not an activity that can be turned on and off. "Writers" - how can I put this - are always somehow . . . writing. Even in this age of personal organisers, they like to carry around a small, lined notebook (the lines are obligatory) in which they periodically jot down apercus about the world around them.
On the whole - and I'm grateful to Martin Amis for confirmation of this insight - "writers" are unlikely to be found driving cars. If circumstances force them to take the wheel, then they are likely to drive in such a fashion as to indicate that a full-time commitment to gearsticks, indicators and rear-view mirrors is properly the preserve of those who know they are unlikely to be struck, at the next motorway turn-off, by a sudden shaft of literary insight.
I'm pleased to say that I've now more or less succeeded in adopting these and other authorial attitudes. After making sure that I'm out of bed by 6.30 every morning, I settle down to some real coffee and a steady day of relatively heavy smoking and drinking. Now that the Golf has been traded in, I'm no longer to be found at the wheel of a car, and I've found it possible, without too much effort, always to have a lined exercise book close at hand. I've also contrived to be thoroughly discontented during my past five major holidays (I was particularly vile on Kos in '98).
Since last week, I've been concentrating on Martin Amis's most recent authorial criterion. I'm happy to say that I pass with flying colours. For years now, in pubs, clubs, restaurants and living rooms, I've been eagerly, almost passionately, waiting for other people to "clear off". It is, I believe, indicative of my friends' touching belief in my emergent literary status that they've always been so singularly prepared to do so.