“The Writer Must Always be an Outsider”

From the preface to The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, a memoir by the novelist Frederick Forsyth:

After all, writers are odd creatures, and if they try to make a living at it, even more so. There are reasons for this.

The first is that a writer lives half his life inside his own head. In this tiny space, entire worlds are created or erased and probably both….In children, daydreaming is rebuked; in a writer, it is indispensable….

You may occasionally see a writer out on the town: wining, dining, partying; being affable….This only half of him. The other half is detached, watching, taking notes. That is the second reason for the oddness—the compulsive detachment.

Behind his mask, the writer is always watching; he cannot help it. He observes, analyzes, take mental notes, stores nuggets of the talk and behavior around him for later use….

The absolute need for extensive solitude and permanent detachment from what Malraux called “the human condition” explain why a writer can never really enter in. Membership involved self-revelation, conformity, and obedience. But a writer must be a loner and thus always an outsider.

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