My desire to write surfaced when I was in my twenties. I did what I thought an aspiring writer should do: I began reading the biographies and autobiographies of writers I admired so that I could imitate—well, not their writing, but certain features of their lifestyles: the kind of tweed jacket they wore, the beer they drank, the pipe tobacco they smoked or the typewriter they used. I did that for a year or two. It was fun but I was not writing much. Then one day I read someone—I think it was Hemingway—who said, "A writer is distinguished by the fact that he writes."
"Whoa," said I, "I think this guy is on to something!" His words freed me not only from the tweeds and the tobacco but from the paralyzing notion that a writer is distinguished by the fact that he or she gets published, sells a lot of books and gets great reviews.