And it didn’t stop there. In between the two, in 1946, he wrote an essay entitled Why I Write, which with classic Orwellian insight described a human challenge that is still with us today: we’re simply not selfish enough.
In it, he said: “The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all – and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery.”
Ouch. Well, though he was called a lot of things, an optimist wasn’t one of them.
That said, the man had a point.
I don’t know a single person who feels they have an abundance of time. I don’t know a single person who says ‘no’ to enough things and there’s no doubt those matters are related.
But unless you’re uni-dimensional, it’s unsurprising. The major categories of work, home, extended-family, friends and hobbies each demand a share of our attention and for me at least, it’s the latter category – the one that I daydream about spending more time on when I dare to defocus for a moment – that has traditionally received the least amount of my time.
I am first and foremost a writer. In my head, that’s who I am. That’s what I love and that’s where I believe I could achieve my most passionate successes. But notably it is only in the past 18 months that I have felt regularly enough in a position to be utterly selfish, that I have produced anything that I believe even approaches merit in The Baggage Handler.
Could I do better? Well I certainly bloody hope so. But I can tell you without a doubt, it’s going to require ever more selfishness.
It’s funny how that’s sometimes not a bad thing.