My friend, author Elyse Press Major, emailed me this morning with a question: "Do you think 'Author' is derived from 'self-obsessed a-hole?'"
The question made me grin, but it also got me thinking. I can recall my first editor at Delacorte confiding in me over a smoke. "Writers are assholes," he said. I recall my dad showing up at my graduation from my MFA in Writing program at Vermont College and his first encounter with one of the more miserable, stuck up, can't-be-bothered-with-the-common-folk members of the faculty, and him whispering to me, "Who the hell is that asshole?" I certainly recall my first wife screaming at me while I was trying to write at the dining room table: "You're a f'n asshole!" Certainly some of my now fired agents have filed me away under A for ... well you know what. And when some of my novels became Amazon Bestsellers and I started selling more books in a week than that other Albany writer William Kennedy might sell in a year, my head got a little inflated and I most definitely started acting like an asshole.
Today, I'm not always selling more books than Mr. Kennedy and my first wife and I are friends again. I've learned my lesson and deflated my head a little (My apologies to Mr. Kennedy and to anyone else I offended along the way...You know who you are). I still require more alone time than the average bear since I'm always working on multiple projects, and I suppose that might make me a bit of an asshole, but it can't be helped.
So the answer to your question, Elyse, is yes and no. Authors sometimes can't help being a-holes but they don't always have to be a-holes. It's important that we learn the distinction.