However, you may have noticed that other members of the writing community are not quite in the same boat. They exhibit, shall we say, certain disturbing symptoms. And you may have wondered, from time to time, as I do, What the hell is wrong with these people?
A few months ago I suggested that the answer might be that some writers are suffering from obsessive/compulsive disorder. But that does not seem to fit the bill in all cases. Fortunately, thanks to Dr Thomas Stuttaford, medical correspondent of the London Times, I am now able to offer a different diagnosis.
Stuttaford, by the way, is a formidable writer himself. He doesn't do fiction, of course, but he is mighty prolific. Scarcely a day goes by without a few paragraphs, and often a lengthy article. President Marmaduke of Boing-boing has a stroke at nine-thirty p.m., London time, and the next morning's paper will have a column telling us all about strokes, the likelihood of recovery, complicating factors in African presidents who have been using too much Viagra, and all like that.
What is more, come the weekend, Dr Stuttaford writes an advice column, with a female colleague, giving guidance for those with sexual problems. This often goes into extreme anatomical detail and is not for the squeamish, and it is advice which would have been absolutely unprintable, anywhere, when I was a young man. So be glad you live in changed times.
All of this is a formidable achievement in a man who must now be well into his seventies and has been treated for prostate cancer. I used to teach Dr Stuttaford's son thirty-five years ago, and the son must be approaching fifty by now.
Anyway, last week the good doctor was prompted by a recent court case to write his usual lengthy analysis of a condition known as narcissistic personality disorder.
People are said to suffer from a personality disorder if they have a persistent pattern of abnormal behaviour which is not severe enough for them to be classified as psychotic and does not constitute a psychiatric disease. Such individuals may well be outwardly successful in their work.
Having said that, people are not properly described as having a personality disorder if their symptoms are so minor that they do not affect their emotional relationships or their professional life.
Here, just to get you thoroughly worried, are the nine telltale symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. Having one or two of these symptoms is not unusual, but those with five or more might be a bit difficult, shall we say, to live with.
- A grandiose sense of self-importance. The person expects to be recognised as rather special.
- The belief that the individual has unique problems.
- A need for excessive admiration.
- A sense of entitlement which is not justified by their attainments.
- The belief that, if only their hitherto unhonoured achievements and ability were recognised, their success would be unlimited.
- Reacting to criticism with inappropriate rage.
- A lack of empathy with other people's needs.
- Arrogance and haughtiness.
- Willingness to exploit other people to achieve their goals.
Does all this, perhaps, ring any bells? Hmm? Remind you of writers you might have met? Or read about?
And what, I wonder, is the appropriate form of treatment? On that, Dr Stuttaford is silent.