Last night during the Oscars show, Robert De Niro gave a (scripted, of course) introduction to the best-screenplay nominees:
The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.
Ha ha! But yes, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy are remarkably common among writers. Is it because we tend to be paid mere peanuts compared to our friends and former classmates who chose other professions (wait, am I actually worth one-twentieth as much as my lawyer and professor pals? yes, I am)? Or is it because writing lends itself to perfectionism, because we can always tweak every line a bit more … and again … and — hold on, wait — again? Thus, for us, better and better is still never best. Or do so many writers have low self-esteem because writing — no matter the topic — is such a personal act? Thus every hour of work is another hour of self-examination?
I don’t know. And I wonder whether winning or being nominated for a best-screenplay Oscar alleviated the nominees’ self-loathing — and, if so, for how long and how much?