At 14 and 15, I was sort of my town's resident beatnik.
Reading was not just an escape or a Band-Aid; it was a deep form of feeling seen and recognized, and being able to see and recognize other kindred spirits. My dad was a writer, too, which also likely had something to do with that.
If I could do what Hilary Mantel does, I would probably do that. She is more intelligent and a better researcher and knows more what she's about than I do.
The ego being shattered is not what frightens me - that can be useful for writing - but the ego being inflated is sort of like it dying of gout.
It may be that Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf were sitting around fretting about their Amazon reviews or their pre-pub whatever, but I kind of doubt it. I don't think that's how the work probably got made.
In college, I was a huge fan of 'Les Miserables.' I seem to remember that people who were into French literature preferred Hugo's poetry.