[It] is much in the same vein as “Live every day like it’s your last.” It’s a nice idea until you think about it. After you kill a man just to see what it feels like, then what? Who wants to spend every day on the phone with the same twelve people repeating “I just want you to know that I love you very much”? Nobody does.
We are, in fact, motivated in no small measure by competitive drive. But, as Hume suggests, only the extraordinarily vain will be able muster and sustain the will to produce when “up against” the whole eternal pantheon of letters. The petty contest for merely local glory gets the scale of useful emulation about right. It’s probably better for literature if we don’t try to play dead.