Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Lonely Life of the Writer in the Age of Social Media

Hello, blogosphere. I've been absent for some time but I've recently been reminded that this is a bit of sin. I need to maintain my web presence if I ever hope to be a published or successful author. Agents and publishers want to authors who are active on social media, who are adept at self-promotion, who are capable of marketing themselves, of building and maintaining a following. At the very least, these are things that can give you a leg up, things a writer must now consider.
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When we think of a writer, we often summon up the image of a harried intellectual banging away at the keyboard or scribbling in a notebook, struggling to put thoughts into words, toiling in isolation. Like many creative endeavors, writing a story is a solitary act, the effort of a single imagination. There are some examples of collaborative writing, but most novels have just one author. It is also a safe bet that most writers, not all, but most, would tend toward introversion. There are numerous examples of writers who were famous for their reclusiveness, such as Emily Dickinson, Marcel Proust, William Faulkner, JD Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, Harper Lee and Cormac Mcarthy.

Image result for mind full of ideasThe life of the writer can be a lonely one, much of it life spent alone with only imagined characters for company. The writer may keep odd hours, waiting for everyone to go to bed, or waking up at unreasonable hours, so that they can go to the world of their story. The writer probably doesn't go out all that much in the real world anymore, and may often seem tired or preoccupied. Victor Hugo famously wrote that "a writer is a world trapped in a person." This is quite true and it is exhausting and difficult. 

I often feel like a bit of an imposter calling myself a writer. In fact, I don't, except for here and with an online writing group (if you are reading this blog, you are likely a member of that online group!) It is certainly not something I will talk about in social situations. Writers write, a truism among those who do, but in the eyes of those who don't, a writer is one who makes money writing, something which very few beginners have any familiarity with. So if I have nothing to show for it, can I really call myself a writer?

Of course I do have something to show for it - words: my stories, my half-finished novel, my blog. The common advice, though, is to not solicit feedback from family and friends. They are likely to be unhelpful - uncritical at best, discouraging at worst. No, at worst, they will want to analyze you and your work, making real life correlations with characters, relationships and situations. (Please, if someone you love shows you their writing, do not do this!) And so, I do not show my work to those closest to me and I haven't even shared the fact with them that I have this blog. I am a closet writer.

So the question is, how do I self-promote? How do I come out to my friends and family as a writer? I feel that by coming out I am inviting so much scrutiny and criticism from those who know me. I suppose it is not that difficult and that I am just being shy, putting too much stock in what other people think. Still, I think I should have at least one sale under my belt before I start declaring that I am a writer.  For now, I have taken a baby step away from anonymity, though, and put my real name and my actual likeness on this blog.