The Divide Between Public and Personal

When I was a kid, I thought all authors were dead. The idea that some of them could actually be writing still, while I was already reading their other work, would never have occurred to me.I’m not sure when the realisation started to sink in, tbh. This was before the days of internet and social media. My contact with authors was only through their words, and then only through the words available to me in my little local public library. Author visits in South Africa during the eighties? HIGHLY UNLIKELY.

And now here I am, far removed from that child who lived only for stories and didn’t give a damn about where the author lived, who they voted for, what they looked like. I just knew there were writers whose work I loved, and if I saw their name I knew I was going to be in for a brilliant read. When I was small, it was things like The Animals of Farthing Wood, then later Watership Down, Duncton Chronicles (you may be spotting a theme here…) and everything Diana Wynne-Jones wrote, then still later David Gemmel, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Gentle, Tanith Lee, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Tad Williams, Jeff Noon, Poppy Z Brite….

And for some reason, all were dead. (Eventually, of course, I realised that they were not.)

Now I’m a writer, and I’m very much alive, and unlike many of the writers from my youth, I don’t have the luxury of being allowed personal anonymity. We are bombarded with the idea that writers must be OUT there, ONLINE, have a MEDIA PRESENCE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE!

And I find it really tiring and occasionally anxiety-inducing. What’s suitable to share, despite being personal, what’s too much? When does “sharing” become monologuing, self-trumpeting nonsense?

It’s a hard question to answer. I’m really not sure what the balance is, and how to reach it and stay there.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you like and/or expect from authors in this time of incessant social media. What you think is too much, what’s not enough?

Perhaps the answer is simply to shut up and go into hermitage, but I don;t think publishers will be thrilled with that suggestion!

 (cross-posted from my Patreon)

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cat_hellisen

I write.