There’s a line in one of Stephen King’s novels (it’s either The Regulators or Desperation: those two being odd mirror images of one another is a subject for a future blog post) where one character remembers his ex-wife telling him something roughly along the lines of, ‘You didn’t give up living for writing, you gave up living for talking about writing!’ It’s an interesting insult, part of the back story of a character (a type King is perhaps a bit too fond of creating) who is a Very Famous and Important Writer who has somehow lost his way or brought trouble on himself. The suggestion here that a writer who enjoys publicity or public speaking is somehow inauthentic.
Writers, we are often told, are generally shy types, not at all keen to stand up and give it some yap, especially when the topic is their own work. We are also told, of course, that appearing on panels, doing workshops, participating in reading slams and all the rest of it can be the only way of attracting attention in an overcrowded market, so everyone just stop being cowardy little custards and go for it. Etc. There are any amount of people willing to take your money in exchange for relieving you of any fear you might have with regard to addressing an audience. If you find the prospect so terrifying that it makes you want to puke, then perhaps it really isn’t something you should put yourself through, though. Speaking about your writing is only going to benefit you and attract or impress readers if it’s something you can happily throw yourself into, or at least take a deep breath and feel comfortable having a shot at.
Depending on the sort of thing you like to write, there might even be a little mileage in developing a reputation as a reclusive genius – and then, of course, there are those authors who have developed an Author Persona that is nothing like the real human behind the pseudonym and therefore have to decline any invitations to meet the fans…
In the past, I used to think I was perhaps a little bit odd by having no fear whatsoever of public speaking – in fact it’s one of my favourite things to do. I like doing the occasional workshop, or panel discussion; I love giving readings and am even easily persuaded to take on the odd contentious debate.
This is probably just as well, as I seem to be getting quite a few requests at the moment. (More are welcome, though – just pop along and fill out the contact form.) There seem to be other authors who also defy the general public’s concept of us as either nervous little word-pixies who can’t speak above a whisper, or misanthropes who have to be dragged, blinking, into the daylight, and I reckon that’s a good thing. Not only is it fun for readers (and other, aspiring, authors) to come along and hear tips, advice, funny stories and maybe some delicious erotica as well, but it helps get rid of the idea that reticence is a virtue and being proud of your work and willing to share it some kind of arrogance that deserves a smackdown.
Particularly as it’s about time there was another DSW reading slam.