Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Leave me alone


[S]olitude is important, but our human interactions are elemental. Without them, there is no story. And without a story, there is no storyteller. — Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi

I’ve been thinking a lot of late about the relationship between an author and his readers in particular in relation to writing on the Web. In a recent comment I made the point that the quid pro quo attitude that’s prevalent online – I’ll read your blog if you read mine — is unsustainable. There are only so many hours in the day. I rarely get less that 100 hits a day and the majority of those will be people who have their own sites. Does that mean to keep the universe in balance I have to read 100 blogs a day?

I write two posts a week. Could I get away with only reading two posts by other people and feel that my conscience was clear? But is it really a matter of conscience? I am a writer. I want to be read. I expect to be read. Do I think I have a right to be read? No, I wouldn’t go that far but I think I have a right to be considered without me having to promise my readers anything more than what’s in the book, perhaps a signature on the title page.

The thing I’m questioning is the relationship that an author should have with his or her public. What right does a reader have to expect anything other than a well-written, carefully edited, professionally produced book? In the old days there was no Internet so people sent fan mail and sometimes got a signed photo and who’s to say that the writer did the signing?

The change has come quickly. It happened when the word ‘celebrity’ began to take on a completely new shade of meaning. Now the artist can no longer stand apart from their product. The artist is now a part of the product. Personally I’m not interested in attracting attention. I think things were much better back in the old days when a writer was left alone to do what he was good at, to write, and there were people to take care of marketing and publicising and all that crap. It’s not a matter of being shy. I’m not especially shy nor even that private a person. I’m simply not that outgoing.

There used to be a breed apart, the reclusive writer. Salinger will jump to mind obviously but he’s not alone. Try to find out what you can about Patrick Süskind, the author most famous for Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. I couldn’t even find a recent photo. Thomas Pynchon is another known for his avoidance of personal publicity: very few photographs of him have ever been published, and rumours about his location and identity have been circulated since the 1960s. This has earned him the sobriquet ‘the Greta Garbo of American letters.’ Some think it’s a ploy by him to actually increase public banksy-2 awareness of him but I’m not buying that. You never know — it worked for Banksy.

"When a writer doesn't show his face," Don DeLillo wrote in his 1991 novel, Mao II, "he becomes a local symptom of God's famous reluctance to appear." I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. A book should stand or fall on its own merits. God stands apart from his creation. He is not a part of it. He is reflected in it just as we authors are darkly reflected in our books. I’d hate to hear God’s booming voice over my shoulder going, “Er, excuse me, son, but you’re not using that platypus right.”

Avoiding the press and the public is one thing but what about writers who keep to themselves even among their peers? Though the Italian writer Mario Rigoni Stern — once described as looking like Heidi’s grandfather — frequently won literary prizes, he shunned literary circles, preferring the solitary pleasures of his woods. Primo Levi, however, sought him out and became a close friend. I’ve friends who are writers but I never go to readings or literary festivals. Does that make me some kind of snob? I’m anything but. Part of me feels that if I were to go to these then I’d end up putting on airs and graces and try to be what I imagined people expected a writer like me to be. And I can’t be jugged with that.

I personally think the word ‘recluse’ is mis- and overused. Pynchon himself has said that what the press mean when they write ‘recluse’ is really ‘doesn’t like to talk to journalists.’ The list of so-called ‘reclusive’ or ‘very private’ authors is a curious one. Apart from those mentioned I could also list:


Haruki Murakami

Harper Lee

Allan Chappelow

Henry Darger

Emily Dickinson

W S Merwin

Alan Moore

John Swartzwelder

Janet Frame

Cormac McCarthy

Fernando Pessoa

Margaret Griffiths

J M Coetzee

Anne Tyler

Don DeLillo

Michel Houellebecq

Flannery O'Connor

Samuel Beckett

Very private

Monique Wittig

Mary Whitebird

Lindsey Davis

Martin Crimp

Richard Bach

Wallace Stevens

Shirley Jackson

Jonathan Lethem

Rob Woodard

David Mamet

Toni Morrison

Ian McEwan

Eudora Welty

Nicholas Callaway

Elizabeth Bishop

Betty Buchsbaum

J Marcus Ross

Italo Calvino

Are you telling me these are all genuine bona fide recluses? The natural state for a write is a solitudinous one. It’s hard to write — and by extension, to be who you need to be when you write — surrounded by people . . . or sometimes even person. As I write this my wife is sitting a few feet from me. (Actually she’s just popped into the kitchen.) More often than not these days we’re in the same room.

What I did find interesting is that many of the “very private writer” quotes were in the first person: I’m a very private writer. I am a very private writer. I think privacy is something to be cherished. I don’t think it’s wrong to want to be alone or to keep things to oneself. I really don’t talk much about what I’m writing with anyone until the process is over or nearly over. I’ve written about the writer’s fear that talking about their work might in some way jinx it but the simple fact is that I have no desire or need to discuss a work in progress. I get a kick from presenting a finished work, first to my wife and then to the rest of the world, saying, “See! See! See what I did. Aren’t I a clever boy?” Before that I’m my only critic. Why would I want to show something a piece of writing that clearly needed fixing? All they could possibly do is agree with me.

I need solitude. I admit that most of the time I’m not physically isolated when I write but I am alone in my head. Christa Faust is a writer who lives alone, in fact on her website she writes:

I’ve lived alone for so long now, that I’m beginning to seriously doubt I’d ever be able to cohabitate with a fellow human being, no matter how sexy and/or unobtrusive. — Solitude with Housekeeping Service

Larry Brown In the same post she talks about the writer Larry Brown. She writes:

Brown had a wife and kids, but yet he seemed to live this totally separate life. Woke up in the evening. Started writing after they went to bed and worked all night till they got up the next day. Didn’t have to cook, clean or deal with the chaos of children. He seemed to have all the benefits of married life with none of the downsides. I’m kind of amazed and stunned by this, that such a life is even possible.

I actually get that. In fact for a while there that’s pretty much how I was functioning. I’d go to bed with my wife, wait until she fell asleep and then get up and spend half the night working. I deliberately tried to break that habit. I like being around my wife. If she was a distraction looking for attention and going into a strop or a sulk when she didn’t get it then I might not say that but, as I’ve said, she’s anything but.

Lilith Saintcrow is another writer. She doesn’t live alone either but things are very different for her:

I rarely get any time alone with myself. There’s the kids, of course, and cooking dinner and the housework and the schoolwork. I am constantly interrupted at the keyboard, constantly needing to settle disputes, grade a paper, look at a little person’s newest achievement, look at the ringing phone. I’ve become a master of multitasking, of finding time to get the words down. — The End Of Selene, And Distractions

I know that many of my online friends are in a similar position. One can understand why Sylvia Plath, after her divorce from Ted Hughes and living in a tiny London flat, used to get up a four in the morning and work on her Ariel poems until her two infant children woke.

The writers Ray Carver and Tess Gallagher, a couple, came up with a unique fix — they share two houses in Port Angeles:

Each house has two desks. Tess says, "I don't go into his study much at all, don't presume to. Only another writer can understand a writer's need for solitude." — A Literary Love Story

My wife and I couldn’t afford to do that but we do have two offices – I think the word ‘study’ sounds a bit pretentious – and they are very different working spaces. Mine is very tidy and orderly, my wife’s is . . . well, more what you would expect a writer’s to look like. Most of the time as I’ve mentioned, we work together in the living room on laptops. I think of my office like I think about my ihermit2 nhaler — just having it in my pocket is enough to stop me having an asthma attack.

I have actually been called a recluse. Once in my life. It was as a kid. I’d spent months inside the house doing God knows what and when I stepped outside the door one evening some girl said, “Here comes the recluse.” It was like a slap in the face although it was clearly meant in jest. I thought a recluse was a horrible thing to be. Hermits were never the heroes in stories. They were usually misanthropic and miserly if not physically deformed and mentally unbalanced. I’d just been busy. I’ve called myself a misanthrope. But I’m not serious when I say it. I don’t hate people, even non-writers, but the less I go out the less inclined I am to go out. I get enough company online and there we cut to the chase. I hate small talk. Which is why I go through my feeds every now and then and clear out those blogs that have failed to hold my interest. They’ll never know. Much easier than snubbing one of your friends in the street.

But what if we have something to talk about? My latest book for example. Now that’s different. After months — years in some cases — of not talking about a piece of writing I’m actually quite keen desperate to talk about it. But not to explain it. If I have to spend all my time telling people what the thing’s about then I’ve clearly not done my job right. What I really want is to hear what other people think which I can then respond to. I don’t mind that kind of quid pro quo. In fact I enjoy it. There are things I expect my readers to notice. There are things that once I tell people about them I’ll open up a completely new level of the work. I can only do that through social interaction and I have no problem interacting socially — I’ve worked with people all my life, behind a service desk, in a classroom, behind a counter in a shop. It’s fun, for a change, every now and then. But I’m far happier being the backroom boy.


Jessica Bell said...

It's quite amazing, isn't it, that writer's nowadays have to be 'faces' rather than just the words they write. I'm a recluse too. I hate going out. I have to force myself to even go to the supermarket. A whole two hours beforehand I argue with myself about it. No, I'm not agoraphobic. I just like being alone. Sometimes I don't even feel like saying thank you at a cashier. It's odd. I used to be REALLY outgoing. But ever since I started taking writing seriously, I couldn't give a damn.

I once read that Ray Carver (I LOVE HIS BOOKS, BTW, especially 'Short Cuts'), was at some novelist's release party, and he just stood in the corner of the room, with his drink huddled to his chest, watching every one the whole night. Now, I don't think I would do that. I'd feel the need to at least pretend I wanted to mingle, BUT, I would definitely WANT to do exactly what he did. Can't explain why. I guess that's just me. I guess that's just how writer's are. Do you know any writer's who actually like to party? LOL

Gwil W said...

I've put a tribute to Ray Carver on my blog. It's dated 7th October 2010 but if you enter 'Ray Carver' in the blog searchbox it'll appear.

Jim, Apropos the Solitude article I go to 3 or 4 poetry readings a year. It's not that I don't like going it's that I simply don't have the time. I'm too focussed on what I'm trying to do. I'd sooner be researching something in a museum, gallery, library etc., than listening to poems, 75% of which probably bore me although that might be my fault and not the fault of the writer. Lately I've been cuddling up with Seamus Heaney's Opened Ground - a terrific book and also an upward learning curve on the old bardic graph. I come to this blog, TTAL, a couple of times a week but I don't read or comment every time. I see blogs as magazines in waiting rooms - pick 'em up, put 'em down, and then we all have our favourites. Here is such a place.


J. C. said...

i really enjoyed this Jim. You have opened up your cards, and this is a very personal post about you, and your way of doing things. Thanks for letting us pear into it.

Brent Robison said...

Jim, you may be interested in my friend Jeffery Davis' blog post that hit the web just yesterday (great minds alike and all that):

I'm with you on everything here, in theory... but in practice I don't get enough solitude due to breadwinning, parenting, husbanding, homeowning. It is what it is, and maybe someday I'll finish another book.

Raymond Carver: one of my most deeply felt influences, an absent mentor, may he rest in peace.

Marion McCready said...

The whole publicity side must be nightmarish for writers who can't stand that sort of thing. I wish I could get to more readings but being in Dunoon and with the kids doesn't make it easy. I'd really like to hear you read at a poetry reading, they're not all full of arty groupie snobby types!! By the way it wasn't The Bell Jar Plath was writing in those 4 o'clock morning rises, it was her Ariel poems.

Jim Murdoch said...

I wouldn’t say I’m especially anti-social or even misanthropic, Jessica, but what I’ve found is that I don’t need much human interaction. I find people stimulating – it’s not as if my stories and poems don’t have any people in them or anything – but I’m never at a loss with what to do with myself when I’m alone. It’s been years since I’ve been to a party but when I do my modus operandi is generally the same: find the one person I think I can have a decent conversation with and monopolise them, either that or spend the evening in the kitchen with the women who are usually far more interesting and at the very least easier on the eye than the men.

I’ll have a look for your article Gwilym. I’ve read no Carver and I really guess I should. Just another one to add to a long list of people whose work I’ve somehow never gotten around to. I’m glad to see that you’ve become one of my regulars.

I think it’s important for me that I do open up a little every now and then, Jasko. Even though I prefer my own company I’m not self-obsessed and really have no need to talk about myself all the time but part of my self-imposed remit when I started this blog was to help newbie writers know what was going on on the inside of someone who had been at it for a while. The kind of questions that have hung over my head all my life are: Am I doing it right? Is this normal for a writer? Of course there are no right answers but it’s nice to know that there are at least one or two people out there who are similar in their approach to being a writer.

Yes, Brent, it’s easy to get caught up in all that, distracted at least. That’s why I always wanted, and made sure I got, my own office, a place of solitude. Now I have it I find I need it less than I used to. It’s like an inhaler, simply having the thing on you can stop you having an asthma attack. And it’s the same with the room. I know that I can be alone, can close the door on the world any time I like. I like that.

And, Marion, not sure where I got that bit of information on Plath but I’ve fixed it now. I really know very little about her despite having seen the film. The only bit I remember is the ending. I don’t honestly think I would have too much problem at a poetry reading – I may not be crazy about people but I’m certainly not afraid of them – but I think most of my poems are too short for reading aloud. I’ve just done a wee animation of one of my poems if you’re interested in having a look. It’s one of the longer ones and it’s still only a minute long. Anyway it was just a bit of fun. Here’s the link.

Art Durkee said...

As a known introvert, I require a certain amount of solitude every day. I need that first hour of the morning, when I can sit down with my orange juice or a cup of tea and read, think, contemplate, meditate, whatever, in solitary silence. It noticeably improves my whole day; it's noticeable if I miss a day.

But I'm not a recluse. For my mental health I need to also get out of the house for a few hours every day, and I do some of my best thinking and writing when I'm on an extended roadtrip, away from home, sleeping in a new place almost every night while on the road. I spend a lot of time alone in the truck, driving, of course, but I enjoy the conservations I have with people when I stop. I like people. I like interacting with people. People are essential to my well-being.

So it's a balance. I have regular contacts, and I also have lots of solitude. I live in a small town near a big city, which is what I usually like to do. Because small towns are quieter after dark, and you can hear yourself think. I'm very aurally sensitive, and I need lots of silence. Big city noise never ceases, and I can only take that for awhile.

I like it when people visit me. I've got a guest bedroom, and it gets some regular use. I also like that, living alone, and not in an apartment, I can play my piano at 2am if I want to.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Being a recluse, to put it simply, gives the person an aura of mystery.
Sometimes I fancy the idea that a recluse artist, poet, or writer loves celebrity more than a non-recluse...

Anyway I am not sure that being a recluse awakens feeling of mysantropy in others thinking about him or her. Maybe feelings of wonder. "what would he/she actually ever be doing now?"

Kass said...

What I like about you, Jim, is that you're so honest. I don't want people commenting on my blog because they feel compelled by reciprocal niceness. If you have to go tromping around on other people's blogs just to get them to come over and read yours, how valuable are those comments?

An interesting dichotomy is created when we retire to our studies in solitude to write, and then crave to be attended to by our contemporaries. How do we reach out and appeal to the masses without losing our contemplative creative natures?

Ken Armstrong said...

How often do I arrive here, Jim, to find you musing on things I am also thinking about? Quite often.

I whirled on the blog merry-go-round for a while. Visiting loads of good good people in the expectation that they would reciprocate and come and visit me. It became more time-consuming than I could bear. Now I accept the much-lower traffic to my blog and suffer the guilt of not supporting my online friends as well as I should.

I think, for a blog to have 'legs' it has to come down to more than a social exchange, it has to become personal... perhaps ever-increasingly personal? I don't know.

I don't expect anyone to come by my page anymore but I obviously like it when they do.

Keep up the great work and make some every valuable word you write here is saved elsewhere and backed up.

Jim Murdoch said...

Balance is one of those words I’ve come up against too many times in my life, Art. I’ve never been very good at it. I’m still not if truth be told but I’m better than I used to. For a long time in my life I was never alone apart from the odd few minutes in the loo. That’s not enough. That said I've always had good ideas in loos. I’ll be working on something, take a toilet break and resolve the issue while I’m away.

Balanced I may not be but I am a creature of habit although my days never begin in silence. I sit and try to listen to the BBC News for a half-hour over the bird’s morning shrieks, eat my hot cross bun and a couple of mandarin oranges and basically try and pull myself together. It’s not unusual though for me to say nothing in all that time and to be totally honest I usually don’t pay that much attention to the news; it’s just something to look at.

If I never left my house again it really wouldn’t worry me.

Tommaso, I see where you’re coming from and I'm sure that it's the intention of many recluses. It’s not mine. I have no doubt that I'd be more successful in promoting my writing if I went out and met my public but I don’t. I can imagine some people might think I’m snobbish, not wanting to mix with the plebs but that really isn’t it. No doubt people are curious about me but, and I expect this goes for 99% of all writers, the reality is that I’m quite dull and quite content to remain dull, to get on with my work and be left alone.

I think, Kass, we have to be objective about the mechanics of how life on the Web works. There are a handful of blogs out there that I always read and comment on. I regard these people as friends even though I dislike the term but anything less sounds offensive. But there are other blogs I make comments on for two other reasons, 1) for the backlink – these are important to improve your ranking on search engines – and, 2) in the hope of attracting new followers; the fact is that most of us will check out someone new who takes the time to comment on our site. Just because I make a comment doesn’t mean that I’m going to subscribe to their RSS feed but I don’t think this quid pro quo attitude is healthy. I subscribe to art and music sites because I like art and music but they might not like literature that much – so what?

You do need to promote youself. I look at the rankings of many of my friends and it’s pretty obvious that they’re only getting a handful of visitors every day. They’ve surrounded themselves with a small core of friends and it’s all very cosy. And that’s not bad if that’s what you’re looking for but if you really want to attract new readers you have to get off your backside – metaphorically speaking – and go find them.

When I first started in this game I literally spent hours every day trawling through the Web looking for kindred spirits. In my naiveté I thought it would be easy but it was anything but. But that initial effort paid off. Now the bulk of my new visitors come via Google and so I don’t have to work quite so hard. My next target is to break the 5000 visits a month barrier. That sounds like a lot but look back at my comments over the last few months and you will find the same names cropping up time and time again. Sometimes I feel like I’m only writing to about a dozen people.

Jim Murdoch said...

Ken, yes, I back up regularly now. I discovered a site called Backupify which saves a backup of Blogger once a week for me so I don’t have to think about it.

I look at the blogs I follow. Some, like your good self, have become people with whom I have developed something of a relationship with away from the blog and I have little doubt if one of us packed it in we would still make some effort to keep in touch. If anything the blog keeps us from getting to know each other better because it restricts what we talk about to what we’re willing to share in public but we have to be practical. And none of us wants to become a burden to others.

My blog is not typical. Most focus on the life of the individual blogger, even yours, whereas I tend to keep my distance on the whole. My reasoning there is a simple one – people will get bored of me so I try to write about topics that will keep people interested without knowing anything about me. The first rule of blogging is that quality is king. I believe that and aim to produce a quality product on a regular – but not too regular – basis. And yet, after over three years, I still haven’t reached 100 followers. Could someone please tell me what I’m doing wrong?

On the whole I’ve not found social networking sites very useful. I still belong to a few but I only use them to advertise, not socialise because that’s all I have time for. Blogging takes up a huge amount of my time once you add in all the research and reading I do but where are all the book sales? Not so many. No point moaning about it though. But a little moan every now and then is good for the soul. It most definitely is.

Art Durkee said...

I guess for me "balance" is a dynamic thing, constantly changing, constantly requiring of one to keep on top of it. More like riding a horse than sitting in a chair. The main thing is that it's a living, changing process, not a static state. I find myself challenged by it, too, all the time. But that's sometimes how life is.

Kass asks some good questions here, too, that speak to me of balance. I think they're the right questions. (Answering them means finding one's individual blend, though; no fixed formulae.)

Art Durkee said...

I went back and checked the stats on Dragoncave, my own main blog. (I have more than one, but that's the most active one.) I get around 5000 views a month (it actually lists more, but I estimate half are repeats or myself), but so what? It often doesn't lead to much dialogue. I have about two dozen followers, most of whom don't comment much, if ever. Mostly I get comments from my friendly regulars, such as yourself, which I always find stimulating. Commenting also goes in cycles, with periods where no one comments on anything. Sometimes you feel like something really interesting you have to say falls on deaf ears.

But that's no different from other kinds of publishing. Most of the time what we say falls on deaf ears. Are writers' egos really so fragile, are we really so needy that we must get regular feedback? Well, that's part of the dilemma, ennit. That whole balance between going off alone to write, then coming back to the world and craving contact. (Like I said before, Kass asked the right questions here.)

I find the craving for an audience silly most of the time, even when I can't help myself, either. I get that, too. I think it's part of the cycle, part of the dynamic balance.

The whole stereotype of the artist not caring ever about the audience is wrong, because that's an exercise in futility: after all, everyone wants to be loved, if only once or twice a year. Most want love daily. I guess we are an insecure lot.

Becoming a recluse has nothing to do with artistic isolation, but rather to do with avoiding distraction, and perhaps a bit of misanthropy. But no one who commented here can truly be called a recluse, simply because they commented here.

I also find it interesting WHAT people will comment on. Not that it's predictable. But sometimes what you think is a throwaway someone else thinks is masterful. Just goes to remind us that we're not the best judges of our own work. At least some of the time we're just plain wrong about it. What I DO know, though, is that there's no correlation between something I've slaved over, and fallen in love with, versus what anyone else thinks of it.

Jim Murdoch said...

I think perhaps a more significant figure, Art, is the amount of time people spend on our sites. Mine is up to a whopping great 1:18 (usually it sits around the one minute mark) but I would love to see a graph showing the spread. For all I know some bloke could have clicked on my site and then gone off and had his tea and all the rest were there for two or three seconds. Does it matter? Yes, it does. If I didn’t have an audience (albeit, like you, a faithful few) I would work on different things and take much longer doing my research. I could have written a whole book on Young Werther for example there were so many fascinating aspects worthy of investigating but the most I felt I could afford to commit to it was a week. If no one is reading what I write then I’ll just suit myself. No one does anything for nothing. Everyone needs a bit of encouragement now and again. Sure we can work without it, and I have, but an, “Atta boy,” every now and then does no harm whatsoever.

As for what catches people’s interests, well. People always surprise me. It’s like the reviews of my poetry book, the poems chosen were never what I would have picked but those are the ones that touched something in them. When it comes to your posts though I pick something usually I feel I can comment on and say something meaningful. If I don’t comment at all it’s purely down to lack of time. Sometimes I’ll leave one lying around for a day or two and then find you’ve posted another couple. I simply can’t keep up and I’m not going to start leaving daft comments like, “Great post,” just to prove I’ve been there.

On the whole recluse vs artistic isolation thing I have to say that these days I veer more towards the former than the latter. Yes, I spend most of my time alone working but I chose to have a day off I’d probably spend it in front of the tele rather than rushing outside to congregate with my fellow man.

Devin Bond said...

I'm a bit reclusive, but it's hard to allow myself to be so when I'm trying to get myself into the publishing world. It's all about getting your name out there and getting attention.

I was wondering if you had any advice on how to stay true to your nature but still get your name out in the world?

Marion McCready said...

I liked the animation! I think your poems would work well at a reading, you could read them in groups which would sort out the problem of them being too short!

Scattercat said...

I've always found it nearly impossible to write around others. It feels rude to retreat that far into my own activities, even though what I'm doing half the rest of the time is just as antisocial. Perhaps it's not so much me worried for them as me worried about them; I fear being interrupted once the writing is begun, and few things are worse, in my opinion.

Still, at the end of the article, I am left with one question: Do I want to know what was happening with the platypus?

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for dropping by, Devin. I’m really not sure what to advise you. I guess it depends how far ‘out there’ you’d like to be. If, like me, you’re going to play it safe and stick to online exposure it’s easier to manage but it takes a while to get people’s attention. The really successful blogs – ‘success’ being a relative term – are those where people are themselves. That doesn’t mean they spend all their time talking about themselves (some do) but they do what comes naturally and is something they can sustain over a period of time. If I was only writing about little ol’ me I’d have dried up within a few weeks. Instead I decided what my blog would be about – a fairly broad topic but not without its limits – and stuck to it. Where I’m true to myself is in the way I present the material. I write as I talk. I don’t dwell on myself but I don’t avoid talking about myself. I stay pretty much within the limits I set at the start.

Talking about romantic love they say there’s someone out there for everyone. The same goes for readers and writers. There will be someone out there who will connect with what you have to say the way you choose to say it. You can’t please all the people all the time, be grateful if you please any of the people any of the time. If you try to be something you’re not you’ll get caught out because you won’t be able to maintain it for any length of time. The best thing is to look at what you’re good at and work on it: be the best you that you can be. That might mean that Penguin will never publish you but so what. There are plenty of other ways to reach an audience. More people read my poetry online than ever did in the days of the small presses. And isn’t that what writers want? If we can earn a couple of quid along the way that’s a bonus.

Marion, glad you liked the wee animation. I have another poem that I think would work quite well which I’ll have a crack at when I can spare the time. Fun these might be but they take a while to animate. As for reading in public, yes, I suppose I could do poems in clumps – I’d never really thought of that – but I'm still in no rush.

And Scattercat, as far as my dad was concerned the existence of the platypus was all the proof he needed that God had a sense of humour. I guess that’s why I used the platypus here. As far as working around others, I’ve always had a place I could retreat to – well, most of my life – if only a bedroom and so it’s never been that much of an issue. When Carrie and I first married we shared an office – we even tried to share a computer for a week or two like that was going to work out – but it was never a problem. I think being around someone who gets what you’re doing – and respects what you’re doing – helps.

Unknown said...

I am told that the 1st sentence I uttered was, "Zee me zone." I enjoy hiding and do a lot of it. As a kid one of my desires was to grow up to be a hermit, though I did not succeed at that. What I have learned is how to appear open and hide at the same time.

There are social groups where I do not hide, tradespeople, musicians, painters and sculptors but as for writers I pretty much cannot handle myself very well when I am with them in person. Too much stimulation? At a party I would be standing in a corner with a bourbon in hand with the added caveat that nobody in the room would recognize to know me. I would watch and try to listen. I imagine we might find each other for the protective cover to look as if we were being social?

After three bourbons I might loudly tell an oddly displaced story then feel a need to retreat. I will tell them it is all your fault.

As for blogging, every writer that I know who asks about blogging I tell them to follow you. I do not know any writer who does it better or more professionally, and regularly or with quite such an interesting exploration.

Jim Murdoch said...

You know it’s always the case, isn’t it, Gabe? You’re just about ready to pack it all in and go and live under a rock and someone comes along and says something nice like that. I’m touched.

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