The side effects of being a writer
You’ve heard those drug commercials with the laundry list of possible side effects.
This drug may cause stomach upset, drowsiness, changes in eye color, walking, driving or having an affair in your sleep, colored urine or amnesia.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the side effects of being a writer. They are often as unexpected and funny as those listed above (which are all REAL, by the way, depending on the drug used.) I’ve kept a diary of my experience as a debut author and I can tell you – I have a list of unexpected side effects, all of which make me smile.
- Strangers send me nice emails. (This is simply wonderful. Please email your favorite authors. Who doesn’t want a friendly note?)
- Strangers send me emails demanding to know more about the ending. (This makes me smile.)
- I only make about $1 per book. (But I get paid much more in other means than money.)
- People tell me the acknowledgements were one of the favorite things in the book. (Wow, I wrote that paragraph in what, ten minutes?)
- People ask me when my next book is coming out. (Squeeee!)
- Readers ask me how I could write the point of view of a man so believably. (I never thought about this when I was writing the book, but virtually everything I’ve ever written has been from the perspective of a man.)
But recently, our lovely blogger Lisa got in touch with me after reading Janeology and posed a new thought. She commented “I’m curious. I’ve gotten to know you a bit through Facebook and on your blog and was surprised by the dark subject of your book.”
Talk about things that make you think.
Lisa’s curiosity got me to thinking about the whole nature of public perception as it relates to blogging and Facebook. This is a fascinating area all by itself. For instance, one of my Facebook friends met a girl, fell in love with a girl and broke up with a girl – and I read about the entire relationship life-cycle via his Facebook status updates. Reading the intimacies of his joy through heartbreak – one sentence at a time – probably caused me to make assumptions about his personality. By the time of the break-up, I was ready to flog the girl who broke his heart. She seemed mean and cruel while he seemed so sensitive and misunderstood.
Was this true? Maybe. Or maybe he was the jerk. Or maybe worse – a stalker! Only he knows. But his Facebook personality certainly made him sympathetic.
Now, this whole topic makes me wonder if a writer’s virtual personality necessarily has to match his/her writing themes. Do I necessarily need to post things about human nature and the dark nuances of humanity so you’ll know I write novels about troubled souls? Perhaps I do, but the blog wouldn’t last for long.
When I was first published, I did whatever my publisher advised. If they said, start a blog, I did. If they said join every social networking site, I did. I thought I was blogging to sell books, but then I realized I was doing it for the sheer benefits of connecting with other people. A writer’s day is pretty solitary, but checking in with blog friends and Facebook pals is sort of like getting up and walking over to a co-worker’s cubicle and saying “Hey, did you get those TPS reports?”
So for this reason, I’ve created a blog that (I think) offers the kind of at-work discussion I’d like to have with you during a stressful day. Sometimes it reflects my writing themes, but mostly it reflects my writing struggles and my reading interests. When I take a break from writing a particularly emotional scene, it’s nice to switch gears and read a book review or write an opinion piece. Does this give an opposite impression from the themes of my writing? Well, yes. Only time will tell if that has an impact on my future readership. My upcoming novel, PRODIGAL SON, is about the ripple effect hypocrisy has on a family after their patriarch, a famous mega-preacher, falls from grace. Will it sway readers either way if, on the day this book is released, I post on essay on why I think the Snuggie craze is hilarious? Maybe so.
I guess what I’ve realized about my conversation with Lisa is this: Having a virtual personality is an interesting side effect of being a novel writer. And come what may, I’ll continue to do it because the social benefits are far greater than I could ever have imagined. (And where else can I write my opinions on Snuggie’s?)