Someone I just met the other day asked me what it was like to live “the writing life.” I tried not to laugh out loud. He made it sound like I must be holed up in a sleazy hotel room someplace “on the road,” with a portable typewriter, slugging scotch out of the bottle and raving about my childhood traumas. The answer is, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to challenge your imagination every day, pushing it further, forcing it to perform. It’s also scary, because your paycheck depends upon your ability to do this, and the imagination is a notoriously uncooperative thing. Then, of course, there’s the issue or marketing oneself, which I used to think was a thing you could hire someone else to do, but no. I can’t hire someone else to write my blogs can I? When my writing is the very thing that defines my work? So, I entered the world of blogging and I found that I liked it. It’s my warm up every morning. Sometimes, it’s my cool down at night, too. So the marketing life has turned out to be a pretty interesting addition to the writing life. The best part about it is having an audience and being able to reach out to them.
Imagine Kerouac, holed up in that dingy hotel room, pouring his heart into that clacking old typewriter, never knowing if anyone but his close friends would ever read his work. No wonder he drank so much! I am inclined to complain about all this marketing and image-making and so forth (because it’s newfangled and at my age, I’m allowed to be a grinch) but really, now that I’m doing it, I realize that having an audience is a wonderful addition to “the writing life.”
Now, I’ve entered into a new realm of the marketing life. See pic above! Trying to link my blogs over to facebook and Pinterest to reach out to more folks that want to know about ghostwriting and memoirs and general nerdy writing stuff. So last night, “the writing life” became all about tossing and turning, having nightmares about this photography business that’s supposedly now part of the writing business. Being the kind of person that can make any simple thing complicated, I rose in the dead of night and fooled around with all kinds of editing programs and stolen images and cut-outs and thought bubbles and special effects until I realized I could just take a damn picture of some books and get the point across. I think the key to the writing life in 2015 is just that–trying to maintain as much simplicity as possible in a world that offers you a million options.
I think the old “writing life” was about plumbing the imagination for avante garde notions in a pretty simple world where lifestyle options were few. Now, it’s about the exact opposite–winnowing out all the interesting options in order to find that pretty-simple world inside you, where you find some style, plot, character, tone, and world of your own to focus on, excluding all the “roads supposedly less traveled.” Today, we call it branding yourself, but that sounds like something you do for public perception. Really, it’s something I think you do for your own sanity.