The double life of an author

300px-Superhero.svgAs a writer you can sometimes feel you lead a double life. On the one hand I have my normal existence: my day job, working in PR for the children’s charity WellChild; my family, towering teenagers, dog to walk, dinner to cook. Then, once I’ve done a quick change in the phone box, I’m Chris Hill, Author. New book coming out, shiny new website. There‘s blogs to write, publicity to attend to, social media to … um, socialise with. Oh yeah, and writing to do.

The two of me don’t really intersect all that much. The readers of my books aren’t all that fussed about what I do outside of writing them, and frankly, why should they be? Authors are like comedians it seems to me, usually pretty boring when they are not doing that thing they do. And I’ve always been a great believer that you should read the book, not the biography of the writer. I feel the text has to stand or fall on its own merit – not be propped up because it was written by some celebrity say, or because the author lives a fascinating life (let’s see it on the page then).

On the other side of the equation, my writing life doesn’t intrude particularly on the rest of my world either. Occasionally someone at work might enquire about how my books are going. Do I have another one out? Am I writing at the moment? They do this to be polite, same way you might ask about someone’s kids and how they were getting on at school. Mostly though, they don’t do it at all, presumably working on the assumption that if they ask, there’s a very real danger I might actually tell them.

Even at home my writing isn’t much of an issue. My wife hasn’t read either of my published books and doesn’t intend to – books aren’t her thing, and that’s fine with me. We all have our own interests in life and I don’t see it as my job to push my concerns on other people.

So my non-writing friends know that ‘writing me’ exists in some shadowy way, but they mostly forget about him as irrelevant. And, as for my readers, the everyday me really is an irrelevance. Double life see?

I suspect most writers live that way – even the few lucky enough to make a living through their craft alone, who don’t have a ‘real job’ to pay the mortgage and keep the kids in trainers. They will still be surrounded by people with other concerns who see them as themselves rather than as ‘Author’.

And that’s a good thing. Because there would be nothing so destructive for a writer as to become so immersed in the world of words that they lost their sense of the everyday. Then what would you write about? Where would you find the solid ground for your feet to rest on?

Sometimes writers end up writing about writing. The central characters in their stories are novelists or poets or similar. I believe that’s admitting defeat. It’s saying ‘I know nothing but this’.

That’s not for me, I’m happy to lead a double life.

What do you think? Do you care about a writer’s life, or like to keep the author and the book separate? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

 

9781910094167-full-lores2If you want to find a little more about my new book The Pick-Up Artist there’s a blurb describing the plot on the publisher’s website.

And you can pre-order a copy too! Just click here to find out more.

18 thoughts on “The double life of an author”

  1. Whoa! I live the same double life – how did you know? Lol I’ve seen it with my two blogs and Twitter accounts (@SandieWillWrite and @Rock-HeadScience). The first is my author account and the second is my geology account (my profession by day). Both are active, but seldom intertwine.

    1. That’s interesting, how you have two different selves even online. Before my first book found a publisher I wasn’t online at all in any way and did no social media so I suppose the fact I’m here at all is because of author me 😉

  2. This is quite an interesting, thought-provoking blog, Chris. As an author and musician, as well as a retired teacher, I feel I lived a “double life” for over 20 years. I was not happy with it. I’ve longed to live one life only. Just be the artist. Funny, now I make a living as a musician and an author (my books still aren’t successful enough to support me), and I still feel as though I live a double life. Why? I do nothing but art now. I think it’s because the public doesn’t know who I really am, only the artist they “perceive.” I guess you’re right: perhaps the two never meet … and maybe they shouldn’t. Besides, if one were “just” an artist, what would that be like? I picture some impossibly eccentric, hermetic, Thoreau-like scenario. Yikes …

    1. Welcome to my new site Jesse! And yes, I agree with you that it can be a good thing to have some space and perhaps different compartments in our lives. I think everyone does it to an extent, the work ‘you’ and family ‘you’ might be different for example. But I think it’s maybe more pronounced for some people where they find themselves in two or more quite different environments and perhaps writers fall into that category.

  3. “Sometimes writers end up writing about writing. The central characters in their stories are novelists or poets or similar. I believe that’s admitting defeat. It’s saying ‘I know nothing but this’.”

    There’s a lot of truth in that short little paragraph!

    I too lead a double life. My spouse cares not one whit for reading and, frankly, it’s probably a good thing. Some of my characters ‘resemble’ people in my other life enough that – though the names and situations are changed to protect the innocent – recognition might be possible. Though I write complete fiction, some stuff that happens you just can’t make up and it’s too good not to twist it and use it in a story! That’s when my two lives intersect.

    1. That’s a good point Anne, that’s when the two worlds do collide when we (carefully) insert a bit of real life into our fiction – changing the names, the blame and whatever else needs to be doctored to ward off reality!

  4. Writing can be such an odd, almost magical process it’s hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t do it. It almost feels like a secret life. I find when I’m writing fiction I’m completely immersed in another, made-up world. I get totally wrapped up in the lives of make-believe people – who feel very real to me. When I’m caught up in writing a book I feel as if my ‘other’ life is something very separate. As you say, Chris, you need both. Where would your material come from otherwise?

  5. HELLO CHRIS,

    I learn so much from you!
    I have no teenagers to worry about, only know how to cook coffeee (burn it too, sometimes), the area I need most improvement in is TIME MANAGEMENT! You have pointed me in the right direction.

    THANKS, a great weekend to you!

    Best,
    Mike Phelps

    1. Ha – thanks Mike, you are right – finding time is the hardest thing isn’t it? I’d love to be writing something new but right now, with my new book coming out and all the work that entails, it just isn’t happening – maybe later in the year. How do you burn coffee?

  6. This is a really thought-provoking post, Chris. I do that thing called ‘work’ to pay my bills and find it incredibly difficult to be these two people, one of whom is immersed in writing and all that being creative entails; the other…. well, the other is just a body who does their job and goes home at the end of the day. Unlike you, I just want the one life! 🙂

    1. That’s funny, if I had to choose I don’t know which I would pick. I’d want writing of course. But only if I could take all the worthwhile bits of my other life with me.

  7. Not just “job vs writing” or “home vs writing.” There’s also “writing vs selling.” We must manage our writing schedule to include time for creative (new project) and time for business – marketing, selling, promoting, platform building, social-media connecting, etc. It’s exhausting!

    1. Yep – these days authors can do lots more to help their books than they used to be able to in terms of promoting them, but it’s all extra work isn’t it! 🙂

  8. I struggled for a long time with ‘You’re only a *real* writer if you do it full time’
    I love the fact that I have different lives, professional, empty nest mother, dog walker, triathlete, knit one drop one knitter & writer. It would be boring otherwise!

    1. Me too! I think there are vanishingly few fiction writers who only do that and nothing else these days. Even quite big names have other income streams.

  9. I am leading a double life of an unpublished writer. I long to leave the corporate world and be able to be who I really am, because I think the other me is only acting most days just to survive the both of us. Sometimes I take a couple of days off to do my rewrites and those days are the best. I think writers who just write about writing and their characters are writers and poets have not experienced the joy of a double life.

    1. It’s great to have a balance between the two I think. Not sure I would like to do nothing but writing. On the other hand it might be nice to try it for a while, but to do that one of my books would actually have to make some significant money, and that doesn’t look likely! 🙂

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