As 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.
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