I am Schrodinger’s Cat. And I’m getting a little sick of it, frankly. Is it too much to ask for the wave function to collapse already? Yeah, I know. At the end of it all I might be dead. I might not. But at least the whole mess will be #$@# settled.
Fine, it’s a metaphor. Or rather, a metaphorical description of an actual situation. (And for anyone who hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about, Google “Schrodinger’s Cat,” and you’ll find more than you ever wanted to know). The point is that I’m trying to be two things at once, and they are mutually exclusive things, so basically I’m at war with myself on a continual basis, and how’s that working out? Not so well. I know I’m not alone in this, in fact I strongly suspect that many of you out there are have the same problem, and this is it in the proverbial nutshell—I want my work to be well known and widely read. I personally do not want to be well known. But achieving one almost always negates the other, unless you’re writing under a pseudonym, and even that’s not a gurantee.
From a practical standpoint, writing is the perfect avocation for someone who doesn’t especially want to be noticed. First of all, odds are you won’t be noticed. Second, unless you’re a screenwriter or working another collaborative medium, it’s all on you, and the work is usually done in solitude, or at least self-absorption. Which is why writers often make terrible mates, because if you’re focused and in the zone and the work is going well, rocks could take obliviousness lessons from you, and even another writer isn’t going to understand the necessity, all the time. So you try to keep your writing and your personal life in balance. You don’t always succeed, but the point remains that you don’t usually need other people to get your work done. Isolation, either figurative or literal, is your stock in trade. Frankly, when circumstances hand me an unbroken string of “alone time,” I tend to go into hermit mode, and I don’t emerge until dragged out of it.
All this from a guy who of his own free will created a blogging web site and updates it weekly, sometimes more often? How does that jibe with keeping a low profile, hmmm? “Methinks he doth protest too much.” Yeah, I know, but it’s a risk I’ll take, especially since it illustrates the conundrum so well. Yes, I have a fairly large ego. I own that, but show me a writer who doesn’t, and I’ll show you a river in Egypt. We can take that as read. So how does that square with the desire for personal anonymity? As I said, I want my work to be well known and widely read. That’s more than enough for one ego to carry, even a big one. I’ve talked about this before but it bears repeating—the act of writing for publication takes an enormous ego. I mean, think about it—you actually have to believe that something you made up out of your twisted psyche is worth someone else’s money and, more to the point, precious, irreplaceable time to read. You really have to believe that something you wrote is that good, that important, that interesting. Seriously, can a person get more arrogant than that? I mean, outside of politics? I have my doubts.
But that’s what I want for my books and stories. It isn’t what I want for me personally, and that’s the difference. I’m just not comfortable in the limelight. For instance, I like conventions because I have friends that I never get to see any other time. I also hate conventions because if I’m there, I feel the necessity to “be on” and do panels and readings to promote the work, which is the only way I can justify the expense and hassle of traveling. The writers who make conventions work for them are generally those who enjoy all aspects, the social and the professional, and end the weekend feeling recharged and renewed. Not me. By the end I’m exhausted, wiped out even, and it takes days, sometimes weeks to recover.
As for blogging, sometimes that appears to me less like putting up a neon marquee and more like hiding in plain sight. For one thing, this is mostly a writing blog, which automatically limits the potential audience somewhat (I can’t imagine the average reader (not you, Serge) stumbling across this site and reading to this point without their eyes glazing over). If I were smarter and really wanted to draw traffic, I’d make it more of a reader-oriented blog, and figure out how to make that work to draw interest to the books. Only I don’t know how, and the reason I don’t know how is that a part of me doesn’t want that and won’t try, because it would inevitably draw more attention to me personally. See the problem? As a writer I want two entirely different things, and I can’t have both, and I won’t give up either one.
You can imagine how well this works when it comes to self-promotion, which is pretty much necessary to reach readers and sell books. And there’s the dilemma–How does one reconcile these two contrary impulses? I don’t know. I’m not even sure you can. At this point I’m just trying to keep them from destroying each other and taking me along for the ride. So I keep looking for the “Happy Medium” a la Madeleine L’Engle, and not quite finding her. There’s got to be a way, so I’ll keep looking.
At least until I know for sure that the cat is dead.