Writing used to be the haven of the socially inept.
We could be shy, cowering in our garrets. Wallflowers, plain or geeky but secretly brilliant . . . we might appear to be nobodies now but would become famous after slipping away from our unappreciated lives. Think Emily Dickinson or John Kennedy Toole. Among the living, there’s Thomas Pynchon–even Lemony Snicket.
Then there were the rude, brooding authors, often drunk and brutally honest, even more often drunk and wildly dishonest. Their boozing or drug-taking was excusable, along with occasional foul mouths and surly or arrogant demeanor, because these were souls tortured by the inner visions struggling to emerge. Hemingway is my ultimate example of this stereotype, but you might prefer Bukowski.
Back in the day, writers didn’t have to appear in public. Or if they did, they didn’t have to presentable. Unkempt clothes and a growth of beard added to the mystique. Women could wander the streets in pajamas like Emma Thompson in Stranger Than Fiction. If you were a writer, you could talk to yourself. Life was good.
What the hell happened?
I aspired to that style of authorship. Mystique becomes me. I can brood well when motivated, and I do talk to myself, though drugs and drinking are out. But someone has changed the rules, and I’m not happy about that. In fact, I may start drinking in protest.
Where once writers communicated solely through their work, they are now expected to be media-savvy on all levels. The ideal author is animated and coherent–check them out o YouTube. They wow their fans at TED Talks and conventions, and make entertaining party guests.
Technologically, today’s authors are conversant with Twitter, post selfies on Instagram, and stand ready to jump on the mastery bandwagon of whatever the Next Big Thing turns out to be.
I honed my craft–writing–for years so that I could be invisible. If I wanted to charm folks into buying my books I would’ve gotten hair implants and budgeted for a better wardrobe. And I hate letting a trendy avatar speak for me–where are the rotund and sagging characters?
Posting this blog essay represents the summit of my technological expertise. And I like it that way. Dammit , Jim, I’m a writer, not a programmer!
Yes, I know I’m pissing into the wind. But what good is a blog if I can’t vent on in once in a while?