News: The Personal Is Public

2012-12-04 20:45:PM ago by nicole.boyce

So you’ve published your first chapbook and you’re worried about fame. The autographs, the paparazzi – how will you handle it?  Are you ready to start selling your mucous on eBay?
Laugh if you will, but fame is a true concern for many writers. Between writing about celebrities, writing for celebrities and writers as celebrities, fame and writing have gone well past second base. Some may argue that the cult of the author is waning, but to them I ask this: Why do I know how J.K. Rowling likes her hair styled?
Yet it does seem strange, writing as a public act. Writing can feel innately private – the transmission of thoughts to paper, the scooping of the mind like a melon. It’s personal, this expulsion; some even consider it too personal to perform in public.
But writing, by its nature, is also public. Sharing is the whole point (and if not, filling Station has some soul searching to do). The public aspect of writing – the readings, the community events, the very act of sharing a published thought – demonstrates that personal doesn’t necessarily mean private. For writers, public comes with the turf.
Although this is especially true in an age of social media and online harrumphing, fame has always been a loving rash on the skins of successful writers. Looking at the history of writers as public figures, Humanities discusses responses to fame: courting it, accepting it, dodging it like an odious relative. You can do as Emily Dickinson did, and market yourself as backwash, or you can accept the inevitable and join your local Toastmasters. Presenting and marketing yourself in the public eye is an inevitable part of creating art. How – and to what extent – you engage with this process is your choice, but one thing’s for sure: you’d better start saving your Kleenex.

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