Tuesday 18 January 2011

The private life of the writer

My family all seem to be performers. My mother was an actress, my sister trained as one, my brother's a pianist. But I think I'm temperamentally different. Although I studied 'cello for a while, I now realise that one of the things that stood in my way (apart from lacking sufficent talent!) is not liking to be the centre of attention. Which got me thinking.

Is this one of the reasons we write? Is it because, while being creative, we can stand back from what we do, and don't necessarily have to be around when it's meeting its public? One of our number has recently been upset by a rather nasty review, and I know we all sympathise with that. But at least that writer wasn't there when the criticism was made; didn't have to show their hurt and distress. I think perhaps many of us are quite private people. We scribble (or tap) away on our own, and send our offerings out into the world without having to go with them. We get news of them, and we rejoice (or not) over their progress, but we don't have to be there. We are that little bit removed (although it doesn't always feel like it).

I'm currently reading the latest novel by Andrea Levy - the Long Song (wonderful!). At the back, there's a Q&A section in which she says the worst part of being a writer is having to promote her work (although it was comforting to know that even a writer as successful as she is has to do it at all). Quite. I've yet to meet any writer who enjoys book signings. For me, they are the stuff of nightmares!


  1. I hate being the centre of attention too. Interesting about Andrea Levy - and rather nice to know!

  2. I have a love/hate relationship with being the center of attention. I hate the idea of it, but when I'm there I get into it. I'm not sure what that means. lol

  3. I don't mind being the centre of attention as long as it only happens now and again. But book signings are the pits. I think being the centre of attention is Ok as long as you're in control of what's happening - eg talking to a book group or being part of a Q and A session. When it's more free-form, it can be a nightmare.
    But do you still play the cello? - such a lovely instrument.

  4. Thanks for those comments. Alis - I think you've hit the nail on the head (for me, anyway). It's not being in control that's awful. I quite like doing talks too, once I get into it. So maybe I'm not so much as a non-performer as a control freak...

    I gave up the cello a few years ago as there wasn't anyone around to play with. It's not much fun on your own. But I have a yen to try the trumpet and play in a brass band, Sally Army style!