Thursday, March 26, 2009

Can a writer be attention-shy and successful?

While waiting for my son on Sunday afternoon, I tried to make a short video of myself using my new (cheap) Flip camcorder and found I had nothing to say when the camera was pointed at me.

How can a person who proclaims herself to be so visual and verbal be so shy when it comes to presenting herself in person?  Aim a camera at me or have me stand up and share my thoughts in a crowd and my mind freezes, but I'm able to pour words onto a page without any hesitation, whether spontaneously or on-cue. I can more easily shape my thoughts with my fingers than my mouth.

I'd thought about creating a video for YouTube where I would read some of my musings and link to my blog, just to garner more traffic to the site. Given my discomfort at being taped or photographed, I'm obviously not going to be any kind of visual media star. I am uncomfortable being the center of attention. I prefer being on the sidelines, tucked into a corner, scribbling, or speaking among friends, in a lively give-and-take.

Would I really want to garner a lot of traffic to this site? Perhaps I would feel more shy about writing a few paragraphs of whatever was on my mind if I knew, right away, 5,000 people were waiting to devour it. The words would have too much weight, then; I'm not sure I could get them out. When I write blog posts now, it is to a quiet, unseen audience. It is the writing itself that is the focus, the joy of getting the words out and shaping ideas, without any need to persuade or influence.

Yet, I don't want to end up like women who have kept their thoughts in notebooks that are tossed into the fire or sent, unread, to the dump after they die. Is there a middle ground here? Perhaps to be just a little bit read, by a wise and selective few or by a small crowd of friends?

Mainly I write these blog posts so I will have a place to store my thoughts, which won't disappear if my hard disk crashes or my house burns down. And also so I will write something at least once a week; otherwise, the time would probably slip by and I wouldn't write anything down.

So, why should I expect readers to seek out my small musings when this is really no more an electronic version of my writer's notebook? I don't have the answer for that right now.

1 comment:

Chandra Garsson said...

Perhaps your readers can supply some answers. As a member of you "quiet, unseen audience", and I do consider myself one of the "wise and selective ones":-), I might venture a thought or two. There is a middle ground, probably especially for people like yourself who are both exceptionally talented, and also you have people who genuinely care about you, who will archive your work. more than likely that will be your husband and/or your children. It is one of the many reasons why an artist of any stripe is best off making sure they have strong connections to others who love and care about them personally, beyond considerations about the work itself. Who cared about Van Gogh? Really, only his brother, who died before Van Gogh. Luckily there was someone connected to Theo, who cared so much for her husband, that the caring extended to her husband's brother, Vincent, and so it is because of one person only, Vincent's sister-in-law, that the world eventually allowed itself to take part in the joy of one genius's works. Her name escapes me at the moment...Wilhemina? Saskia? Astrid? What was the name of the one person who cared enough about Emily Dickinson to search through her things to find for us, the world, Emily's great wealth of treasure, in a chest of all places? So, I believe it is a matter of truly caring for others, and then someone will truly care about our masterpieces and "scribbles" (often they too turn out to be great works). And we should all remember, in this family-obsessed culture, family can mean many things. Meanwhile, there is every possibility that your readership will grow, soon and beyond your expectations. What is around the next corner, none of us knows; that is what gives me hope.