‘Great time to be a writer,’ everyone keeps reminding me in these tricky Virus Times. And they’re not wrong. Solitude – currently trending as ‘self-isolation’ – is the lot of every novelist. There’s no way you can create a coherent document of around 100,000 words without spending a massive amount of time with only your computer/notepad for company.
And I’m ok with that. I would call myself an introvert by nature – except that ‘introvert’ carries a bit of a pejorative whiff, being someone who’s not exactly the life and soul of the party. But it’s true, I don’t like parties much – they make me nervous weeks in advance of the event – and I do like being on my own for long periods.
But the actually writing of a novel is only one part of being a novelist. The other part is selling and marketing the book. And for that, you have to sell and market yourself. Have your photograph taken to go on your website/social media etc; appear at festivals and launches in front of an audience. Hope they like you enough to buy your book at the end. In fact, you’re generally expected to be jolly and sociable and out there.
Hmm… the thing is, I haven’t liked a photograph of myself since I was about three – when I was quite cute, although I say so myself. And it’s no help when people say, ‘Oh, that’s a lovely photo of you’, because that just tells me what I do actually look like these days. Sometimes Hair and Makeup helps. But then I don’t really look like me, just a polished, glammed up version I barely recognise.
And social media? Argh! I’m in awe of those who have a lively, ongoing dialogue with their fan base. The good ones manage to be witty and revealing so that you feel you’re being allowed a good nose around their lifestyle. But I can never think of the right tweet to grip my audience. Is this seagull perched on the wall a candidate?
Is the carrot soup I made for lunch aesthetically beautiful enough? Seems terminally boring to me. I don’t have a cute, photogenic pet, either, and my family members are strangely resistant…
In the end, it’s just a case of muddling through, and casting an envious eye on those novelists who seem so comfortable in both camps. And I suppose, in the end, it’s really all about the book. If it’s selling like hot cakes, no one will mind if your photo is grisly and your tweeted bowl of carrot soup is, well, like any other bog-standard bowl of carrot soup.