It’s a funny old world.
If I were to be so stupid as to remove my clothes in public I could be arrested and charged with indecency, exposure and whatever other laws are on the books.
But if I publish a novel which reaches into the mind of characters and seeks to illuminate feelings, motivations and thoughts, then the fact that I am exposing myself is perfectly alright. It’s acceptable and no police officer is going to come knocking on my door.
But is it really alright?
It’s a struggle for me. My entire career as a journalists and communications professional has been spent telling the stories of other people. I delved into their deepest thoughts and examined their actions and motives as well as their beliefs without a second thought. As a professor in a college public relation programme, I taught others how to tell their stories.
When I began to write my novels, and especially when they were published and out in the marketplace, the sense of personal exposure and its ramifications hit home. And, as I send my third novel out to the public this month, the anxiety and hand-wringing gets no easier.
In every book, I expose myself, my beliefs, my thoughts, my hopes, my fears, my dark side and my optimistic side. Oh sure, it comes out through the various characters that inhabit the plot, and my characters are an amalgam of people I have met and interacted with, the good ones and the bad ones, mixed with a good dollop of my own ingredients.
But I expose myself by putting the work out under my name. I lay it all out there for people to like or dislike, and it’s an uncomfortable feeling. What if they don’t like it? What if, instead of a police officer coming to the door, it’s a negative critic telling the world how bad the book is?
I am vulnerable during this time. My ego is out there waiting for something to happen; hoping it’s love and praise and worrying that it will be disdain, angry dismissal or, worst of all, apathy. Exposure of this kind, to my mind, is just as disturbing as streaking down the main street of a major city in rush hour.
It’s a level of insecurity that rises above the norm. In the moments before a book signing or event that insecurity can make my legs shake, my stomach churn and then tie itself into knots. It is only alleviated by the responses from readers or the delight in people’s eyes as they purchase a copy and then cradle it on the way home. It’s also eased by the first reviews that indicate that, by and large, if I did O or not..
So why do it? Why go through the hard slogging, the days and nights of angst, the days or sometimes weeks of creative block all of which are the agony and ecstasy of writing novels?
Because I am bursting to tell these stories. I want to entertain. I want to engage readers and make them think; to offer them new ways of dealing with the ups and downs of life. I want to take them out of their world and give them hope. I want them to understand that while there is much evil in this world, there is also much good; while there is despair there is hope.
So, there it is. Another book in the marketplace. Another round of anxiety and sweating. But another opportunity to expose myself and hope that people will be entertained, challenged and, in the end, satisfied.
A good glass of wine might be in order!
(for information on Barrie and his books, go to http://www.barriedoyle.com)