Today’s guest is Kathryn Magendie, the author of five novels and a novella published through Bell Bridge Books—most recently The Lightning Charmer coming out this month. She’s also the Publishing Editor of The Rose & Thorn (which just recently closed its doors after fifteen years), and former Personal Trainer. She lives in a little log house tucked within a cove in Maggie Valley, Western North Carolina—where all the wild things are.
Of her post today, Kathryn says…
Thoughts of the “isolation” of this job came to me when I realized most every character I write is lonely. Then I recognized that I, me, myself, lil ole Kat Magendie, was deeply, incredibly, sadly, lonely. Well, danged if I didn’t feel right pitiful. I then read other WU posts, other author’s FB updates and Twitter feeds, and realized that feeling of isolation is shared—we’re all at one big banquet table, but the banquet table has partitions so that even though we’re surrounded by people, we’re still eating alone. I allowed myself to feel pitiful for about a week, and then I decided it was time to do something about the isolation. We’re much more than we appear to be, we band of writers, we.
The “Isolated Author”
We can see the clichéd “isolated author,” one who writes in her fuzzy socks, a bottle of vodka—make that a healthy smoothie, yeah—by her side, creating micro-worlds where tiny-in-our-peahead-but-oh-so-much-bigger-than-life characters frolic and play and bring joy and epiphanies to all the land of readers. Farther pan out and see the writer hunched over her keyboard, ever more pan out and see the study she sits in with books and pens and pencils and chapstick and good luck charms and crumbs littering her keyboard and lap, and farther still to see her little log house, and outward we go ever outward to the Moon. And there we’ll stop a moment and consider just how tiny this author is. Just how inconsequential, miniscule. All the scurrying and living and loving and being around her is muffled and dark because all she experiences is: “tippity tappity tippity tappity tippity tappity *slurp munch* tippity tappity.”
The truth is, the more an author puts herself out there (But of course I mean you guys, too—we’re genderless in the World of Writing), the more isolated she becomes. The more public her life, the more private she must be. It’s an insidious endeavor, one she doesn’t recognize until it is almost too late—when the crazies visit upon her *picture here the Harpies from Jason and the Argonauts, feasting upon the sanity laid out in bounty upon the table until there’s nothing left but scraps of rational thought.*
Why, she’s on Facebook every day—several times a day! And there’s Twitter, maybe a blog, and letters/emails/messages from readers. She scurries here there and yonder, fiddle-dee-dee’ing right and left to all dangity and back. But remember that image? The one from the Moon? She’s cornered herself, rolled into a tight ball, tossed the armor about herself, because it all becomes a little bit Too Scary.
Warning Signs that you may have isolated yourself too much, or “it seemed like a good idea at the time:”
In a fit of Method Writing (much like the Method Acting Daniel Day-Lewis used for Lincoln), take on the persona of the character of the book you are now writing. You eat what she eats. You shove your significant other on the bed, holler “Shut up!” and then bite him on the shoulder. You take long walks in the deep dark woods hoping to see the deep dark scarred stranger who’ll sweep you off to his magical between world where everything will be sparkly and otherworldly, and hot sweaty sexy. And then you write the scene where your character has a sexual encounter with a lightning bolt, and you think, “Wow! That was intense! Wouldn’t that be cool,” as you stare out longingly at a wild mountain lightning storm, just only barely stopping yourself from ripping off your clothes, running buck-nekkid outside, calling out to the lightning to “Take me! Take me! I’m yours!”
My good fellow writers, if this reads even slightly familiar, then perhaps it’s time to pull yourself out of your writing chair and go blinking out to the sunlight, before it’s too late. Before your brain turns to mush. Before you dive so far inward there is no escape back to the Land of the Realies.
What are some ways to “put yourself out there” . . . that have nothing, by the way, to do with your Author Career? Because, after all, y’all, despite how we identify most acutely with this part of ourselves, this “I am an author and this is what I do, who I am, by jovies!” there has to be a part of us that opens our eyes and our hearts and minds to more thought and experience.
Pull your head out of your own ass and find a way to focus on others. Maybe volunteer. Maybe call up actual living-breathing human beings and ask them if they want to go see a movie/eat supper/visit a museum. Go on vacation—a day, week, or two—and pretend you are anything other than a writer.
Recall the days before you became a published (or nearly published, or hope-to-be published) author. Who were you? What did you do? What did you dream about, other than publishing success? Don’t tell me, “But I’ve always been a writer or wanted to be one since I slipped out all slippery from my mommy’s womb! That’s all I am and who I am and nothing else.” You were something else, too, someone else. Find that person and explore them again. Just for shits and giggles, yeah?
Lift up your head and actually see/touch/smell/acknowledge the world around you. If we never “put ourselves out there,” then how do we find the quirky and weird and loveable and hateable who will become our characters? Yeah, yeah, we can watch reality television, but there’s nothing quite like walking out into the sunshine amongst Real Human Beings and listening, watching, and even better yet, becoming a part of their worlds and conversations.
It won’t hurt too much, no really—okay, I haven’t done all of these quite yet, but if You will, I will. Let’s make a pact—Pinky Swear!
While we can enjoy our tiny worlds, seen up there from the Moon, and while creating little universes all around us is the coolest goddamm job in the world, if we aren’t careful, one day we’ll wake up very very old and very very lonely and very very bat-shit crazy. One day we may be chasing a lightning bolt, just to feel something real and exciting and . . . deadly. Just Say’n.
So, anyone up for lunch? How about that movie? How about we pick up our phones and call someone and say, “I miss your face . . . .”
So let it be written; better yet, so let it be done.
Do you ever feel isolated as a writer? What are some of the ways you “put yourself out there”?