The Writer On and Off the Page: Writing, a Public and Private Act

The end of February and the entire month of March have been filled with literary events.  I attended the Associated Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference in Chicago.  While there, I attended several readings and had an author signing with my press.
In March, I escaped Idaho for a bit on spring break and drove to Vancouver, B.C.  While there I heard my amazing friend Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore read from her new anthology Why are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots? (I find myself driving 8.5 hours to attend a reading this year!)
This month I also attended a thesis defense for a fellow MFA poet here at the University of Idaho, a talk by the immanent translator Willis Barnstone, and also had my own reading and chapbook release party with fellow poet Ciara Shuttleworth.
It has been a busy forty days.  Individually, these events invigorate my own writing and thinking about writing.  Collectively, it has been exhausting.  They have also made me consider the writer’s life both as a public and a private figure. 
In a discussion yesterday, a fellow poet said, “A writer is the kind of person who sits alone in a room to make sense of the world.”  The act of writing is solitary.  At its core, writing lonely.
So then what happens when a writer publishes his or her work?
Most often, in order to get the work “out there” a writer must make some kind of public appearance, whether that is online, at a bookstore, or in a coffee shop to read.  The reader, in order to promote their words, must become an extension of them in some sense. 
Your writing is an extension of your inner-world, but then you the writer must become an extension of your words in the public sphere.  Who is leap-frogging whom?
For many writers, this is a painful process.  I know that in my own experience, I dislike talking about my poems to others.  I also hate the cycle of self-promotion that occurs with the publication of a book.  That said, I am finding that having my chapbook come out is a great way to get a small taste for the hustle one must go through to promote a full-length book.
The poet Richard Siken is notorious for remaining circumspect about his own work.  He said in an interview, “You get the page.  I get the rest.”
What role does writing play in your life at the moment?  Have you experienced the divide between the writer as a public and private figure?  Do you have any advice moving from one sphere into the other?

Posted in book tours, Ciara Shuttleworth, readings, Richard Siken, self promotion, self publishing, Slow Depth, the literary life, Willis Barnstone.

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