Writing is a weird business. The main part of what we do is faceless – we spend time alone, curled over keyboards or notebooks, looking inside ourselves and picking things apart. When we do send things out into the world, it rarely involves live-action relationships with editors and the like. Emails, forums, blogs. So much of what we do happens under layer after layer of facelessness.
I don’t know what many of my favourite authors look like, or how they present in person. I was shocked to find John Marsden is such a confronting mixture of crude and intelligent. I’ll admit that Camus’ theories are more palatable than Sartre’s based on their author pics. Last week at the Emerging Writers’ Festival I was surprised by how much Carmel Bird just looked like someone’s mum. I love Alan Bissett’s writing all the more for his outgoing personality, and I’m reading Death of a Ladies’ Man in his very attractive accent. The way authors look and present themselves in person, face-to-face, can be worlds away from how we imagine them through their writing.
This made the Emerging Writers’ Festival an amusing space to meet and greet. The main thing that struck me over and over again during the two weeks was how weird it is that the two sides of our job are such polar opposites. Absolute isolation versus schmooze-fest. I’m not saying that either is preferable – I love both. But when someone talked about me without knowing I was in the room, or when I had the “a-ha!” moment where I connected someone’s writing projects to that person I’d been talking to for the last hour, it really struck me how singularly bizarre writing is.