My friend Frank (journalist, author, Sirius radio personality, newly-annointed stand-up comedian, general celebrity party bon vivant…) does not understand my aversion to the spotlight. It mystifies him that I rarely go to Events (he has never forgiven me for taking a pass on a Vanity Fair post-Oscar party), won’t approach celebrities (“Matt Bomer, you couldn’t say hello?”), or pale at dinner parties of more than four.
When Frank found out last year that I was about to start my book tour, he said, “Your biggest fear is the part I love the most! You’ll hate it!”
But I think he might have been wrong. I didn’t hate it. In fact, my biggest fear is that I liked it. I liked it too much.
It’s a lovely thing, this being a newly-minted Author. The interviews, the readings, the wonderful notes from people you don’t even know, the well-wishes. . . but it’s a danger, too, because right after your book comes out you feel like Scarlett at Twelve Oaks, and, well, that’s not really a sustainable existence.
It’s like, you’ve got your head far, far up your own ass and oh my but it’s comfortable in there: warm and soothing and acoustically pleasing—is my voice really that resonant?—lined with soft touches of the most excellent blurbs from your book jacket, so welcoming that you want to stay in there forever, lulled by Goodread reviews and interview requests and twitter post retweets, all blending together to create a hypnotic, seductive soundscape, the tidal surge of an ocean, though really, it’s only the push and pull of your own hunger, the rapid beating of your anxious heart, as rapid and desperate as a sparrow’s, caught in the hand.
You need the fix. You imagine this wild alternative life (one lived by all the authors I know) where you are constantly feted and spoken of as a Man of Quality. Where you can dispense advice and bon mots in a knowing, slightly avuncular manner. You are a celebrated personage. . . which is the same thing as being celebrity, isn’t it? Dear God, is that what you’ve wanted, all along?
But it’s not real, it’s all an echo chamber of what you want to hear and what you want to have happen. And there in that cavernous chamber, desperate to sustain, to keep it all going, to get another FIX, you find it has all grown silent, the world has moved on, and the only echoes you hear are of doubt, and jealousy, new companions to you. From the belle of the ball you’ve become this cave dweller, this Gollum, alone with the drips of water from the rocks and that gnawing Desire.
Realize that it’s just another terrain. You can leave, when you’re ready. Zen Buddhists say, Experience the landscape, but don’t cling to it. And eventually, move on. Remember what you were doing, before the circus came to town. You were writing, yes? Best get back to it. Enroll in another workshop. Pull up your notes. Keep writing.
Pull your head out, and get on with it. Life, that is.