On selling Steph Bowe

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of the writer as a salesperson, as a public image, as a product. (And, by extension, about the public personalities everyone has to put on.)

I wonder: where does my real, genuine self stop and the idealised constructed image begin? Am I and is anyone (specifically any writer) ever genuinely themselves in a public sphere? Or is the fact that we are all trying to sell ourselves, our books, trying to make people like us or the approximation of us that we have created that is suitably palatable for others, mean that we must all always be separating our real flawed selves from our public personas? Am I, in writing this blog post, expressing my own opinion or the sort of thing that I think other people will read that will make them think positively of me?

Am I turning myself into a commodity? How often does someone buy my book because they've seen me speak or seen this site and thought 'hey, Steph Bowe is young and honest and awkwardly charming'? And is that what I am really like or is that an invented self? (Obviously I am young compared to most writers, so that's a fact.)

More than anything I want to write brilliant novels that readers will enjoy, but can writing brilliantly save you if you cannt stand to be a public speaker, and hate the internet, and are not an easily sellable identity? Can brilliant writing on its own land a writer a book deal and a career and writerly success, or must the writer also be a salesperson, with a dynamic, if fake, personality? Where is the line between intelligent discourse from writers and regurgitated marketing copy? What do brilliant books count for if only some people think they're brilliant?

What happens when you spend most of your time being your public persona? Does your secret, true, can't-reveal-or-people-won't-like-me self begin to disappear and become your constructed self? Is this a good thing? Do you lose that part of yourself, or does that part of yourself change? What if you like the public version of yourself more than you like who you really are?

Obviously I have a lot of questions. But one's identity is something everyone is thinking about (I imagine) and madly trying to formulate, especially in their youth. And everyone says 'be yourself' a lot, but I don't think anyone even knows who they are because they have taken on so much from other people and the media and their experiences that they really only have an idea of the person they think they should be. And maybe we don't have one self. Maybe 'be yourself' will mean a different thing to you every day of the week.

See, I'm breaking it down too much. Next minute I'll be talking about The Matrix and everything being an illusion (I'd take the red pill, fyi). The title of this blog post is very misleading. I'm sorry.

Anyway, questions I would love to hear your thoughts on (because you can't possibly answer all the questions in this post):

  • Should writers be public personalities to the degree that they are, or should we shut them up in their writing caves before their crazy thoughts infect the world?
  • Can anyone ever really be their genuine selves? Are our constructed facades extensions of these real selves or entirely false?
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