'What's the hardest part about being a writer?' It's a question I've been asked quite a lot recently. I think that those who ask expect an answer that's related in some way to the actual writing process. Sometimes they'll make suggestions whilst awaiting a response... 'Is it coming up with ideas?'... 'Is it killing off characters?'... 'Is it editing umpteen times?' In truth, I can't think of a single part of the process that is anywhere near as difficult as going public.
Imagine the scene... a writer plonking away at his keyboard for months on end, researching, working until four in the morning, sometimes going without speaking to a living soul for hours (perhaps days) on end. The world outside doesn't exist for much of the time, little manages to make it through the two-foot thick shell of the creativity bubble that surrounds him, and Tuesday is much like Sunday... hours melt away and meals go uneaten whilst the cogs grind away, until the pages are filled.
And then whoosh! The book's published, the marketing begins, the photos have to be taken, the interviews have to be given, and the public appearances have to be made. For someone like me, who spent the first fifteen years of her life turning her back on every camera that was pointed at her, to the point where my mother developed SAS-like skills in order to catch me off guard and get a snapshot for the family album, posing for a photo that will be splattered all over the Internet and local papers is a tad terrifying. I'm reminded of an episode of Friends, and Chandler's attempts to have a half-way decent studio shot taken for his wedding announcement... Chandler Bing, I feel your pain!
Then there's public speaking. I've crooned into my hairbrush and thanked my family and friends for the Oscar whilst standing in front of my bathroom mirror just as much as the next gal, but that's no training for getting up there in front of strangers and trying to fill a vast room with your solitary, and possibly shaky (or tipsy if you got carried away with the Dutch courage), voice. And, of course, there are radio interviews... for which no amount of reminding yourself that 'bum' is not a suitable word for the BBC's listeners will prevent you from saying it at least six times once you're on air.
You can forget working on your magnum opus until 4am too... you've got to be up at six (which, let's face it, is still the middle of the night) if you want to make that book signing on time. And when you get there, you can forget about going to the toilet... that's when fifty cash-wielding eager readers will arrive at your table, looking to buy copies for themselves, their sisters, and their great aunt Maude. Piddle at your own peril! If you're lucky you'll manage to sneak a pack of Special K Mini Breaks in between customers. If you're not, and this is generally the case, your next customer will approach just after you've shoved six into your mouth and can hardly breathe let alone speak coherently.
Writing a book is a bit like having a baby, I imagine (although I've never been through that, so what do I know?). You conceive of an idea, go through nine months of growing your baby until it's ready to meet the world, you go through a period of excruciating pain trying to force it out there, have ten or so minutes of relief whilst holding it in your arms and cogitating on how beautiful it is, and then you realise that you've got to spend the next eighteen years making sure it realises its full potential. And no matter how much hard work was involved in producing one, you just know you're going to go and do it all over again!
Causes Gina Collia-Suzuki Supports
The World Wildlife Fund
Cancer Research UK