The other day I got an email from my wife. it said: “Did you know that You possess way more of a personality via written word than you do one-on-one?”. That kind of threw me for a moment. If that was the case, and I had no reason to doubt her, then why?
The answer, once I thought of it, was obvious. It’s because when you are talking one-on-one to someone they usually don’t give you half an hour or more to come up with a snappy reply.
That got me thinking about the personality of a writer. Writing is a solitary profession and in general writers are not usually known for their outgoing and bubbly personalities. That’s not to say that there aren’t writers with sparkling personalities, there are, but I think it is fairly safe to say that they are rare. While we hope that we as writers can come alive on paper, our words providing the reader with a scintillating frisson of pleasure and the sense that they have heard from someone who is dynamic and charming, the reality is usually somewhat different.
Radio interviews are a good example of this. I spent several years hosting a weekly radio show and many of our episodes featured interviews with sf and fantasy writers. For every firebrand like Harlan Ellison or entertainer like Spider Robinson (who could play the guitar and sing during an interview) most of the authors I was able to sit down and talk to were, frankly, dull. These were authors whose work I had loved over the years, writers whose prose was exciting and stimulating. Speaking to them in person was a bit of a let down.
Such is the case with most writers, I think. It’s certainly true of myself if my wife is to be believed (and she is, make no mistake abut that). I hope that my prose is readable at least. I like to think that it is exciting where it needs to be. I take particular pride in my dialogue. I spend a lot of time crafting it, making it sharp and witty, or full of impact when need be. Sometimes I sit at my computer and say it aloud to hear how it sounds.
I sit alone in a room having imaginary conversations between made up people that have nothing to do with me. You know what they call people who do that on a regular basis, don’t you?
I’d be interested in knowing if any other writers feel the same way? Are you exciting in your prose but dull in person? Are you the life of the party? Does your writing have snap and crackle as it is going down on the page or do you labour for hours to craft your words to have that brilliant, off-the-cuff feel?
Leave a comment. Let’s start a dialogue. (I will endeavor to be “Mister Personality” in my replies).