Kage Baker was of the opinion that all writers are exhibitionists.
Many artists of all sorts, of course, are exhibitionists. But not all, by any means – it was Kage’s observation that a lot of actors are severely shy and reserved; so much so, she said, that they spent their lives literally being someone else. Unlike painters, sculptors, dancers, people who build lingerie shopfronts for mice or stuff yams up body cavities* – postulated Kage – more actors are introverts. And those are the performers who go so far into themselves that they come out the other side.
She herself was mostly, usually, one of those sorts. Kage was so shy that she would become someone else as soon as a crowd reached a certain molecular density; when the primordial gas cloud of a social situation began to cool and thicken, what precipitated out of the mass was rarely Kage. It was someone being operated by Kage, at a safe distance. At science fiction conventions, it was either her aunt, Anne Jeffries, or Agent Scully. At Renaissance Faires, it was various respectable Dames from the Volland Mother Goose. At Dickens Fair, it was a petticoat version of Killick, Jack Aubrey’s cranky steward from the Patrick O’Brian novels.
(Sometimes it was an extremely naughty squirrel that only a few people ever saw. I miss her … )
But all of this morphic activity was only for first-person confrontations. When it came to writing, when it was Kage Baker AS The Writer, when it was her Public Voice – Kage was as voluble and extravagant an extrovert as any other gonzo author. She said it was because when it came to writing, she simply could not shut up. She said no writer could.
It’s why writers wrote in the first place. They have something to say, and they are going to say it. And since they are armed with the tools to inscribe what they want to say in physical form – pen and ink, stylus and hammer, spray paint, lipstick, someone’s blood – they will not be stopped. Go through any writer’s closets and bookcases (said Kage) and you will find all the things they wrote before the ones they sent out boldly into the world – and there will be lots, she averred, because the habit is deeply rooted and impossible to eradicate. Everyone is hiding notebooks.
Although, she decided later in her life, maybe not so much as they used to. Now there is social media; now there are websites, and blogs, and YouTube and Vine and all the new permutations imaginable for the determined and motivated graffitiist. The number of walls on which to write is now essentially infinite – and when you consider (said Kage) that not even the eruption of Vesuvius could wipe clean the commentary on the walls of doomed Pompeii, it is no wonder that the Internet is one vast glowing graffito. Scrawl on any surface in that vast series of tubes, and your words will impact countless waiting readers.
Most of them may be cats. That doesn’t matter. Enough will be un-absorbed by fur to win you an audience.
I offer this explanation of the general exhibitionism of all writers as my excuse for wailing and whinging all over the place yestreday. I’m ordinarily a fairly optimistic person; but at the moment, I am suffering from a common traumatic malady. When it gets unbearable, I carry on without shame. Being a writer, I do it here.
It will wear off; at least, the aimless screaming and scrabbling and scribbling on the walls will slow down. I’ve got things to do, things to say – and I simply must be seen to be doing and saying them. I’ve always done these things in my own persona, but who knows? It may be time to branch out. Fish gotta sing, birds gotta dance, writers gotta exhibit.
If it’s not quite who I am …. well, maybe I can metamorphose, too. It’ll have to be someone who can write, though. Dame Julian? Sappho? Lady Murasaki Shikibu?
*All of these are things.