msagara: (rco-2)
[personal profile] msagara
I am not a very public person.

Being professional is something that everyone who works should be capable of - but in general, that’s eight hours a day, five days a week. Professional behaviour is a very narrow range of polite, considerate, and largely vanilla interactions; it’s a way of navigating a world full of strangers. (Yes, there are other ways.) When you are among friends, you aren’t professional - you’re friendly. The behaviour is different.

I don’t know everyone who will read these - or any of my other - words. But if there’s nothing personal in them, they’re not actually interesting or compelling.

But if writing is very, very personal, it can also be edited. It can be checked for clarity. It can be vetted by in-house editors (alpha readers, friends, long-suffering spouse). It can be shelved. If the inherent anger in some of my writing is overwhelming the point I’m trying to make, it can be set aside until anger is less white-hot.

#

I am a public person, because I am a writer, and writers are expected to be on the internet.

Combining the natural disinclination toward being a public person with the need to be in public is always somewhat fraught. I’m aware that people I do not know, and will never meet, read my words--even these ones.

When I was first published, I was not aware of this. Before I was published, I was as public on the internet as anyone else. If I had opinions, I shared them. I expected they would be given weight if I argued rationally and logically. (Yes, I was younger.) I didn’t expect them to be given more weight because I was an author.

The first time I posted something - on LJ - and people rushed in with sympathy, I was surprised. Genuinely surprised. I had made similar posts before, without receiving that; I didn’t get hostility, but most of the people who were reading me were people who knew me; they could hear my real-life voice. People who had never met me in real life couldn’t, which made sense in hindsight.

This taught me that I wasn’t speaking only to the internet friends I’d gathered in ones and twos over the years. It widened the sphere of public, and what it meant to me.

#

I’ve been writing for over two decades.

I am not an overnight success in any way.

But over time, I’ve amassed my “reasons to keep writing” folder.

I have had people write to me to tell me that my books have literally stopped them from committing suicide (twice). Both times, young teenage girls. I have had people write to me to tell me that my books helped them cope with their own severe depression (again, young teenage girls). I have had people tell me that my books helped them cope with their cancer and chemo, or with the long hospital stays when they sat by the bed-sides of people who were undergoing the same and dying.

I have been happy, viscerally, incredibly happy that something I’ve written has had this kind of effect on people who I might never meet. That it’s brought comfort or escape or engagement when it mattered the most to them.

And do you know what else I know about the lives of the people who’ve chosen to share that with me? Nothing. Not one other thing.

#

I have friends in real life who vote the way I don’t. They are still my friends. We do not talk politics much. I understand that people hold political views the way people have favorite sports teams in some circles. It’s not—it’s never—the whole of who they are, but it is a viscerally important part of them.

And I understand that for some people, politics is a way of life because it affects their lives so profoundly. I am not - and would never - tell anyone else how to handle their politics. With friends, though, I understand the contexts of their lives, as they understand mine. Context colours everything.

But many of the people who read me now are not real-life friends. These people wouldn’t find me or read me if I weren’t a writer. And many of my readers read the CAST novels because they want a brief vacation from their real lives. Many read them because they take comfort from them. They hit the internet, they find my web-site, they find me on twitter or other social media. They want to know about the books. They want to know that I’m still writing those books.

They don’t come to me because they want rage or politics. There are some readers people gravitate to because of the rage and politics. There are readers who find the political similarities just as safe or comforting or affirming. It would be foolish for those writers, imho, to be silent. But that’s not how people associate with my fiction, which is often their first introduction to ... me.

I have struggled to keep opinions about many things mostly to myself because of that. Because regardless of your politics or your political affiliation, when you’re undergoing chemo or you’re sitting at the bedside of someone post-op in a hospital (which is a trying environment even when you’re in there for happy reasons), I am happy to lend a literary shoulder. When you are seriously considering suicide, I am happy to lend that same literary shoulder. If something I’ve written becomes a lifeline or a talisman that enables you to keep putting one foot in front of the other when life is grim and harsh, I am honoured to be part of that, however indirectly.

If you are struggling, if you are drowning in life and my words are a life-line, I want, always, to be that lifeline. Because I think most people in real life would do the same thing. They wouldn’t be standing there with clipboards and ticking boxes before they extend that hand or offer that shoulder.

And if I am highly political on-line, some of those people might lose the ability to engage with my books in that way, which would be heartbreaking, for both of us.ETA: LJ cut tags
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Michelle Sagara

April 2015

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