Susan's Blog

Celebrated author Susan Johnson talks about what's on her mind

New book time…

You'd think that after ten books, publication time would get easier, wouldn't you?

For every writer I know, it's still a stomach-churning, vertiginous moment. It's not exciting — as many suppose — for me, it's as if someone has lifted the rock (or the shell) I've lived under, leaving me quivering, and exposed. Don't think I'm not aware of the paradox of writing something for public consumption and then — blimey! — what, you mean the public are actually going to read the damn thing?

That's the curious ambivalence at the heart of many writers: the compulsion to create, closely followed by the compulsion to run for the hills. I have discussed here and elsewhere that I (probably) wouldn't write if I wasn't published — or even possibly if I was self-published — because, for me, a deep part of the compulsion to create is bound up in having a voice that is heard. In other words, I am not interested in merely listening to the sound of my own voice, or shouting in a cupboard, I am interested in engaging in conversation and being part of a broader world.

Which means that for me the act of writing is closely bound up with connection to readers. All writers are readers first and foremost, a reader brought to joyous life by the miraculous act of reading, the transmission of some profound understanding of our joint humanity suddenly made clear. Books made me — to steal a phrase — and the experience of understanding what it means to be alive and breathing that I gained from reading MIDDLEMARCH or MADAME BOVARY or MONKEY GRIP is intrinsically bound up in the creation of me as a writer.

So — a paradox. You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and you can't write a book without a reader. There you have it, one exposed and quivering writer, devoid of her rock, getting used to the blinding of the light. I've done it before, and I'll do it again — just give me a minute, will you, to adjust to the sudden exposure.

Related Posts