Meghan Tifft’s article for The Atlantic, “An Introverted Writer’s Lament,” conjures up memories of school dances in the streamer-decorated gymnasium, with the popular kids out on the dance floor, carefree and having lots of fun, while the rest of the attendees hang around on the bleachers, trying to look like they’re enjoying themselves but wishing they’d stayed home to watch “Fantasy Island” and “The Love Boat.” The large mass of the regular kids do well in the classroom, feel comfortable there, and may even excel. But not at the dance. Never at the dance.
Here’s Tifft’s full article:
I don’t agree with everything Tifft says, but she asks a question that each writer these days must answer for herself: “What if I just want to make something? What if all this communing actually hurts the primary means by which I set out to participate and communicate–my writing itself?”
I can almost hear the strangled screams of publishing marketing and publicity people. How can an author hope to sell a book if she’s not OUT THERE promoting it?
Still, the article made me wonder about historians who write for a general reading audience. Once they’ve written a “popular” history book, how public do they have to be, personally? Is it any different from what any other writers experience? Do some of these historians dread the prospect of public readings and/or of becoming the public “expert” on their topic? Or would most be at ease with these roles, given the other duties of their academic lives? What kinds of opportunities do historians have to promote their work when they have classroom obligations from August until May? Is it appropriate to talk up their book in their own classes?
Would love to know your thoughts.