Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Being Anonymous

I love the feeling of being anonymous. I don’t mean that I don’t want people to know about my books. I don’t even mind if people know a lot about me. The feeling I mean is being in a place where I know no one, in a hotel room or a restaurant or just walking around. It allows me to see things through my eyes only. I can people watch and eavesdrop at will.

I’ve always enjoyed traveling alone for the same reason. It leaves me open to experiences I don’t have if I’m talking to someone or worrying about their experience or listening to them interpreting what we’re seeing. I don’t mean to imply that I want it all the time—just some of the time.

My suspicion is that it’s a writer’s attitude. As a writer I sometimes feel as if I get too insular, sitting at my desk with my thoughts and experiences—with only the occasional foray into social media to keep me social. Being alone in a strange city allows me to soak in what’s happening outside my own mind. I can watch two people have an argument—watch how they use their body language and facial expressions. I can watch a mother soothe a distressed child, or observe two young people doing a mating dance, or two elderly people make their way along a sidewalk.. Another lone person catches my eye and I watch how being alone affects him. And I store all this up for when I am back at my computer writing.

But it isn’t entirely about work. Some of the pleasure of anonymity is just allowing myself to be self-indulgent—not answering to a deadline, not having to do something I “should” be doing. I can hole up in my hotel room and write something frivolous, or read or even watch junk TV without having to answer to anyone—even myself.

One of my writing gurus said she has taught herself to write while she is on book tour, and I think it’s a grand idea. I try to do it myself. But I hope I never get so wound up in the need to produce that I can’t step out of my usual roles and indulge free flights of fancy. I always want to keep alive the secret joy of being anonymous.

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