Every now and again I think of how fans see their favorite writers or musicians or performers when they’re not center stage with a new project. I get to thinking, this band has finished their tour, they’ve already released all the singles from their latest album, and they’re out of the limelight. So what are they doing at that point?
Well, the 80s told us that all the bands were hanging out on the Sunset Strip and getting completely shitfaced and taking an apothecary full of drugs and partying until it was time to start the whole album-tour rollercoaster again. Or something other ridiculous, overblown stereotype of some sort.
The era of social media shows it differently. Nowadays, we find that artists are working at their day job or completing freelance projects and selling their own wares at conventions. Musicians are bringing up a family or helping out a friend at a recording session. Writers are slogging away, trying to make deadlines and heading out on book tours and conventions. Any one of them might be taking a breather so they can just be regular non-famous people.
I think about something Paul McCartney once said about the length of time it took for the Beatles to record Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: “Because we were done touring, people in the media were starting to sense that there was too much of a lull, which created a vacuum, so they could bitch about us now. They’d say, ‘Oh, they’ve dried up.'”
I sometimes also think about the time it takes from a writer saying ‘I’m working on a new project’, maybe giving out vague details about it, to the time they tweet ‘YAY! It’s done! Off to my agent/editor!’, to the time they announce that it’s being released. Back in the internet age you were never sure how long it took, especially when some writers like Stephen King could have multiple books and stories out within the span of a year, while other writers might not see publication until a decade after their last release. Nowadays you can follow your favorite author In Real Time.
I think this might be one of the reasons why some writers are always pleasantly surprised when their book gets a positive response. They’ve lived with that book for anywhere from six months to a few years, and it’s all their own creation. They wrote the score, they built the sets, they sang the arias endlessly to get them just right. Perhaps maybe a few lucky backstage friends got to beta read. They or their production crew (their agent and/or publisher) may have even done the artwork for the program. They put it in the hands of their agent, in hopes that someone will be interested. For all intents and purposes, it’s a one-person show almost all the way to the end. And when they get there, they’re so immersed in their story that they’re really not entirely sure how the public will react.
It’s one of the most interesting paradoxes in the creative arts; you create something for the public to enjoy, and yet you’re never completely certain if you’ve done it right until they see it. But if you’re lucky, you have, and all that work will have been worth it.