Whose Shadow Do You Cast?

“I’m not famous. My image is famous. It’s a shadow I don’t even cast.” – Harold Brodkey

As you read these words – or if I read yours – somewhere has formed a shadow person of the author, an image or idea that we associate with the writing. The quote above considers the idea that whether we like it or not, others will have some idea of who or what we are as writers, just as you probably have some idea – or think you do – of who I am.

It’s kind of a strange idea, if you think about it. Somewhere, somehow, your writing creates this other shadow person, the other “shadow writer” that others perceive you as.  It’s enough to almost get me thinking of other shadow creatures, but since that would lead into more of a paranormal-themed article, I’ll restrain myself. 🙂

So, from my posts, who do you think I am? You know I’m a writer, sure, that I write paranormal romances and post-apocalyptic romances. I have a young family, and a weakness for sarcasm, Coca-Cola, and the absurd. But what a flat figure I would be if that was all I am. Like you – and like any other writer – there are nuances and dimensions that sometimes don’t come into play and aren’t immediately evident via our writing or other mediums we’re working in. Some of that may be accidental or related to the subject matter, and sometimes it may be intentional, as certain characteristics are made more evident via author branding.

It’s kind of a slippery slope, I suppose, between keeping something private and personal of yourself hidden, but also putting enough of yourself into your work to be sincere, to touch or connect with others on a deeper level.

Interestingly, I found the quote in the lovely book: Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy. And what she wants you to do is ignore this notion completely when writing. Why? Well, because if you spent all your time thinking about what other people would think about your writing, how it would make them feel, how it would impact them, it’s likely you’d end up with either a swollen head, or run away to hide beneath the covers and never write a word again.

Because here’s a truth that as artists it’s difficult to ignore: our art comes from us. The best art comes from somewhere really deep inside, and in some ways it’s a part of ourselves that’s splattered all over the page for everyone to see. While that deep emotional connection will likewise help others appreciate it since (hopefully) it will connect to some deep part of them, it also leaves us vulnerable, and subject to the ever-present question: “What do others think of me?”

We may take very different notions towards the importance of what others think, but like it or not, it’s one way that we shape our identity and our place in society and amongst others. What others think of us, how they perceive us, will very much influence our experience. Of course, that means there’s certainly something to be said for image manipulation and branding, being more deliberate about who or what is projected. I think to some extent we all have to control the image we show others, though you never know who may be watching when you let down your guard, and the act of creation is very definitely a letting down of your guard.

So whose shadow do you cast? Is it your own? Is it a carefully defined persona? Do you control it, or does it control you?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.