Mr. DeMille, I’m Ready for my Close-up

When James Joyce was a young man nominally attending medical school in Paris, and day-dreaming about his future literary fame, he once rather extravagantly promised his mother in a letter home that with his very first earnings he was going to buy her a new set of teeth. He never was able to live up to his promise. May Joyce died a little more than nine months later, at the advanced age of forty-four, and her son’s ship did not come in, so to speak, for another twenty years.

I had occasion to think about poor Mrs. Joyce and her son’s brash promise recently when I heard about a creative writing seminar where, as part of the curriculum, the participants were instructed in the ways of modern media. These participants prepared for the media onslaught their future works one day might induce by taking turns conducting mock interviews with one another in front of an audience made up of other members of their seminar group. There they would learn how to handle the distractions of literary fame, how to ‘manage their personal brand,’ and how best to answer an imagined reporter’s questions so as to most efficiently increase attention on their as-yet imaginary book.

It is disruptive enough just thinking about the ultimate destination of your work, let alone the reception it’s going to get. If you think too much about where your book is going to end up, more than likely you’ll never write another word. Better to concentrate on the daily business of writing and leave the media-relations exercises for another time.


1 Comment

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One response to “Mr. DeMille, I’m Ready for my Close-up

  1. Wes, Let’s take a look at a potential publishing timeline (thought exercise only; individual experiences may vary :o)

    3months-10+ years – write the book
    3 months-10+ years – sell the book
    6 months-1 year – revise book (on contract) for publication
    6 months-1 year – wait for publication

    I’m thinking writers have plenty of time to learn how to “talk” about the book and deal with “fame” in the final round.

    Steer clear of writing seminars that are a waste of time.

    Thanks for the post and the anecdote about Joyce. Although I took a rigorous seminar on Joyce (with the exception of Finnegan’s Wake), I never heard that marvelous story.


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