Saturday, January 10, 2009


On a daily basis, I get about 100 e-mails. I’m apparently the beneficiary of a vast, multi-trillion dollar estate, spread out in hidden accounts throughout the world—according to dozens of daily messages in my in-box. (Sadly, judging from the grammatical errors in these missives, none of my immense wealth has funded any English classes for the poor foreign legal people sending me e-mails.) Were I male, I would never worry about, ahem, performance issues because I get another batch of e-mails each day about products to cure that. Then there are all those free iPods and Kindles, shopping sprees, and easy-to-obtain mortgages waiting for me. I’m sure you, too, have a similar array of spam that gets deleted without ever being opened.

A fair number of e-mail messages bring interesting, but still optional, reading: daily quotes, writing newsletters, horoscopes. I open the horoscopes because they’re entertaining and occasionally appear to correctly predict something. At the beginning of 2008, the e-mail astrologers said I would have a death in the family, which turned out to be correct. I couldn’t help but think about that as I scanned the predictions for 2009.

One of the 2009 prognostications was that I would have to give up something this year, something to which I was deeply attached. Hmmmm. What could it be? My mind gathered a list of the obvious: bad habits, health, money, people, career, chocolate, etc. Of course, as with the majority of horoscopes, the predictions covered territory common to everyone—giving up something precious could mean dozens of things. Then something unexpected popped into my head: what if I had to give up my anonymity?

Most writers want to write something notable; many of us seek publication. Very few become publicly recognizable. Would you know Nora Roberts if you met her? I feel pretty sure I could spot Stephen King in a crowd, but he’s one of the only modern authors I can say that about. Of all the authors you read, how many of them would you recognize if you met them on the street? When you extrapolate the goals of many writers, you find “famous” at the end of the equation. But for writers, fame doesn’t automatically equal being publicly recognizable, as it does for some endeavors/professions—take actors, for instance. A writer’s name can carry her fame without her face ever being attached to it.

While I’m not shy about speaking in front of people, I cherish my anonymity. Yesterday, while I was taking a long walk, I pondered the blessings of being anonymous. As a writer, I often operate like a spy. I eavesdrop and snoop and deliberately fail to mention that I’m a writer when I’m researching a story. I’d wager that most writers are a wee bit on the nosy, sneaky side. (Although, according to my husband, my combined background of writing and police work makes me extra sneaky. I plead nolo contendere.) How could a writer be sneaky if a pack of paparazzi were following her?

Of course, I know that eventually, when my trillion-dollar estate materializes, I’ll have to find a way to avoid the photographers. Good grief, now that I think about it, I believe that vast fortune would probably ruin my writing career! Looks like I’ve found yet another reason to keep deleting those e-mails.
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