“Ars gratia artis”?

When she saw I was doing a blog, a lady of my acquaintance made the comment “if I buy a book I want the author’s very soul. Hahaha!.”
Of course, as convention dictates, I made a flippant reply, saying “If you were told to expect much from an author’s soul, you were probably cheated. They’re sad poor things, wan and shrivelled, a result of too much soul searching, over exposed during the long hours slaving by the harsh light of a computer screen, and probably still with glue marks left by the pawn tickets.”
But it gave me pause. I remember reading the comments of one French general who said ‘my memoirs are not my confessions.’ Obviously he said it in French being somewhat more cosmopolitan than me. (When I were a lad, cosmopolitan was what you aspired to be. Now it’s just summat you read.) So how much of my soul is out there, available for the scrutiny of anyone who wants to spend £4.91 on a fantasy novel.

But it begs a question, why do people want to see the soul of a writer? Is it any more interesting than the soul of a farm boy, or the soul of a father of three daughters? When I started writing did I trade the other souls in? I suppose the question that I’m asking amounts to this.
Is the writer’s soul the special sparkly bit which coruscates and twinkles, leaving the other bits to just get on with coping with reality? Or actually, are the other bits the healthy bits and the writing bit the thin pathetic shrivelled fragment that frantically tries to puff itself up to the same size as rest by creating a reality in which it becomes important?
Now I confess at this point that for me writing is a craft, a trade. I have never claimed to be an artist, and no one has ever said of me “Your head’s addled with novels and poems, you come home every evening reeling of Chateau La Tour. ” For me a metaphor is not vouchsafed to me by some munificent muse but something hammered into shape, the bits the reader gets to see polished, and the whole thing then wedged into place within a text so the joints don’t spring loose.

Well at least that way you’re not sitting about waiting for the glue to set, and folk get so uppity when they spot the nails.

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