Putting a Writing Life on Display

It’s not uncommon for writers to document the writing process via an anxious dream journal, or on Twitter, or in emails to their friends. Artist and author Gabriela Denise Frank took this impulse one step further. Frank moved her living room furniture into Seattle’s Central Library. For 30 days, she brought her laptop and headphones and set up shop on her own couch, in the middle of the library. And her laptop? It was hooked up to a giant monitor, displaying her every typed word. Her roughest rough drafts were privy to observation and commentary by library patrons. Read about her “novel performance” at The Rumpus.

Around that time, I discovered a quote by John Green that cemented my resolve: “Writing is something you do alone. It is a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” Why is it cool for writers to perpetuate their own isolationism? I wondered, and how are we to expect anyone to value our craft if we, ourselves, mystify it?

On Halloween, the day before my installation opened, my boyfriend and a friend helped me construct a simple wooden stage near the library’s Teen Center. Michael, Jeff and I draped the platform in black cloth then set down a Persian rug and my green microsuede sofa and ottoman along with a rustic floor lamp and a hand-painted side table. We trimmed the set with plants, a framed photo and red velvet throw pillows. By noon, the library’s Living Room contained an exact replica of my own.

Are writers really introverts, or do we hide our craft out of insecurity? I was about to find out via a large screen positioned behind my couch which, when connected to my laptop, allowed visitors to watch, word by word, as I wrote. Within the first hour, I realized that I would have to push myself in order to work under the eyes of the same strangers I hoped to inspire. I would have to endure people reading my unformed thoughts before I deleted and rewrote them again, sensing the cast of their unspoken scrutiny. My hands shook for most of the first few days; perhaps I was more of an introvert than I thought.

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