A friend of mine — who might well be reading this as I speak, HI THERE GABE — is preparing to do some promotion for a book of his that got picked up for publication. He's going to have orders of magnitude more attention than I have ever received for anything creative I've ever done.
For fun, I tried to imagine myself fielding the degree of attention he'll be receiving, and even that much frightened me. (That he has years of experience on me dealing with the public in some form is not lost on me, even if in an entirely different role.)
Two seconds' thought brought me to the realization that it's not attention alone that's frightening. It's unwanted attention. It's when people use your celebrity status — even if you are only famous to a few hundred people — to single you out and hold you to a standard that doesn't exist anywhere except in their own minds. All unwanted attention, as far as I've been able to tell, consists of this kind of misguided idolization.
I'm in the process of preparing my most recent book for submission to some folks for editorial feedback, and then from there to some agents and editors (as soon as I can find their names in this excuse of a filing system of mine). I know full well that once I ask for the world to take me that much more seriously, I have no control over what happens next. Bloody scary, is what it is. No prizes for guessing that's part of why I've held back from doing so for so long, and why I've elected to remain king of a domain that consisted of myself and maybe five other people.
Which is unhealthier, self-imposed isolation or someone else's idea of fame? A walk-on part in the war, or a lead role in a cage? Jury's still out. What I do know is that said jury will never come back in unless I have both experiences for myself.
Of course it's scary to stick your neck out. Nothing is worth doing unless it upsets you a little bit. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.