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Going On Kazakh TV — Writing Is Not A Job For Hermits

My perspective on the other side of the writing life as I watch a news crew set up a camera to interview me for Kazakh TV.

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They are setting up the camera in a lobby of a five star hotel. They are playing with the lights, getting the levels right for the audio. They’re doing this for me. I will soon be sitting in front of that camera, those lights will soon be shining on me.

There is something about this that I like. The feeling I have when preparing to do these appearances isn’t fear, anxiety, or even nervousness, but some odd mix of appreciation, disbelief, and, yes, curiosity.

Appreciation because there are people who want to hear what I have to say — so much so that they are going to film me and put it on television. You often spend years researching and writing about something and nobody you know wants to hear you talk about it. You irritate your wife, bore your kids, find your friends rapidly changing the subject. You do these projects that you think are fascinating, ground breaking even, and it drives you mad that nobody wants to hear about them. Then you publish your book and all of a sudden everybody starts listening. Your work becomes the topic of conversation. People suddenly want to hear your stories. Crowds line up to listen to your talks. Radio personalities ask you questions. TV crews film you. You’re just saying the same things you’ve always said, the only difference is that you have been switched on. Once you understand how fine of a line it is between people not giving a shit and people caring about what you have to say, it becomes very easy to truly appreciate the latter.

Disbelief because it was such an improbable journey for me to get here. What, you want to talk to me? Seriously? Do you know that I’m just a fucking vagabond? It has been years that I’ve been doing these television and radio engagements but I still have this reaction. What kind of strange, upside down world is this that mere vagabonds are being called upon to share their analyses and narratives of major global developments with the world? The absurdity keeps me from taking these engagements — or myself — too seriously, and this takes the pressure off. I came up from the bottom; seeing how far I can get is tantamount to a game. This keeps everything fun.

Curiosity because I have no idea what’s going to happen. What are they going to ask me? What am I going to say? Am I going to kill it or bomb? I want to find out too.

Ultimately, before I sit down in that chair I know that if I do well, I do well; if I don’t do well then I have some funny, self-deprecatory story to tell. Either way, I kind of win something.

While I’m not going to say that I’m exceptional at these types of media engagements yet — I still have much to improve upon — I will say that I at least have something to work with. I feel comfortable. I like people looking at me. I enjoy walking into a room and having everybody turn their heads. I feel in control when I’m the focus of attention. I understand that this is probably one of the biggest assets that I have as a writer.

Writing is not a job for hermits.

When I got my first book deal I realized that I would need to go out and promote the book once it was published. I realized that I would need to get up on stage and sit in front of cameras. I have to admit that this inevitability left me a touch mortified. I’d never really done anything like that before. So I began studying; I began practicing. I used to watch videos of authors giving talks and being interviewed. I was amazed that nearly every single one seemed incredibly proficient at this — they all seemed comfortable, they all seemed incredibly cool. I understood that if I couldn’t find a way to do this too my days as an author would likely be numbered.

We have this vision of the writer as this loner, this awkward misanthrope sitting off in the woods or in an empty apartment somewhere. This generally isn’t true. The writer is often a person stricken with the awareness of their own inadequacy, stricken by the awareness of their own unrequited sense of grandeur. Attention is fuel in the tank.


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Filed under: Kazakhstan, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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