A book is a metaphor for the life of its writer. As it stands on the bookshelf, its contents are private, hidden - just as the writer spends months, years even, hidden away in the dark womb of her writing.
Later, if you're really lucky, there's a cover. Instant visibility. Here I am, the cover shouts or whispers or giggles or cries. See me. Buy me. Read me. Once the book moves from manuscript to bound copy, it - and its writer - become public property. Just as we all need our daily half hour of sunlight, so too does each book need its time in the sun.
The whole process is like those little weatherhouses where one character swings out when the sun shines and another when it rains. Just as sun follows rain, so does a published writer creep out for his time in the sun - his 'shine time' as Victoria Moran, author of Creating A Charmed Life, calls it. Shine time ranges from the moment the author sees her book on the Waterstones shelf to receiving reviews, giving signings and interviews, readings and workshops. All of which may send her scurrying gratefully back to the privacy of her study to begin the next book.
But what of the unpublished writer? How do we get our much-needed time in the sun? Those precious moments when our work is read and received? An art tutor once told me that she considered the most important thing about a tutorial was having your work witnessed. We all need, she said, to be seen. And I believe we do.
It happens all the time in 'real' life: the privacy of the relationship comes into the spotlight during the engagement, the wedding, the anniversaries; the hours spent by the runner pounding the pavements in training are made visible and honoured during the marathon. The silent hours at the easel are exalted at the exhibition.
We aspiring authors are like moles. Toiling away in the dark, we become almost blind to the sunlight. Yet we crave our 'shine time' just like everyone else. And so we join writer's groups, pay for critiques, enter competitions, read at local slams and submit our work to agents and publishers.
Perhaps you are happy to labour in the dark for ever. Some people choose never to marry, never to race, never to exhibit. Yet I suspect that somewhere in your life you're filling up with shine time on a regular basis: singing in a choir; dressing up for a party; winning the parents' egg-and-spoon race on sports day. Because we all need to be witnessed and applauded from time to time. As Moran writes:
'Nobody is in the spotlight nonstop. Accept that you will shine, step back, then shine again. The moon has phases from dark to full. So do we. We're fully valuable throughout the cycle. At certain times, we just attract more attention.'
So this is just a reminder to consider your shine time and to build it into your writing life in whatever way is right for you - which may be nothing, outwardly, to do with writing.
I find that a daily walk in the sun does it for me. Where do you shine?