the writer's arsenal: you are not an island

I know what you're thinking. Where's the Friday5? Right? ;) Well, I've given it some thought, and right now, I really only have time to blog once a week (I'm hoping that will change one day, but alas, truths are better accepted than denied... Whoa! Where did that come from? I've been watching too much Downton Abbey/Game of Thrones/Britishy stuff). If I blog once a week, and it's always an edition Friday5, I'll never get around to blogging about anything else! So I'm going to switch it up from time to time and do a Friday5 when there's some awesome news to report (not that there isn't this week...) and then throw in a few regular posts for variety. Today, I'm in the mood for a long-overdue edition of The Writer's Arsenal so let's get to it!

You are not an island...but you could end up on one.

I've talked before about writers vs. authors and what I personally think the difference is. In short, writers write to write, while authors write to be published (Huh. That was easy--maybe I didn't need to write that post!). Today I want to touch briefly on the subject of authors in the public space. I say briefly because it’s a topic that’s been covered elsewhere, and covered well, but I want to add my two cents because good advice bears repeating.

If you write to be published, please, please, PLEASE be mindful of the self you portray online--even if you’re not yet published. Yes, even if “nobody reads my blog anyway”. It seems simple and yet so many authors get it wrong. Famed actors will often talk about how the downside to their chosen career is the forfeit of their privacy. The reasonable ones accept it for what it is—part of the job. Others can’t seem to grasp the necessity of a public persona, go on to behave ridiculously and then blame the media for invading their privacy. Is it fair that people should have to take on the burden of being scrutinized to do what they love? No. Of course not. But if privacy is important to you, chose a career that’s not in the public eye.  Being watched is PART of celebrity and celebrity is part of the job.

Authors are also in the public eye, though to a lesser extent. Regardless, people ARE watching and so an author too must be on their very best behavior. It doesn’t matter if you’re still on the journey toward being published, a debut author, or an experienced author with many books under your hat. You must—absolutely must—mind your manners in public. And yes, in this case, public means the internet, public engagements, the line at the supermarket, etc. If people can observe your behavior, you need to make sure you give them every reason to like you and no reason to feel incensed by you. Does this mean you can’t ever let off steam? EVER? No, you can, but be SMART about it. Be diplomatic. Write opinion pieces, not rants and be wary of anything that could be too polarizing. If you feel the need to really dig in bitterly on a subject, do it in private.

How you present yourself in public is part of being an author, just as writing, marketing and sales are also part of the job. Who you are matters to your readers (and potential readers). It’s a saying you’ve heard since you were a child, but it never gets old—if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. At least not in a public arena.   

Of course, all of that is assuming you don’t want to ruin your career ;)