Once upon a time I heard (or maybe read) a well known writer (who is unimportant but you’ve heard of them) lament the need to be an author and that it got in the way of their writing (aka the fun part). Said writer is not exactly the raging extrovert a certain number of those who populate conventions and various online locales are or appear to be. Which is honestly fine, public speaking isn’t for everyone, and the internet has (or at least appears to) a disproportionate representation of eccentric folk.

The bit that the introverted writer needs to do is create their professional personae just as they would create a character. This is both a bit easier, and a bit harder for some people. What to include? What to leave out, how much more extroverted to craft this person? And of course recognizing what you can and can’t do well socially. And doing publicly (including on the internet) things that will attract and retain your fans and people similar to them.

Some folks are just plain uncomfortable with the type of outrageous garrulousness that typifies some pretty dang successful  folks, and some of us just don’t lead interesting enough lives to engage in tweeting like this. Personal disclosure is also a one of those curious balancing acts. Jay Lake’s discussion of his battle with cancer is courageous and no few people would call it a public service, but not everyone would be able to do it without it looking like a pity party;

For me personally, I avoid almost all discussions of politics and religion (assuming its not redundant to list them separately because they are divisive. There’s no way to publicly parse the deficiencies of faith X or candidate 27 without vexing someone. I also rarely discuss my avowed love of hockey. Not because it’s divisive, but because as enthusiastically and elaborately I can enumerate the fine points of things like the 1-3-1, my opinions of Matt Cooke, Gary Bettman, and market viability, I don’t. Not for any lack of knowledge, not because I don’t enjoy it and couldn’t do it in a reasonably engaging way, but because I suspect I can count all the people I’ve met in fandom who even like hockey in one breathe.

So, some questions you should be asking yourself before you go about establishing your professional presence:

  • What kind of interactions am I good at?
  • Where are my personal limits?
  • What are my broad spectrum interests?
  • When I’m physically in public how do I engage people?
  • Does my personae clash with my writing style?
  • Is my professional avatar enough like me to be something I can maintain even when tired towards the end of a long day?
  • How does my avatar respond to criticism and or attacks?

What other things should you do or not do?

 *Minor edit, I really need to stop using the autocorrect on spell checker…

  • Really good post. I think about these things quite a bit. What is and is not okay to say…and I think your point is a good one…that some people can get away with revealing things that just would not go over if someone else tried the same kind of thing.

    • I think its as much a matter of what you can get away with as what anything as nebulous as "right and wrong". @Rob_thurman has a bit of a potty mouth, and more than 3X the followers I do.

      • What I liked about your post was that it emphasized finding the right public personna for the indiviual in question. Some guys can mouth off. Others just don't do it right. If I did that, people would be able to tell that I don't know how to use those words correctly. ;-P

        • You swearing, me being tactful. Everyone has their limits.

          • LOL
            I love the mental image of you straining, sweat pouring down your brow, in your effort to use a bit of tact. 😉

  • Printing this out for more than one person in my sphere of influence. Many thanks for this.

  • What? What do you mean? Everybody likes hockey!
    …they don't?

    • There are some very, very warped people who know not the one true faith.

      • I myself was raised baseballtarian, and still observe the major baseballtarian holidays. But I converted to hockeyism as an adult.

  • For me, the most effective decision I made was to talk to people (both online and in person at writing related events), rather than at them.

  • I know one author who I suspect is phobic about appearing in public and from inference several other related phobias.
    This is a tragedy as they're good enough to have written something I would revile from a lesser author.
    I appreciate this, I doubt it will help them.

  • Interesting posts about writing – w/e May 27th 2011
    User <lj user="jongibbs"> referenced to your post from Interesting posts about writing – w/e May 27th 2011 saying: […] (Rachelle Gardner) Your Professional Avatar […]

  • I've no problem with people promoting themselves and/or their work in moderation, but just like in real life, if all folks ever do is talk about themselves, we soon start avoiding them – unless they're family, of course, in which case we just have to grin and bare it 🙂

  • Hi! I am here via <lj user="jongibbs">. You make some excellent points. As a spec fic writer, I attend a fair number of conventions, and it is interesting to observe how many talented writers can be so good on the page and so bad in person.

    • Oh yes, I still hear 20-30 year old horror stories about certain authors. And there are quite a few today who can't separate the art and science of writing from the business, and the first rule of business is don't alienate your customer base.