Who Am I? Authors in (Identity) Crisis
When Peggy first invited me to guest blog I immediately leapt at the chance to promote the release of my newest romantic comedy Stacking the Deck and then I went into panic mode. WHAT. TO. WRITE? This is not, of course, much different than the typical day as we authors sit down at our keyboards, but having been through this blog tour/book release drill once before (thereby rendering me a veritable expert <snort!>) I wondered what NEW thing I had to write about. (Also a typical worry of authors on a daily basis.)
Which, if you are prone to distractibility (squirrel!) led me to thinking about how I wanted to portray myself to all you lovely people. And THAT, my friends, is what we authors struggle to master as much as the writing itself.
Let’s face it, we are fans, followers and social media friends with dozens of bestselling authors whose news feeds are filled with witty, pithy posts and pictures of adorable kittens, sexy men and sexy men cuddling adorable kittens. But… what if that isn’t us? What if we are allergic to cats? (Perish the thought!) Or we feel vaguely uncomfortable when we have a nearly naked man pulling on his underwear on our computer screen when our under-18 kids walk by? (“I’m doing research!”)
We’re told time and again we must develop a “presence” on social media, to “build a platform,” to “engage our readers.” As a writer, this feels like a blank page. A great and wonderful, horrible and magical blank page. I can be anything! we tell ourselves. AN-Y-THING! We whip out our hair dye and Photoshop manuals and practice our French just in case… well… who knows! We have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves! How cool is THAT? We do it every day with the characters in our books, why should we, ourselves, be any different?
Except we aren’t characters in books. We’re more like fan fiction. The basic character and backstory are already there. We can’t wash them away. We have to work with who we already are. I mean, I enjoy dress up as much as the rest of you, but I’m here to tell you, that taking on a social media persona that doesn’t feel like ‘you’ will eventually not ring true with readers or with yourself.
Figuring out how you want to portray yourself to the larger world is not so much about putting on airs as it is peeling off layers to get to the core of who you are.
Because your image is, fundamentally, your voice. YOUR voice. What makes YOU write the books of YOUR heart and turn phrases with just the right elegant finesse to make your heart beat a little faster with excitement. You can’t fake the ‘you’ you present to the outside world any more than you can successfully copy someone else’s voice.
On the other hand, this doesn’t give you carte blanche to let it all hang out. No. No one needs to see the down and dirty, unshowered, ‘haven’t eaten food that didn’t contain unpronounceable chemicals and/or chocolate for a week because I’m on deadline and this is how I roll’ you. No. Neither do people want the ‘I’m stepping on my soapbox’ you. Because we can’t throw rotten vegetables over the internet, the mudslinging ‘you’ will have to rant in person.
The you WE want to see and interact with and get to know is still fundamentally ‘you’, but freshly bathed, and happy (generally) and sitting across from us in a coffee shop or in a park because we’re old friends, and we DO that sort of thing. And then you reveal those unique observations about life and love and friends and family and the shows you watch and the things that bug you… as friends. Because THAT’S the ‘you’ we readers want to know.
Let your public “persona” be the face of who you are when you are in the ‘zone’ of writing. That’s the real you. That’s the ‘you’ readers want to know and engage with. Maybe ‘you’ like kittens, pictures of sexy men, travel photos or talking about crafts. Whatever you enjoy sharing is the persona to share with the world, and the more you do that, the more ‘you’ in the larger world will mesh seamlessly with the ‘you’ you are everywhere else.
Now you all may be saying, “Ha! She’s talking about being real and honest and yadda, yadda but look at her PINK author photo! What’s that all about?” Well, I’ll tell you a secret about that photo. My critique partner HATES that photo with a purple passion. She thinks it’s cheesy and odd and not befitting my professional author persona. And while she has the looks and demeanor to portray a beautiful and glamorous author-self to the world. I am… pink. And I like being pink. When I look at my photo, it makes me smile in the way I do when I think of holiday lights and Dr. Seuss. It reminds me not to take myself too seriously. Maybe it isn’t glamorous or polished or sexy, but it feels like a more honest portrayal of who I am, at heart, than any glossy Glamour Shot ever could.
So, in the words of Dr. Seuss in Happy Birthday to You! come climb to the top of the world and shout with me: “I AM I!” Go ahead. It’s easy. And after we can grab a cup of coffee and chat about our books while searching the internet for random photos of sexy men cuddling kittens… because that’s how we roll.
Sharing time! Have you ever tried on a different public persona or image on social media? What happened? Did it feel “right” or like someone else’s hand-me-down you couldn’t wait to peel off when you got home? Tell us your story!
Both titles also available in print! www.cheriallan.com