When one is in the business of promoting one’s self, it should be understood that your personal opinions should be kept secret from your business persona. In the writing/publishing world, I think this rule applies doubly, unless you are an opinion columnist, then, well, it is your job to give your opinion. There are, of course, other exceptions, but for the majority of writers/editors/agents, there isn’t.
I’ve been promoting myself now for a little over a year. It’s not been easy work. It’s really, really hard to get your name to the top of a google search, and I was warned that far ahead of time, that even if I am not published yet (which I wasn’t, at that time), I need to start getting my name out there now.
I’m a very connected person. I can probably be found all over the internet if you look close enough. At first, I panicked, since the ramblings of my thirteen-year-old self are somewhere out there, just waiting one day to be discovered so I can be thrown under the bus like some politician claiming to have performed witchcraft, which, as most thirteen-year-olds, I might have entertained at some point. But then, I realized that I would be okay, as long as I kept my personal life separated from my business life.
So, when I really want to get on twitter and rant about how much my fiancee is driving me crazy, or how I don’t agree with this, that or the other, I try to refrain. I wouldn’t put that in a newsletter at my full-time job, so why on earth would I put it online, under my pen name, which represents me as an author? It’s okay to let people peek into the fray of your life, but I don’t think it is okay to entwine professionalism with when you are no longer “on the job.”
The best way I can describe this is through my career as a teacher. Anyone who is a teacher knows that when the school bell rings, you are “on.” That is when your act begins. For seven hours, from 7:30 to 2:30, I am Ms. W., I am no longer who I am when I go home. I do not speak the same. I do not act the same. I do not let my students talk to me like I am anything less than my position, and I do not talk to them like they are anything less than a student. I don’t usually talk about my home life, I don’t bestow my opinions on non-school related things, and this is the wall I maintain nine months out of the year. This is the wall a successful teacher has to keep in order to ensure the success of their students. Not all teachers maintain the same degree of separation, but there is one.
As an author, I assume the same responsibility. There is a wall that separates my career self from my real self. Sometimes, I let people peek through this wall and see who I really am, since I am certainly not a zombie — in fact, I’m a highly-sarcastic, cynical, fun person who loves to make people laugh. I always have. In fact, I remember in eighth grade, one of my peers said, “I would not be surprised if you grew up and became a comedian.”
I thought about it.
But anyway. Why am I saying any of this? Because, in the age of information spreading quicker than you can take it offline, it is important. What you put out there is a reflection of you, and it’s never going to go away. If I really cared about someone or something, I could google them all day long and find things from ten years ago stuck somewhere on some abandoned forum. And when I find these little nuggets, these pieces of broken mirror that reflect who he or she might be, I am immediately put in a position to decide if I care or if I don’t care. But, as Paton wrote in Cry, the Beloved Country, you cannot unsee what you already saw.
What does this mean for us?
Just be careful what you put out there, because you can’t ever take it back, and it can’t be unseen once it is found.