Friday, June 27, 2008

Just How Much Do Inquiring Minds Want To Know?

In her blog post A Blogger's Challenge: Privacy Vs. Authenticity, Mitali Perkins raises the question of how bloggers (her examples are all authors, but the question could apply to any blogger) balance an authentic voice with privacy. Can they be authentic and genuine without writing about all aspects of their lives?

Well, I think Mitali's question is an interesting one, and I've been dwelling on it since I read her post last night. (Not that it kept me up or anything.) I've recalled how I've noticed that many people become their work. We've known an engineer for many years. Engineering is absolutely a huge part of his identity and has an influence on all his interests. We know musicians who have worked, part-time, as musicians all their adult lives while supporting themselves and their families with day jobs. They are musicians--their lives are built around rehearsals, performances, attending musical events. Their lifestyle had a huge--and positive--impact on how they raised their children.

Over the years, I have become a writer. I think it informs and is connected to nearly everything I do. When you read this blog you really are getting an authentic view of my life because a great deal of my life is thinking about writing--what I'm writing now, what I could write about in the future, what other people have written. If I were to talk here about my children, my TV viewing, my shopping trips, what I make for dinner, you might be getting a less authentic voice, because I would be trying to isolate those portions of my life in order to say, Look, I have kids! I watch TV! I go shopping! Or you would be getting still more writing talk because my kids are a big part of my writing life, I analyze plots and characterization while I'm watching TV, and while I'm shopping I get ideas for stories that I sometimes forget about because I don't write them down or, if I remember that I have a notebook in my purse, I write them down and find them months and months later.

See, I just blogged about shopping and it turned into blogging about writing.

So, my long, drawn out point is that while people may choose to blog about whatever they like, at least in the case of writers, I don't believe we need to blog about anything but writing in order to be authentic.

4 comments:

TadMack said...

As I commented on Mitali's blog, I believe it has to do with the cult of personality that is alive in this country. Most of us writers know that if we have what they call a marketable face, we can get a lot more attention in many ways. I don't want to sell myself in order to sell my book, but that's part of the gig, and so I smile for the alumni newsletter and do my best.

However.

There has to be a line between work and self, and talking just about work or books except for the occasional aside about where we are working or reading, I like to keep conversation off of me personally! I can't be Meg Cabot -- though she does it beautifully -- but neither do I want to. She's not an introvert, as far as I can see, or else she has a really great act! My take on blogging is that it has to be fun and what *I* want to do, or I just won't do it...

gail said...

If we're being honest, writers are trying to market our personalities, to create a following. Personally, though, I don't know that writing about your personal life is going to create a cult of personality for most of us.

Deciding to include personal content in a blog may involve knowing your readership. Some of the blogs I've seen that include a lot of personal material (and I don't visit these kinds of blogs regularly, so I'm no authority) seem to have a lot of comments from people who share those personal interests. So if the blogger knows that her followers are far more interested in Flip This House than what some French professor has to say about reading books or if she knows she has sports fans reading her regularly, it's a good marketing decision to gear your material to them.

On the rare occasions when I've mentioned at my blog that I blew off work to go hiking, I haven't been overwhelmed with response from avid hikers wanting to know more about my hiking group. I blogged quite a bit about watching The Complete Jane Austen (because it was book related), but I only remember a few people responding to that.

So, really, I don't think writing about my personal life is going to help me create a cult of personality.

TadMack said...

Maybe 'cult of personality' is the wrong phrase, but to me the blogging thing is less about people wanting to interact, and more about people wanting to feel like they have an 'in' with a writer by knowing some of the details of their life. Nobody in the paparazzi really knows Paris Hilton, for instance, but the gossipy photoblogs speculate, and a lot of people feel better even knowing that speculation, being that one step removed. As a writer blogging, I think it makes the writer more approachable -- definitely it's part of gaining a following -- but it's also likely true that we need to decide if we want a blog following. Whether or not having one sells books is to me doubtful.

I dunno. I always thought blogging was supposed to be something you did for fun and you didn't care if anyone read. I don't feel pressured, exactly, to start a promotional blog, but my agent definitely seems a little confused as to why I don't have one. I sincerely doubt that my readers will be confused; I like to think that they will want to know more about the books I'll be writing than me.

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