Lines in the Sand: Redefining Boundaries in New Literature
Patrick has been stepping out in social media lately, and he knows it's making me a little anxious.
"You think I'm sharing too much?" he asked me this morning, just to humor me.
I considered his recent updates.
"Well, relative to publishing a book about our entire marriage, I guess not," I said.
It may seem like a contradiction for a memoirist to claim to be a private person, but I really am. If anything, my concern with privacy control has increased commensurately with life becoming more public. My husband and close friends will tell you it borders on paranoia. I don't mind getting personal, but strictly on my own terms.
The thing is, I'm always redefining those terms. I keep entertaining this idea that one day I'll have the boundaries mapped out just so--the blog for this, Twitter for that, Facebook for something else, and all my content and relationships will stay tidily within their assigned compartments. But if you have any kind of online life at all, you already know that's like trying to draw lines in the sand with a tide rolling in. Social media defies compartmentalization.
I got a very timely email last week from a long-time reader, Janie, who is hoping to publish her own book, and is pondering the place of social media in an author's career. She kindly agreed to let me post the crux of her query here:
It seems that any writer today who hopes to be published needs to have a blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. to build a presence, a following, and a community...How do you balance the personal/professional aspects of all this social media?Funny she should ask, because in between folding laundry, supervising 5th grade field trip, and getting caught up on lunches with ladies, this is exactly the same question I've been mulling over. As Janie notes, the boundaries between personal and professional writing have never been more fluid. Citing authors Justine Musk and Chris Guillebeau, she observes
it seems that it's all just One Big Thing for them - personal and professional rolled into oneI'd never heard of either of those authors, but I was taken with this post by Musk that Janie passed along, which makes a case for integrating a writer's output under the roof of "personal brand." I've long been allergic to the word "branding" as applied to human beings or the arts, but I've decided to write it an exemption under the rule of Lack of a Better Word. I can get behind the concept, if not the semantics. And I like how Musk says we should just quit trying to make new media fit the old floor plan. Knock out the walls, she seems to say. Embrace open space writing.
I've been planning to launch a new website for some time, and am excited about the opportunity to build a new online space as an author. In case you've been wondering, I do plan to continue to journal online, though there will likely be a change of address and some renovations. I think of Notes as my sketchpad: I'd no sooner be without it than a painter would be without paper and a bit of charcoal, or a photographer without her Polaroid. It's how I capture the fleeting thought. As you'll see when the book comes out, many of the quick studies drawn here are elaborated there. But I'd like to bring the online journaling under the same virtual roof as my print writing. It doesn't feel right to be a blogger, here; author, there; magazine writer, somewhere else. It's time to bring it all together.
That's more of a "me too" than an answer to Janie's question, I know. So let me volley it over the net to you. Do you follow any authors online? Does having a sense of a relationship with a writer enhance your relationship to their writing? What if there's an apparent incongruity between their online voice and print voice? Is that jarring, or dynamic? And in which direction do you travel: does print prompt you to go looking online for the author, or does the online presence drive you to read the book?
More specifically and selfishly, how do you like the idea of going to a website for, oh, I don't know, a PERSONAL MEMOIR, and being able to pull up related digital memorabilia-- snapshots, letters, marginalia, etc., like the "extras" section on a dvd?
I would love your thoughts and questions. I bet so would Janie.
Labels: the writing life