Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cultivating an Image

I discussed writing superstitions only a couple of days ago, but wonder if perhaps I jumped the gun.  My main argument (discussion?) was that I didn't want to have writing superstitions, be it about certain objects or situations, because if those objects or situations were removed, I didn't want to find myself unable to write.

Maybe I was wrong, though, and I'll play the devil's advocate here and tell you why.

You see, there is certainly something to be said for the power of ritual. I sit down at this time, do this thing, and magic happens. It's how religious ceremony works, and think of the power that brings to the table! It's how champion test-takers and poker players stay on their games. Habits, rituals, tics, costumes.

So far, really only a few of you know me. I could be anybody. I might not write at all (I assure you, I most certainly do). But if I were to tell you that I was an all-black wearing, clove cigarette smoking, fingerless gloves sort of writer, would that be incorrect? If I told you I was a jeans and skater shoes and t-shirts with things on them kind of writer, are the two mutually exclusive?

Maybe I want to carry a plastic Doberman around and set him out as my totem when I write, especially if I'm not at home with my real Doberman. Maybe I want to wear an evil eye bracelet. Maybe I want to  be dreadfully literary and make all kinds of Classical references that nobody could possibly understand (or is that too hipster?) Maybe I want to be approachable and accessible, just a regular person, so anybody could email me and actually hear back from me. Maybe I want to confess my X-Files habit and my American Gods love and my need for the ocean.

Even on the screen, we're all just talking heads here. The anonymity really does help make it easy, but it also makes it hard. Sure, I can say anything. But don't I want people to know the real me? Sure, I can do anything, but don't I want my writing to be genuine and consistent (in addition to that pesky craving for being liked?)

What do you do?


  1. I don't have a plastic Doberman but I have desk pets, dating back to the time when I worked for The Evil Corporation too many hours a day with rules about what we could do every minute. I had a collection of little animals just to drive my manager crazy with the thought that I MIGHT take them down & play with them for five minutes instead of write code.

    And now you have given me a new blog post. Thank you.

  2. You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

    Oh, desk pets! That sounds pretty fantastic, really. It's fun to test those boundaries of what your boss is afraid of, and see what they really think.

  3. I like to think of my online persona as myself, through a lens of gentle sarcasm and without the occasional emotional meltdown. No one wants to read another person's pity party (at least, I don't), and yet no one's invincible and capable all of the time. So, I just try to be who I am; a flawed guy who makes mistakes like everybody else, and muddles through... like everybody else.

    I've had a couple people comment that they find me helpful and authoritative, which is kind of news to me, but I'll take it.

  4. Helpful and authoritative is good, that gets repeat visits!

    Thanks for sharing, though. It can be a struggle to be genuine (or recognizable to those who know you in person!) I think my main change is both my blogs are a little more "family safe" than I might otherwise be in full voice, though I'm not sticking to that stridently when it's to do with the writing.

  5. My blog is definitely a little more "family safe" than the real life experience might be. I am constantly going back to edit myself and see where I may have pushed the boundary too far. It's a fine line between creating "saleable content" and being the writer I am (and who I want to be, which aren't always the same thing!)