As a writer, I always struggle with what to share publicly and looking at past posts, this appears to be a recurring theme on this site. In my editing program, one of the last sections of reading in the course pack was an article titled, “Eleven Essential Questions” [on Book Development, excerpted from Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents, 20th Edition, 2010]. This article was a beacon in the night to someone like me, a writer, almost “official” certified editor, and dabbler in life that wants to share the ups and downs of it with the world, but doesn’t know if there’s relevance in what she’s trying to say.
Two weeks ago I attended a meditation and “unblocking” class for writers at 826 Seattle that was led by Ruth Ozeki. In a class of approximately 30 writers, there was only one man — and he was Ruth’s assistant for the night. Ruth schooled the group in meditation and call and shout exercises exploring the issues that were hanging up the attendees’ writing process.
I was relieved to hear that the other twenty-something or so attendees were tangled in the same feelings of self-consciousness that binds me as a writer. Feelings of relevance — what do I have to offer? Constraints on time — where can I find an extra hour or so in my day/week to hash out my story? How do I do it — on paper or on a computer? Is there a “right” way to write? Basically, I am a neurotic writer and so are my peers. There’s comfort in this.
In “The Eleven Essential Questions for Every Non-fiction Author” article, Gerald Sindell first asks the reader/author: “What is new here? What are the new distinctions you have made that no one has seen before?” If this question doesn’t hit the proverbial nail on the head, I don’t know what does. In a world that thrives on a 24-hour news cycle and where everyone (me included, in this here moment) can share their every waking thought in real time, the thought that what I have to offer has never been said before and likely been said better — practically cripples me.
Sindell, however, later posits, “I happen to believe that if anyone can get to the truth of who there are and get it written, they will have made a valuable contribution to the human condition.” Amen, Mr. Sindell. While the thought of writing often grips me with paranoia and fear about not having anything “worthwhile” to say, the thought of the thousands of writers that have gone before me and those that currently share this amazingly large slice of Internet pie with me not having had the balls to commit their thoughts to the page and share with the rest of us is achingly sad for me. As a human being, I am a better person — better daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend — because I read the musings and offerings of the brave souls that shared.
When I sit down to write for professional purposes, I try to get into the head of the person who’s paying me to write their bit. Whether its ghostwriting or copy, a paid writer strives to capture the voice of the brand or entity for which they are writing. When I sit down to write for my personal edification, I wonder what I want my voice to convey.
Ro’s writing rule #1: never write yourself into a corner.
I have counseled many would-be bloggers on their brand and often caution them not to write themselves into a corner with their branding. For example, a writer friend that I met in the fall was itching to start a dating blog where she regaled the world with tales from her Internet dating forays about town. I cautioned her that it would be unwise to bill herself as a single, wannabe Carrie Bradshaw when she (hopefully) met the man of her dreams and no longer had juicy dating fodder to share with her (hopefully) avid audience. She’s now dating the man that she met approximately one week after that conversation took place. I know she has a million tiny morsels to offer in her writing corner of the world, and can’t wait to see what she has to share as her full, non-compartmentalized self.
Which brings me to my own brand. As I sit across from my boyfriend as he contemplates his own writing and branding, I naturally think of my own. If I wanted you all to know something about me and my brand, I would want you to walk away from here knowing both it and I am flexible. When I started this site, I was more Type A personally. Over the course of a year and a half, that has changed. I am still Type A professionally, my clients and their happiness is my bottom line. But I also know that I don’t want to be a rigid writer on here with an agenda — my approach will change as I do.
Before we can write authentically, we must understand who we are. We must discover our identity, the part of us that is immutable, the fingerprint of our soul. We can express our identity by asking ourselves, ‘What am I driven to do in this world?’ ~Gerald Sindell
The psych major in me itches to write to you about people. The formerly unhappy dater in me can’t wait to tease apart the differences between men and women. The volunteer in me wants to tell you to give an hour of your time a month — if that’s all you have — it’s enough. You’ll feel like a better person because of it. You will thank you. The reader in me can’t wait to share her current read. The Seattleite wants to share her favorite haunt. The cocktail hound — her favorite drink and, her favorite bartender. (Hint: he’s sitting across from me now.) You get the picture, yes? Oh yeah, I will share those with you too.
Be flexible and fluid. Know that your brand will change as you do. Be conscientious. Start there and the rest will fall into place.
As always, thanks for reading.