26 August 2013

Edit Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

I’ve written before about how to edit your work while still enjoying writing, so for this month’s editing discussion, I thought I’d take a different view and offer up some advice on the other type of editing writers aiming for publication should be concerned with: Editing yourself when you’re trying to look like a professional.

The internet is a vast space that is actually the world’s smallest town. You say something, and you say it in the wrong tone, and the entire world can decide you’re an ass. It’s hard, sometimes, to grasp what that could mean for your career as a writer, which brings me to my first piece of advice:

Never forget that you are your brand. If you’ve seen my twitter, you know I use it about 85% of the time to try and be funny, talk about what I’m writing, engage with some people I know on there, or say nice things about other people’s work. The other 15% of the time, it’s a grab bag of bitter bear grumblings, jokes about wine, and some political or ideological ire.

This ratio is absolutely intentional. I want my twitter to be a place where people want to see what I’m writing and talk to me a bit and see me making recommendations, but I also want my twitter to showcase a few different facets of my personality because those facets of my personality influence the work I create. I’m a very social person who can keep up a conversation with a wet bathroom mat. I want you to know a little about me.
Hey! Say hi to your mom and them! [source]

My filter, while much improved since I was a teenager, still isn’t what you’d call extra-strength. I’ve learned to control it enough to stop and think before I say certain things, and I’ve learned that I can just decide not to have certain conversations. I use this knowledge to decide exactly what goes on my twitter. Now, every single tweet isn’t deeply considered and vetted, but the bitter bear tweets and the political and ideological ire? I think those through because the wrong phrasing could absolutely sink what audience I have, and that could end me before I really begin.

I follow this same rule of consideration with my writing tumblr and with my news blog (dry as it may seem). I am not afraid for people to see me warts and all; I prefer, however, to present myself as the person I strive to be: a talented writer who is working to be a more positive person in general (and a more positive writer to other writers in particular), and a writer who wants to be respected as a person because she respects other people. I don’t knock it out of the park 100% of the time, but when I’m concerned maybe I’ve misstepped, I do that thing we all do from time and time. That thing that can help you assess how you’re looking to strangers on the internet. You probably do it to:

Google yourself. Seriously, fire up another tab right now, type in whatever name it is you write under, and go through the first few pages of results. If there’s not something in those results that surprises you, you have done a bang up job of keeping your online nose clean. Well done! If you are surprised or amazed (or horrified) by what’s attached to your name, you’re not alone. The first time I googled myself I saw some stuff I had literally forgotten existed. It happens. If you’ve been on the internet for a long time, odds are you’ve got dead accounts on websites you assumed had vanished years ago. Maybe you haven’t logged in in years, but those accounts still exist and have your name on them. So, how do you get those results--which don’t represent you--to clear out? It’s a two-step process:

Step 1: Spend some time cleaning house. Get a list going of all those old sign-ins that still pop up. Then, go to those websites and see about deleting your account. You may (as I have had to do from time-to-time) have to reset your password just to delete your accounts, but it’s worth it to scrub a layer of old internet dust off your search results. If you find you can’t delete your account (or are required to jump through a hoop of fire to do so), see if you can change the display name to something that won’t come up as you.

I was gonna make a joke, but I got distracted by the cool info
at the link about the right kind of hoop for circus stuff.

Step 2: Create more stuff to override the old stuff. You’ve cleaned house and yet, that diatribe you wrote about that time that guy did that thing on that show you now hate is still the first thing that pops up in Google (not based on a true story [as far as I remember]) when you search your name? What’s a writer to do?

Well, get writing. And get publishing. And get people searching for your work. Nothing’s going to wipe out those ancient results faster than new stuff for people to look at. Me? I’ve got it pretty good. Once a month, Carrie lets me take over this blog and blather on about some such thing. I also like to review books, hence the goodreads account. And I’ve got a LinkedIn for professional stuff. If you’re not the social media type, it might be a little harder to get the old you off those Google results, but it’s worth doing. You don’t have to be your Sunday best, smile-and-nod self all the time when you’re presenting yourself as a writer, but if you want people to find the you that you are, you’ve got to make sure they’re not getting blocked by the you that you were.

Gayle Francis Moffet is, as always, a writer. She just released a chapbook of micro poems (4 lines, 20 words a pop), and she’s back to scowling at comic book scripts on a regular basis. She just dusted off an old horror story and figured out what was wrong with it. That was pretty boss.

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