When I first joined sites like Twitter and Facebook in order to promote my writing, I came across loads of blogs and articles explaining the “rules” of social networking, most of which were based upon one guiding principle: always be professional.
O.K., I thought–professional is good. Never mind that pesky little demon protesting in my ear, “But if you were desirous (or capable!) of being professional, wouldn’t you have become, say, an accountant instead of a writer?” Silence, pesky demon! Writing is—or can be, anyway—as much of a profession as any other form of damn hard work…especially if the writer ever wishes to get paid.
But something funny happened on the way to social networking professionalism. I began to notice a (very general and with notable exceptions) pattern: the blogs and posts from non-writer people tended to be more engaging, thought-provoking, and entertaining than those from writer-people–a pattern all the more startling when considering that writer people are, after all, in the business of working magic with words.
So are all of these writers simply in the wrong business? Not based upon the many fine novels, stories, and poems that I’ve discovered through social networking. But somewhere between the WIPS and word counts and writing tips, perhaps many writers have lost sight of the messy craziness–the opinions, reflections, and revelations that may indeed be uncomfortable, raw, or even, at times, a tad unprofessional—but that ultimately can enliven our online prose beyond just one more promo or review. How much richer we are that Oscar Wilde bared his soul in De Profundis instead of instructing us “How to Build a PR Platform;” that Virginia Woolf revealed A Room of One’s Own instead of “How I Found an Agent;” that James Baldwin dared to light The Fire Next Time instead of “The Dos and Don’ts of Twitter.” What would Samuel Beckett tweet?
No one (who isn’t starring in a reality TV show) wants to be a train wreck. No one wants to be regarded as unprofessional or ignorant, and it can be a fine line between, say, having strong opinions and being a blowhard; between wearing your heart on your sleeve and hanging your ass in the wind. But the most interesting people—artists or otherwise—have never been afraid to dance along that fine line–stumbling across it, sometimes, perhaps even falling on their faces a time or two in the process—but oh, how much more magnificent their messy, wild dances than those sitting safely on the sidelines!
Dance on, rebels and dreamers…