Friday, February 11, 2011

A Question of Identity

Lately I've written about blog bios and blog userpics.

A cynic might say I've been scratching around for topics and my eyes keep landing on elements of my blog. 'Erm. . . ooh. . . erm. . . how about. . . BLOG USERPICS!' A cynic might be expecting a post next week on netbook keyboards versus desktop keyboards, whether I should continue growing my nails or clip them now, and which colour mug I should make my next pink tea in.

Sorry, Cynic. There is method to my madness, I promise.

I've been thinking a lot about creating an online identity. For a lot of writers, this process starts with the book deal and is dictated by the content of their book, by the brand they are trying to establish. Increasingly, though, writers are starting this process at querying stage, or even earlier.

And increasingly, writers are blogging because it's fun - but at the same time, they have to be mindful of the online footprint being left behind.

When I started blogging, I was conscious that someday an agent might read my blog. I considered blogging with this in mind - never mentioning problems, blocks, or difficulties in case and an agent read my posts and said 'Wow, once she didn't write for a two weeks, she'll never keep to a deadline!' But when I read a few writers' blogs and saw the honesty that blogging allows, I decided - feck it. I'll be myself.

And that means blogging in my natural, slightly-snarky voice, having bios that may mention cookie recipes or cable knitting needles and maybe getting my photo wrong sometimes. I'm okay with that. I made the decision to blog as myself but to keep as much of my private life out of it as possible.

Did anyone else obsess about this? At what stage? I started blogging regularly and then pondered all of this a couple of weeks later. Did you consider the importance of online identity before or after you started your blog - or do you ignore it completely?

And more importantly, is 'deciding' to be yourself on a public blog actually horribly two-faced? I'm afraid to think about that too much in case the wave form collapses :)


  1. I constantly worry about this. I have my Livejournal for personal stuff, though I hardly ever post anymore, but I find that I feel like I'm neglecting my writing blog as well because I'm not sure if it's okay to mention when I'm having a bad writing day or something.

  2. I do, but I want my identity to be all me, which is why I post like I do. But yes, everything, from my blog address, to the look of the blog and my twitter profiles have an underlying reason.


  3. Blogging while looking over your shoulder is not fun.
    With a blog do what you want, not what you think others want always seems to be the best advice.

  4. I find the whole issue of how personal I want my blog to be- how much of 'me' I want in my blog- quite the thing to think about. I guess in one way it's still an evolving thing. I haven't had a 'proper' blog before, and the closest I've ever come to was my LJing days. I specifically wanted my current blog to be a different thing, less of a journal and more actually talking about things. So initially I decided to keep my personal life out of it.
    Of course, that turned out to be easier said than done, especially after the first couple of months when I was running out of very generalised things to talk about. So I've started putting in an anecdote here, relating a thing to real life there, putting up an actual userpic. It feels like a very fine line, though, between being boringly personal and boringly impersonal.
    I think it's okay that it's an evolving thing, though. Blogs are our own things, they're where we try things on for size and see how they fit.

  5. I like personal blogs but then I'm a nosey so and so!! But then there's a fine line with being so personal your blog becomes only relevant to you and being of value (whether for fun or for serious matters) to others. Bottom line - blogs - unless you have your privacy settings on - are public viewing to all and sunder. It's up to you what you want seen and read! Take care

  6. I think you can have it both ways and still be yourself. My literary blog is very public, and very me, but I only ever blog about literary things. The real you will come across in the voice, so you shouldn't need to worry about feeling pressure to type up a post for the sake of it. A two week gap is nothing, and to be honest, do you think an agent or an editor has time to trawl through every post?

    My private stuff goes on Facebook, and I only friend people who I actually regard as friends on there. You don't need to open your life on every social network. You don't owe people that kind of information.

  7. I think I love you!
    Seriously, you were writing my thoughts through much of that. I have created this poetry blog separate from my regular essay-ish blog and hope assume most people I know well don't find it. It's just too personal. But that's what I "need" to write here. So. . . .
    I enjoy your writing.

  8. Paul, I worried about that too, at the start, but everyone has bad days. . . I'd be more worried that my posts about the bad days would sound too moany! I don't think any reasonable agent would want an author who couldn't overcome problems.

    Misha, I feel I've met a kindred spirit there - we should start a club for people who overthink :)

    Al, definitely a good point, paranoid blogging is like faking a whole personality for your school reunion!

    Aoife, do you find people relate more to your blog now that it has been Aoife'd up? I like blogs about Things and Issues but if I like the mind of the person writing, I do want to know if they like tea, or if they watch telly.

  9. Kitty, I didn't even think about the issue of value but it is a good one. A highly personal blog can be brilliantly fun to read, but I agree that it should be written with an eye on being enjoyable to read. Surely we all write everything with a touch of that spirit? Or rather, we edit with that spirit :)

    Donna, that's what I try to do. I've had a few posts that weren't about books-n-stuff, but usually only when some issue has really hit me where I live and I think 'this won't fit in a Facebook status but I have a need to say it publicly.' I have a post about being an only child that springs to mind. Voice does seem to be the kicker alright, whether writing books or blogging.

    Thanks for the compliment, Fay :) that's another issue with the fact I blog under my somewhat unusual real name - anyone can find me. I just assume if the content doesn't interest them, they'll move on!

    I have, in the past, accidentally stumbled on things online that I felt the author wouldn't have wanted me to read. Usually I just pretend I didn't read them - and if I realise early enough, I won't read them. Hope your poetry blog stays as quiet as you need it to.

  10. Oh dear, now you have me worried. My blog is a mixture of personal and writing. Sometimes the twine do meet. Am I wrong? I need to stop and think on this a bit.

  11. My blog is my public face, essentially. I keep my actual name out of the equation.

  12. Ellen,

    Yep, I went through an almost identical thought-process. And, yep, these days I'm much more relaxed about being myself, although my blog is a writing blog and I'm careful not to wander off-topic. Well, not too often anyway ...

  13. It took me a long time to start letting any personality or personal things come out in my blog. At first I wanted everything to be as professional and writing-based as possible, but I think it was too dry and whitewashed. I started getting feedback once I let a little bit of myself out, and I only just this weekend added a photo of myself to my blog.

    I think people like to feel like they know you. Otherwise it's hard to connect to a picture of sticky notes or someone who only "workworkworkworkwork"s.


I love comments!