How to Look Like You Know What You’re Talking About

image

Sorry I haven’t been around so much, guys. Stuff’s come up. Give me about another week of lax posting and I’ll be back, bright-eyed and bushy-arsed.

In the meantime, I wanted to do a post on writerbloggish professionalism, such as it is.

Why?

Because I have very meager standards. You know this: you read my blog. However, there are a few things that don’t meet even my negligible criteria, and when that happens, you need to seriously rethink your life and why you’re in it. I don’t post regularly, I curse like a sailor, and I’m mean. I don’t even have my own tidy little domain name. What could be so awful even I’m straight-faced advising you against it?

These things, baby bear. These things.

(A NOTE: This advice is meant specifically for people with craft blogs, not personal blogs. Your personal blog is your business, and you can post that stupid cat video as many times as you want there. But I do expect certain things from a blog that calls itself ‘about writing’. They are, unsurprisingly, that the blog is about writing, and written by a more-or-less expert in said field.)

1) It’s Not Your Emotional Dumping Ground.

You’ve started a blog for the purpose of promoting your book and giving yourself a sort of home base in the writing community. This means that you are writing about writing. You are sharing writing related things. Occasionally, you provide some of your own writing.

And you get off-topic occasionally. Of course you do, and you should. You do things other than writing, obviously, and some of those things are fun and infinitely shareable. When you get married, have a baby, get sick, etc., it’s up to you how much of that you want to tell your readers, and there’s nothing wrong with sharing a little. People want to know more about you.

But here’s the thing, Shareable Sheena. If you are writing more blog posts about the epic repercussions of your boyfriend walking out on you in a Denny’s than you are about writing, this is no longer a writing blog. And you should stop, dear Jesus, stop, using all the writing tags. When I check ‘writing tips’, the first thing I see shouldn’t be a post containing IT WAS ALL FOR U in caps and an Adele video. No. Ain’t nobody got time for that. At least, people searching writing tags don’t, so tag appropriately.

Speaking of having time…

2) Check Your Sources.

You have the internet, obviously. More than likely, you have some sort of smart device that puts it at your fingertips whenever you are, wherever you are. So take the thirty fucking seconds necessary to make sure that it actually was Cortez who stood upon that peak in Darien. Keats had an excuse. Keats didn’t have the internet, and Keats had a meter to think about. You have neither mitigating circumstance. Check your sources.

I know, I know. We aren’t journalists. Except, oh, wait, we kind of are. When you write that bitty eight hundred word article to enlighten the world on proper use of past tense, you are performing a journalistic function, organizing information and life experience for an easily digestible thing people can peruse on their lunch breaks.

So, please, if you make a factual statement, do at least a cursory Google to make sure you’re telling the truth. Even stuff you’ve thought you know your whole life–f’rinstance, the other day, I found out the windward side of a dune is actually the side the wind blows on, not the sheltered side. Been using it wrong my whole life, and I’m from the beach. How’d this happen? I never fact checked. Don’t be like me: someone on the internet will know the truth, and correct you, and there you’ll be, credibility injured.

3) Stop With the ‘Deleting Inactive Friends’ Stuff.

I see this post, more or less verbatim, quite frequently on all social media forms, and it annoys the shit out of me.

Dear Friends,
I’m deleting/blocking a whole mess of you because you’ve never commented on my blog or liked anything. I just can’t stand having all these followers. So if you don’t want to be deleted or blocked, this is a passive-aggressive attempt to draw your attention and get more likes and comments. Thanks!

Okay, so maybe not verbatim. But anyway.

What are you trying to prove with this post? Why do you think the world owes you feedback?

A lot of people have read my book. I’m frequently amazed by the number of people who’ve read it. Not all of them left a review. Not all of them friended me on Twitter. Not all of them even bought a copy: some of them borrowed it from a friend, who maybe borrowed it from their friend, etc.

That’s cool. Books are expensive. And when these people tell me ‘I loved your book’, whether or not they left a comment on Amazon to that effect doesn’t matter. I still get tickled pink. It’s not good manners, from an authorial standpoint, to enjoy a book and not write a review, but these folks aren’t necessarily authors, now are they?

When people leave feedback, they do it voluntarily. This isn’t a test group, and they aren’t being paid for their time. If they want to read your blog silently–or, even, never read it–so what? They’re sure as hell never going to read it if you block them. And, while you certainly have the right to choose who you follow, making a production out dropping followers just suggests you’ve got serious time on your hands publicly.

If you must delete followers, I suggest not mentioning it in the blog itself. If someone asks you, say your feed was too full to follow, and you want to just use it to keep up with your closest friends. Low drama. If this person then unfollows you, there’s not a damn thing you can say about it. It’s not personal, after all: it’s just the Internet.

A note: this also goes for all ‘reblog if you care’, ‘reblog if you’re a real ‘, and ‘I need your help’ type blogs. Yes, you should encourage commenter participation. Of course. But this is not the way, Pamela Passive-Aggressive. And it most assuredly doesn’t look professional: it looks desperate.

4) Grammer I Ammer

Now, I’m no grammarian. I couldn’t give less of a shit whether you employ the Oxford comma or don’t. Matter of fact, when you mention the Oxford comma, my immediate reaction is to find a locker to stuff you in.
However, let’s visit item two again. You have the Internet.

We all make typos and mistakes occasionally, but you should do yourself the favor of reading over your post before you hit publish, and checking anything you aren’t sure about.

Why?

Because when your headline is ‘Grammar: Your Doing it Wrong’, people are going to suspect you’re less than expert in your chosen field.

Writers need good grammar. Not perfect grammar: that’s what editing is for. But you need to be able to type a coherent sentence, relatively well spelled and grammarized, fast enough that, before you shuffle off this mortal coil, you’ve produced at least one complete short story. If you can’t manage eight hundred words without a grammatical faux pas sixth graders could recognize, you’re not looking very good on paper.

Which is where, as a writer, you need to look good.

5) Be Cool.

Let Elmore Leonard be your guide. Shoot somebody.

I mean, be cool.

If you’re posting something pissy–an angry rant about a friend, a response to a review or criticism, a reply to an argumentative commentor–take a second to think, before you hit publish. Actually, take three hundred seconds. Take five minutes to go smoke a cigarette, read a few pages, pour yourself a drink, whatever poison calms your nervous system. After you’ve self-sedated, ask yourself these three things:

1) Is my response productive?
2) Is it important that I respond?
3) Will this make me look like an ass to the rest of my readers?

If the answer to the first two is yes, and the answer to the third is no, hit send. If the answer to any of these three isn’t as stated above, don’t.

Your blog is a public space, and it’s one where people will come to learn more about you. Is the fact that you’re a shitty, angry person really what you want them to learn?

Welp, there y’go.

A note: I can’t tell you how to write your blog. That’s your business, and you can do as you please. But I promise you: if you want to look like a professional, these five things are more important than having a domain name or a nice headshot. Professionalism is, after all, a way you interact with others. It’s not just a good suit or an appropriate haircolor. You can have the prettiest web design in the world, but if you post shit all over it, you still aren’t being professional.

So be professional. Minimize your shitposting.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “How to Look Like You Know What You’re Talking About

    1. Actually, nobody did :p A friend told me a story involving one of these items, and it got me thinking about it. We’re all guilty of at least one occasionally, but that’s the point–folks should try not to be. Whether you’re successful or not, you’re inhabiting a public space in a semi-professional capacity, and most of these are just basic ‘have respect for the public sphere’ types of things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s