Monday, March 28, 2011

What am I here for?

I don't like the term "platform." What image does it conjure up in your head? I see spotlights and microphones and pressure to perform, even when it's a virtual spotlight/microphone on the internet.
I see regular schedules, planned events, a certain flair.

I am not keen on those things (though I admire folks who can pull off a genuine platform). I feel uncomfortable in the spotlight. Hey, I'm a writer! I want to direct all my attention to my characters!

Even when I'm teaching (I teach GIS software classes), I'm happiest when I'm directing questions back to my students and hearing their thoughts and ideas. And that is what I love about blogging. I get to share a little bit of what's going on in my head, I can get your thoughts and ideas and input, there's a wonderful interchange that isn't under any pressure, and I don't have to be in a spotlight.
I don't think of my blog as a platform. I'm not selling anything and I don't have an agenda.
However, I do wish my blog had a little more focus. Things are pretty random here. I haven't even been able to settle on posting on Mondays and Thursdays vs. Tuesdays and Fridays.
This weekend I discovered a wonderful blog called Shrinking Violets Promotions with a tag line "marketing for introverts." The word marketing almost scared me away. The word introverts pulled me back.
(begin tangent)
Holy Toledo, if you're an introvert, or doth protest too much that you are not but suspect that introversion lurks down deepeth, then you've got to read their Introverts' Bill of Rights. Extroverts must read this too. It will help you understand us, though you will still roll your eyes at us just as much, if not more.
oooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOooooooooo (that's me rolling some virtual eyes at myself)
(/end tangent)
So after reading the Bill of Rights and feeling like I should start wearing a "I am an introvert and proud of it" badge, I found their Online Persona Workshop. I liked the idea of developing an online persona much more than developing an online platform.
I have a weakness for Wikipedia like I do for chocolate, and ye ol Wiki says this of persona:
In ancient Latin, persona meant "mask." Today it does not usually refer to a literal mask but to the "social masks" all humans supposedly wear.
But as I read more about the Shrinking Violet version of persona, it sounded more like the opposite of a social mask. They call an online persona "an internet presence that you are comfortable with, that makes you accessible, and doesn’t feel like shilling." It's about being genuine - not about wearing masks.
Discovering one’s online persona is very much like discovering one’s writing voice; a fascinating and enriching journey inward. It’s more a matter of uncovering and re-connecting with what already exists in the first place. To really be effective at this, you need to wipe away market considerations and popularity considerations and go authentic. Just like the strongest writing voice, the strongest online persona will come from that truly authentic place.
OOOhhhh! An analogy relating to voice! I'm sooooooo hooked.
The workshop is a series of ten exercises - I tried the first one "Why do you want to be online?" and I loved the results. So I think what I'm going to do (remember now, this blog has an element of randomness, so no plans are set in stone) is post about each of the ten exercises as I work my way through them. With feedback from you guys. Because I love your feedback. I crave your thoughts and ideas.
And if anyone wants to join me on this developing your persona thing, that's be bonus, like chocolate ice-cream with thick ribbons of fudge kind of bonus.
At the end of it I hope I'll have a little more focus here to tie together all the oxygen-deprived thoughts that come from Writing at High Altitude.
So, why do I want to be online? Not to market myself, that's for darn sure. As I worked through the exercise (which includes making a list of your ten favorite places on the internet and finding if there is anything in common with them), this is what I came up with:
First of all: I want to be online to connect with other people. With writers and readers and magic-bean eaters. I love to ask questions and hear crazy wonderful answers from right field, left field and from the peanut gallery. It expands my little world and inspires my oxygen-deprived brain cells.
Second of all: I love encouraging people. A lot of us are on this bumpy road of creativity that we hope might lead to publication. A road with roller-coaster thrills, abrupt turns, dead-ends, and weird round-abouts. It's a lot easier to navigate this road with help. Other people can provide the expert help. I like to provide the "I'm here with you, keep writing!" help. And the occasional "I discovered this cool thing that helped me, maybe it will help you too." For those of you querying (I'm not there yet) I'm your cheerleader on the side-lines.
More about persona next week. Right now, I'd love to hear your reasons for being on-line. And what are your favorite blogs to follow?

p.s. you've got to check out Janet Johnson's and Vicki Rocho's Brawl & Haul contest! It's a girl-fight and funny and you can win a 10 page crit from agent Sarah LaPolla! Open until April 1st.

37 comments:

  1. i love this post. i'll check out the links and i look forward to seeing you work your way thru the exercise.

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  2. I mainly started my blog because I wanted to read more. Happy to say I succeeded at that in my first year. I also blog about books because it annoys me when I pick a book out based on rave reviews only to find it's a complete dud and wasn't worth my time. In a way, I want to either guide avid readers to a good book or shoo them away when I know it's just plain bad. I also blog because I have a headful of writing advice I'd like to share. If I can warn another writer away from the pitfalls of the industry, then good. If I can guide another writer down a path they'd been considering, then also good. Best of luck to you in getting your bearings straight!

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  3. What a cool thing to find! I'm an introvert, too. :) But I love the idea of developing an online persona and making it authentic, to who we are already or maybe would like to become. Thanks for passing on this information!

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  4. What a cool site - thanks for turning us on to that! Good luck to you finding your online voice!

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  5. Hi, Margo. I recall when my novel was a month away from being published and my publisher told me the following: "of course you're going to have to get a blog...". A what? Certainly, I knew what it was, but little did I know that I was going to have to do much of the promoting myself. It sure woke me up!
    Good luck with attempting to find the right persona. If I could find the time, it might be something that I would need to look into. Most of what I have been doing has been by the seat of my pants!!

    -Jimmy

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  6. 'writers and readers and magic-bean eaters'

    Loved this! I think I'm all 3!

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  7. Margo, this is a really interesting exercise. I'm going to go check out the link. Thanks! It's interesting how it ties in to the whole self-presentation issue.

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  8. Those are great reasons for wanting to be online.

    I am no introvert - my Myers-Briggs scores are off the charts in terms of extroversion - but I also find the idea of deliberately marketing / hard-selling distasteful and uncomfortable. Shrinking Violets Promotions looks just dandy. Thanks for pointing it out.

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  9. I am a lot like you--introverted, not always sure exactly what I'm doing with my blog, prefer putting questions on my students, the whole shebang. :) I'll have to check out Shrinking Violet Promotions; it's been on my to-do list for quite a while, but now I've got more incentive to really do it. Thanks, Margo!

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  10. Thank you for sharing these links! I'm hopping over right now. I've written a few posts about 'platforms' and such. It is important to have aim and some sort of a roadmap when blogging; however, I feel that blogging also serves the other purpose, letting us as writers explore more of who we are and what we want to share with the world.

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  11. Great post! I think every blogger (introverts and extraverts alike) should think about why they want to blog. Those reasons determine the direction that the posts will take.

    :-)

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  12. Thanks for all the links! I will definitely have to check out the blogging advice!

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  13. We are a lot alike--I am online to connect with others--I love meeting new people and learning from them. I love encouraging and being encouraged. I love your blog and the voice that comes through. Don't change!

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  14. Cool! I'll be sure to check out Shrinking Violets :) I'm online and blogging mostly to connect with people and learn about writing--both the technical/craft issues and the social networking side. I've learned SO much since last July and have met incredible people who have been a source of information and support (just like you!!). I don't get a lot of time to hang out with my friends from "real" life, and the online community has become such an important part of my day. I wish I could gather you all up and meet at a conference :)

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  15. Yay for introverts!! I want a badge too!! :-)

    Thanks for the links!! I think that's why I love blogging above facebook and the rest - it's truly your own personal space and you make it as you wish (blogger allowing of course! LOL!) Take care
    x

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  16. I blog because I want to connect with other writers and share what I've learned about the writing process. The workshop sounds really interesting. I'm kind of an introvert too. :)

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  17. I started my blog as a form of daily writing practice and quickly found it is more a daily shot of inspiration and motivation!

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  18. My reasons for being online are to improve my writing by reading blogs and to (eventually) have a small group of writer friends so we can encourage and support one another during the writing process and be each other's crit partners/beta-readers when it comes time to edit. I need to make the time to do blog posts that aren't reviews to get a better dialogue going. On that note, I think I'm going to make my favourite blogs into a post instead of leaving you a very long comment!

    I may not make everything public but I think I'll join you in doing the workshop.
    - Sophia.

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  19. Thank you so much for sharing this. It got me thinking.
    The first reason why I started a writing blog was because a friend got me into it. Then I decided to use it as a way to get brave (second reason). The real me is not, so I use my blogging as a way to hold myself accountable with my writing life.
    And I'm glad I did because I found you. :D
    I've been wanting my online persona to look brave. Now I wonder if I'm succeeding at all. XD

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  20. I love what you said about the online persona. That's how I see my blog and my online self. I enjoy getting to know others and in the process find myself.

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  21. I'm online to build my platform - but also to interact with other writers. Since I work from home, blogging has become an important part of my social life!

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  22. Yes! I like the word persona much better than platform. :) I'm definitely coming back to learn more about these workshops! Sounds fascinating. :)

    And thanks for the shoutout!

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  23. Great Post. I saw this yesterday at work but didn't have time to respond. Thank you so much for the introverts link. It's wonderful and interesting. Will be following. My blog has evolved with me over the years from discussing everything from homeschooling to writing. One of my goals was to improve my writing. I think it has. Will be following your progress through the workshop. Just may try it myself at some point.

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  24. Much like you, I'm online in an attempt to help people. To provide information and feedback. I like to feel useful - and missed. Thanks for commenting that you wondered where I'd gone! I usually don't feel like anyone notices when I'm gone! :)

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  25. I don't like the word 'platform' either. If that's the only reason someone blogs, I think it shows: the blog ends up being stilted and half-hearted and pushy, which is never fun for anyone!

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  26. Thanks for sharing the very helpful links. I blog because i love to write and share information. I think blogging is a great way to meet other writers, and share ideas and encourage each other in the difficult road to getting published. :P

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  27. I love how thoughtful this post is! Like you, I sort of shrink away from the word PLATFORM. I think for those of us who write fiction, PERSONA is much more fitting. When I think platform, I think of trying to persaude people to think as I do (I know that's not true for everyone with a platform, but you know...). When I think of persona, I think of connecting with others. Sharing ideas and opinions and friendship. I like that so much better!

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  28. Hi Margo! I wanted to pop over and meet you. I followed you from your comment on my blog that you followed me over from First Voice Contest :)
    Thanks for stopping by. Now I follow you heehee That's a lot of following.

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  29. I love Shrinking Violets and their Introvert's Bill of Rights. I agree that "online persona" is a much more appealing (and accurate) term for what a writer wants to achieve online. It's really about making friends. As Nathan Bransford keeps telling us--"social media is social."

    The reason agents and editors want us to have this online persona is so when we actually come out with a book, we'll have some online friends with similar interests who might buy our books. It looks like you're doing that here.

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  30. I need to pop over and check out that website.

    I blog because I love connecting with other writers and people in general. Especially with the industry in such flux, it's nice to have people to talk to about it and everything else to do with writing. I want to connect.

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  31. I'm like you, I'm on line to reach out to other people, especially writers. Now that I've been here awhile, I understand that if I had a book to promote, there's a community of people who would help me. I guess I inadvertently got a platform. But if people just do it for platform, their blog won't be as read, I think.

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  32. I love the idea of an 'online persona'! Such a good way to look at it. I always wonder what certain people with a strong online presence are really like in person. Would I even recognize them if we met? Not how they look, but their personalities? Then again, the best writing comes from ourselves, and if you're making it up it's hard to fake it for long, so there must be some truth to who they are online, right?

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  33. I love your First and Second, and I'm right there with you!

    I'm also online because I have this compulsion to share - when I find some new book, or a cool tidbit online, or a new writing thing, I have this strange need to tell people. The magic of blogging means that the people who like what I have to say keep coming back.

    It's awesome. :)

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  34. Your blog is wonderful as is, Margo! In fact, I think the "randomness" adds more character and fluidity than a schedule for you because you are various things for all of us to learn from. Haha, I love the Introvert piece. I'm usually an extrovert but can definitely understand how introverts feel. By reading your blog every week, it's clear that you have a lot of incredible insights to offer. We all love it!

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  35. P.S. You do encourage people...all the time! Honestly, when I see a comment from you, I know that my mood is going to lift. Please never forget that!

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  36. Margo, I'm celebrating your awesomely high NICENESS COEFFICIENT on my blog today! Keep being the wonderful person that you are! :)

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  37. I found you on Susan Kaye's blog. I love that your goal is to inspire creative people. So many writers hold classes and do that whole "holier than thou because I've been published" thing. I've even heard of writers taking workshops where the leader announced, "Most of you will never be published." What kind of negative energy is that? Why not encourage them to develop a love for writing in itself first? That's what we all should aspire to do!

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