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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Glass Houses, Elephants, and the Internet

Image courtesy of Chemtec
The internet is a glass house crammed full of elephants.

No, really. It is. The Internet is a place that's fairly transparent--unless you happen to cavort on the Interwebs in a mask and sparkly cape. But as writers who are hoping to go pro in the business, if we're going to be on the Internet, we tend to go dressed as ourselves so people can find us. 

Because we want to be found.

This isn't a bad thing in and of itself. The danger, I think, is that sometimes it's easy to get too comfortable. After all, we're not really standing in a room full of strangers making witty conversation. We're typing away on an empty screen with the hope that the people we're connecting to are real people who live outside the computer. Sometimes it's easy to get too personal, too transparent.

Because it's so easy to forget about all those elephants crammed in the room with us.

But, see, elephants don't forget. Neither does the Internet. Someone web savvy enough can likely find anything that's ever come through the front door, the windows, and that side door we've never noticed until now. And that goes for deleted things to. So that really bad rejection letter, that day when everything went wrong and you're just itching to kick something--those are the times when it's wise to step away from the computer.

Here are some simple rules to keep those elephants from accidentally taking a step back and squashing you, because, well, being squished by an elephant is kind of permanent too.

Set Up Some Boundaries  

Boundaries are important. They aren't about other people, they're about what you'll do in any given situation. So it's good to start with some boundaries when you go on line. What will you talk about? What won't you talk about? How will you respond to people? For me, I don't really talk much about politics or religion. I have plenty of opinions on them, but I save those discussions for real life. Also, I don't put up pictures of my kids, name them, or even really discuss them. (There are some really weird people out there.) And I don't give out much personal information. Sometimes that last one is a tricky line to walk. As people, we want to get to know each other, see what we're thinking or talking about, and what's going on. We all like to connect. But some things fall under the category of Too Much Information. Like gallbladder surgery or that strange fungus growing between your toes. Let's just not go there. :)

The Golden Rule 

Remember that rule about doing unto others? Well, this one can save you from becoming an elephant imprint. If you want people to visit your blog/insert-social-media-preference-here, then start by visiting theirs. And commenting. If you want people to be gracious to you and your book, be gracious about theirs. Yes, there will always be Amazon reviewers in the world, but you've written a book that rocks, and the Discerning Public will see that. Reviewers or no reviewers. If you host contests or whatnot and you want people to spread the word, be sure to do the same for others. The Internet is a glass house, and people will notice even if you don't know they're noticing.

Remember What Your Mother Always Said 

That thing about not saying something if you don't have something nice to say is especially applicable when dealing with delicate breakables and large land mammals. Because the way you portray yourself online is the way the rest of us peeping into your house see you. One of my favorite movies of all time is Harvey. (Major paraphrasing to follow.At one point the main character muses about his past. He told the doctor that his mother had told him that he had two choices in life. He could be oh, so clever or oh, so nice. Well, he'd spent thirty-five years being clever, and decided he'd much rather be nice. As writers, we have the ability to shape words into whatever we want. Shape them wisely.

Be Genuinely Yourself 

And last, but not least, be your very best self. That's who the people standing in your flower bed with their faces pressed up against the wall of your glass house want to see and get to know*. That's what keeps us coming back. There is a risk in being yourself, but I think with all the truly awesome people there are out there, the risk is worth it.

And if I had to condense all of this into one sentence: Be your best self, make sure you've got a nice picket fence around the house, and buy peanuts in bulk.

What's your take on glass houses and elephants?

* Okay, if we were talking about real houses, this would be downright creepy and stalkerish in which case I'd advise building your house out of something a little more opaque than glass. And securing a few restraining orders. But no worries. This is just a metaphor. :)

Danyelle collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers in her spare time. She is currently getting ready to query SLIPPERS OF PEARL, a YA fantasy. She also enjoys making new friends, and can be found at http://myth-takes.blogspot.com.


Christine Fonseca said...

yes yes and YES!

Private said...

Very true, especially the part about the internet never forgetting. When it's out there, it'll never go away. Quite scary, actually!

Unknown said...

Awesome post and great reminders. :)

Renae said...

It's very overwhelming to think that once it's out there it will never go away. No wonder I proofread everything ten times before I post it!

Thanks for the helpful reminders!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, Danyelle. You brought up a lot of excellent points. If we want to make those very personal business contacts, we have to show them the person they are actually going to meet.

I'd also like to mention that, while my picture is of a boot, inside the boot is truly me (and outside of me is truly a tree. Yes, I climb trees in motorcycle boots. *grin*)

Anonymous said...

So true!!! Lovely tips and what a great analogy! :D

Conda Douglas said...

Great reminders and tips. Thank you.

Tana said...

Powerful and beautifully well put words. And YAY for getting ready to query your work!!! I hope I see you on the shelves this time next year. *hugs*

Kathryn Magendie said...

This is insightful, well-written, and just how I hope my online self is perceived!

Abby Minard said...

Thanks for posting this! It took me a while to set up my blog because I wanted to make sure that I didn't mess it up. I did my research on blogs like this that give great advice on building an online presence. It's always great to be reminded by those that have been around a while on the do's and don't's of social networking.

Amy Laurens said...

Fantastical post, Dani-girl! So true, and emminently quotable. Thanks for sharing :)

Unknown said...

Excellent advice! Thanks Danyelle for sharing your wisdom so eloquently!