Every time we type on a blog or update a Facebook status, we make a decision about how we represent ourselves to the world. The choice might be more or less conscious than we think. It gets pretty fascinating, pretty quick, to think about how we attempt to control a certain representation—illusion?—of ourselves with social media.
And while I’m usually more than happy to post a silly meme about the Packers or a favorite viral video to my Facebook page, for an unknown writer with earnest writing goals, there are plenty of differences between the choices behind what I put in a Facebook update and those behind this blog’s content.
I have a small but committed (also kind, intelligent, and, did I mention, pretty damn good-looking!) audience of blog readers, but plenty of people also land here at floWord after typing my name into a search engine. There’s no real way of knowing who on the internet is looking me up or stumbling upon my blog, or why. It’s a little creepy, maybe, but it’s also the reality of getting your name out as a writer in a Googling age.
Which is why it has been so hard lately for me to figure out how I want to change the language on my “about Lauren” page of this blog. What’s appropriate? Should I portray myself as a serious, prepared professional or an aspiring writer crackpot—or somewhere in between?
The answer, as the answer always is in writing, is audience. “About Lauren”? Well, that depends on who’s asking…
- A former boyfriend? I’m doing fine, thanks for checking. FYI, I also still consider every aspect of my past as potential writing material.
- A prospective boyfriend? I’m doing fine, thanks for checking. FYI, I also consider every aspect of my life as potential writing material.
- A prospective boyfriend who also happens to be a folk rock star or quarterback of the Green Bay Packers? Hi, I’m pretty awesome. Let’s walk, let’s talk.
- A prospective employer? First, please see the boring but professionally safe introduction I initially wrote for this blog. And then please keep reading this post.
- A prospective patron of my writing? Why, yes, I am an earnest writer with an earnest writing background and earnest writing goals. In fact, the idea for this piece cracked into my sleep at 5:00 a.m. today. Which happens a lot. It’s the best! And the worst. A writer whose muse keeps hours like that must have a fair shot of doing something good with her words, right?
- A family member who’s my Facebook friend and clicked this blog link from my profile? Yes, the entry of “Wisco-theism” as my Facebook religion is a joke—sort of.
- Amy Poehler? Do you know how cool it is that you are reading my blog right now? Thank you! I’m a big fan. I’m just normal enough to watch Parks and Recreation for the laughs but just nerdy enough to wake up the next day thinking about how the writers have developed authentic and endearing characters, nailed punch lines, and portrayed a strong female protagonist so damn well.
- Terry Tempest Williams? Do you know how cool it is that you are reading my blog right now? Thank you! Your work as a woman, writer, and activist humble and inspire me. I really hope we can go for coffee someday, or perhaps do something especially writer-ey together, like hiking in a rust-red slot canyon somewhere on the Colorado Plateau, or hunting for agates on a Lake Superior beach.
- Someone who just read something by me in a publication and looked me up? Thanks for checking out my writing! I hope you click around and consider following this blog to get to know me and my writing better. And maybe tell a friend?
- A former student? Hey there! How far you’ve come from WRIT 101! Just remember, if you ever miss the freewriting we did in class, nothing’s stopping you from starting a blog or keeping a personal journal. Who knows what words of yours the world could use—or you could use.
- A close friend, after a long day at work? What’s the deal with people in D.C.? I’m afraid jargon is going to make me a worse writer. I miss Montana. I really just want to watch Legends of the Fall right now—and pretend it was actually filmed in Montana, and pretend Montana is actually filled with Brad Pitt.
I’ve had fun with this exercise. Good play! And it’s probably the writer in me, but I can’t help but reflect on it a little bit…
Yes, each statement is truthful, each accurate. But the difference between that original, professionally solid but painfully boring “about Lauren” language and the version I might write in a text to a friend after a long day?
What I’d say to a friend is straight-up more real. Because it trusts who’s reading it—because I know who’s reading it. It reveals what annoys me, what itches at my insecurities, and the eccentricities that someone could very well judge me for—in short, those authentic and authenticating details that expose me for what I friggin’ am, folks: human. Gasp!
Author Barry Lopez led a small, informal question and answer session with graduate writing students when he came to The University of Montana last spring. He made the point that good writing will come from writers who are willing to make themselves vulnerable. What I walked away with is that we gotta talk about the flaws, the pain, the unwanted body hair.
The more life I live, the more strongly I feel that it really is in our shared vulnerabilities that we connect most meaningfully, on the page and in the world. It’s the reason people come together after a tragedy or disaster. It’s the reason that a keynote speaker at a conference I attended once made everyone in the room introduce ourselves to one new person by revealing both our greatest passion and our greatest insecurity. Vulnerabilities are the surest route to common ground.
And revealing them is at the heart of living a life in relationship to others. The heart of love. And the heart of writing.
“About Lauren”? I don’t always know who’s asking, but I’ll try to be pretty real because, well, something tells me we have a vulnerability or two in common. Thanks for checking in.