Self vs. Self vs. Self

January 12, 2015 § 6 Comments


tumblr_mlo968i8hK1s40wp8o1_500More and more, we’re told as writers to find our “platform.” Get x number of Twitter followers. Build a Facebook page and worry about algorithms. Put our self out there, connect with potential readers, be “real,” be “authentic” and sell, sell, sell.

What are we selling? Dani Shapiro writes:

We have our “real” selves, of course—the ones who put dinner on the table and drive the kids to school and go out for a few beers with friends; then we have our creative selves, which require the solitude, the space to access the private, internal place which we write from; and then we have this whole other self, one that threatens to encroach on the other two: our “avatar” selves—the pixelated, haiku version that tweets and maintains a Facebook page and goes on the road in carefully planned outfits (these could be ripped jeans and a T-shirt, but believe me they’ve been thought through) and this—this avatar version—becomes how we’re seen, how we’re responded to, and if we are not careful, we are at risk of it becoming who we are.

Shapiro talks about connection in real life, too, and the internal conflict of telling one’s story so authentically that readers believe themselves connected, email their personal stories, come up after readings to say how much they appreciated the author “sharing.”

How much soft underbelly should we be showing, and how much spiky protective shell? How much of our true selves can we sell before taking something from ourselves we can’t afford to lose?

Read Shapiro’s essay at her site.

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§ 6 Responses to Self vs. Self vs. Self

  • Jan Wilberg says:

    It’s the line between what is useful and what is nauseating. By useful, I mean insight that sparks consideration of a feeling or event in a different way, maybe a way that helps the writer resolve something or readers reframe their own experiences. But revelation for its own sake, the telling of distressing secrets masquerading as writing effort, is another thing. That’s the nauseating. It’s cheap and too easy. Desperate. Plus once it’s done, there’s little else to tell. A person needs to keep her layers, let the avatar have a couple, sure, but keep the rest in reserve, guard them for the right time and place.

  • ryderziebarth says:

    Love Dani’s work. She was a guest at The Nantucket Book Festival 2014 and I had the pleasure of escorting here through the weekend. She is the embodiment of a lovely, authentic , and generous writer.

  • Great post and great questions that you pose. I love Dani Shapiro’s work too.

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