I’ve been reading a tremendous amount of stuff lately, mostly linked off Google+ and Twitter, about how writers should safeguard and create their platforms, how they should temper their opinions, withdraw from having any meaningful discourse in matters of politics or anything that might be considered controversial, and homogenize their online personas into a brand.
Call me crazy, but I think that’s completely bass-ackwards thinking.
As an avid reader, an opinionated person, and a human-being, I think that writers of all stripes should first be true to themselves. See, I have the PC route down cold. It’s kind of required in nursing. You divorce yourself of your opinions and your personal truths at the door, because every day you walk into a situation where your needs and wants and concerns DO NOT MATTER. The patient is the total focus, which is exactly as things should be. Doesn’t matter what their political leanings are, who they worship, how often they wash their socks, or even who, when, and how often they put their body parts into other people’s body parts. They are my patients, and I treat them with respect and dignity. That’s not to say that all nurses practice this way. I’ve been proselytized to when in the patient role. I’ve been judged, and I’ve had my needs put on the back burner so a nurse could tell me all about her shitty assignment and how my needs are interrupting her work flow. That, my dears, is unprofessional. As a nurse, I would never proselytize religion or politics, never prioritize my workflow over patient needs, and most importantly never judge based on our differences. That’s what it means to have a therapeutic relationship.
To me, writing is a completely different sort of profession, requiring a different sort of relationship between writer and reader. Rather than being a caretaker for my reader, I am a guide, showing them the world through a different lens.
I write fiction, and telling a great story is the most important consideration I have when writing, but it is not the only consideration. The characters I create, the worlds they find themselves in, the situations that put their feet to the fire – those are all born out of passion. My passion to tell the story, my passion for what I see as injustices in the real world, my passion for showing the best – and the worst – of humanity.
If a reader decides to avoid my fiction because my blog has the occasional post that displays my belief that people of all genders, all faiths (and none), all sexual orientations (and none), and all racial and ethnic identities should have equal rights in our modern society, well, that person is maybe not going to like what I have to say in fiction either. A lot of the political and controversial ideas I take a stand on through this blog are also represented in my fiction, because those are the things that are important to me.
When I read, it is with the intent to experience something new, to see the world (or fictional worlds) through someone else’s perspective, to give them a chance to influence the way I think, feel, or see problems around me. Most of my favorite books are not on my list of favorites because of the plot lines or the gimmicks their writers employed. They aren’t there because they won awards or the author’s marketing strategy was the bestest. They’re there because the authors had unique, interesting voices that showed me a little slice of their perspectives. They are there because the authors wrote with passion, and even if that passion is something I don’t share, I respect it.
If anything, I believe that when I write I have a duty to shine a light on the truths and the could-be’s of the world, to show things from my own unique point of view, to say them in my own unique voice. I think my duty to be honest with my readers trumps the marketability concerns of a PC platform. If I don’t like something, I’ll speak to that. If something pisses me off, or moves me, or makes me happy, I’ll blog about it. If I love something, I’ll share it with you. Call me crazy, but I believe that my target audience can handle the truth. After all, it’s just my opinion.
I do not create homogenized, bland, flavorless worlds or characters who avoid confrontation. I refuse to create a homogenized, bland, flavorless online persona to represent them. I am not a platform.
What are your thoughts on platform and branding for authors?