the writer's arsenal: you are not an island...


...but you could end up on one.

Why do you write? Okay, maybe that's too big a question to answer. I know my reasons for writing make a very long list, with "because I can't NOT write" probably near the top. Maybe a better question is, what's your writing goal? Do you write for the pleasure of it? For yourself? As a hobby? Or do you write with the goal of being read by others? Of being published? Today's post is for anyone who falls in that last group-authors who write with the goal of being published, and it regards how they conduct themselves in public spaces (social media included). Admittedly, it’s a topic that’s been covered elsewhere—and covered well—, but I want to add my two cents because good advice bears repeating.

If you write to be published, please, please, PLEASE be mindful of the self you portray online—even if you’re not yet published. Yes, even if “nobody reads my blog anyway”. It seems simple and yet, so many authors get it wrong. Famed actors will often talk about how the downside to their chosen career is the forfeit of their privacy. The reasonable ones accept it for what it is—part of the job. Others can’t seem to grasp the necessity of a public persona, go on to behave ridiculously, and then blame the media for invading their privacy. Is it fair that people should have to take on the burden of being scrutinized to do what they love? No. Of course not. But if privacy is important to you, choose a career that’s not in the public eye.  Being watched is PART of celebrity and celebrity is part of the job.

Published authors are also in the public eye, though to a lesser extent. Regardless, people ARE watching, so an author must also be on their very best behavior. It doesn’t matter if you’re still on the journey toward being published, a debut author, or an experienced author with many books under her hat. You must—absolutely must—mind your manners in public. And yes, in this case, public means the internet, public engagements, the line at the supermarket, etc. If people can observe your behavior, you need to make sure you give them every reason to like you and no reason to feel incensed by you. Does this mean you can’t ever let off steam? EVER? No, you can, but be SMART about it. Be diplomatic. Write opinion pieces, not rants, and be wary of anything that could be too polarizing. If you feel the need to really dig in bitterly on a subject, do it privately. 

How you present yourself in public is part of being an author, just as writing, marketing, and sales are also part of the job. Who you are matters to your readers (and potential readers). It’s a saying you’ve heard since you were a child, but it never gets old—if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. At least not in public ;)


A previous version of this post originally appeared on