Professionalism, or Bullshittery?

In a short period of time, say the last three weeks or so, I’ve “met” a ton of other writers, self-pubbed and trad-pubbed, through different social media outlets. It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve learned a lot about all kinds of different aspects of writing and publishing, from marketing to cover design to editing and pretty much you-name-it. One little piece of advice I’ve read a few times lately regards an author’s website. The advice stresses that the website must be professional, especially for a self-pubber, since it is an effort to convince anyone who might see it that you are a Serious Writer.

On one hand, that makes sense to me. A well designed, clean website (like, say, this one) conveys a sense of professionalism and maturity, especially compared to the site with the black background and flashing lights and cursor trails that makes farting noises every time you scroll up and down. A well-ordered place with links to read about the author, peruse their works, see some reviews, maybe get a free excerpt or sample – I can definitely see the advantage of a site like this. Hell, it would make me feel more authorly to have one. I’d start wearing tweed jackets and smoking a pipe and looking distantly to some point on the horizon just in case someone happens by to take a black-and-white photo.

Instead, I have this site. It’s the only website I maintain or do anything with (except my Facebook author page, which hardly counts and no one goes to anyway). Sometimes on here, I make semi-serious posts about serious writerly subjects, trying to express a viewpoint that maybe someone somewhere will find valuable and help them along in their own journey, as a way for me to thank all the people who have helped me along the way and also as a way to try to con people into thinking I’m a super nice guy when in reality I’m the small mean bitter person I always joke about being.

Other times, I write about a lot of other shit. Hate-fueled rages. Restaurant reviews. Exercise DVD reviews (Fun Fact: I’ve written novels, short stories, all kinds of shit. The #1 thing that people have read of mine? A Bob Harper DVD review. Seriously. It’s been read 2,474 times as of this morning. #2? Another exercise DVD review with over 1,200 views. I usually get anywhere from 60 to 100 views a day. 75% of them are people reading my old DVD reviews. My top 3 exercise reviews have more views than every other blog post I’ve ever written combined. That’s cool on one hand. It’s also immensely depressing.). This place is a depository for whatever random-ass thought takes my fancy, from what weapons I want during a zombie apocalypse to a gripping 5-post series about visiting a farm.

In other words, it’s not professional. Neither is my language, honestly. Some of the posts on here could be inserted into a Tarantino movie without a diminution of the fuck-per-minute rating. I express strong opinions about things that would offend a shit-ton of people if anyone ever bothered to read them (which isn’t exactly likely to happen; sifting through blog archives is the last resort of the terminally bored). This site does not show others that I am a professional writer Who Takes Writing Seriously.

Well, we’ll get back to that point in a moment.

So I find myself at a crossroads. Do I clean this place up, get rid of the offensive material, focus my topics on things that a Serious Writer Who Takes Writing Seriously would talk about, tone down the f-bombs, and present myself as the shiny squeaky-clean ambassador of my writing that I’m advised to be? Or do I leave this place as is?

The thing is, I like my blog. Sometimes it’s funny, but I can be a really shitty judge about that. I do try to make even my exercise DVD reviews entertaining. I get to rant and rave and cuss and say whatever comes across the part of my mind that isn’t interested in marketing myself and pushing Product. See, and this is very important to me, I want you, the person who’s reading this, to feel like we’re sitting together on a deck or porch or table or whatever somewhere, a drink of choice in hand (I like rum, personally, although I don’t turn my nose up at much except gin), smoking a cigarette, and just bullshitting. I can’t do it in real life with all of you (except the indulgent Lady Aravan, of course) so this is as close as I can get. This is me. Actually, this is better than me, because in real life I can get shy and not talk or get afraid to say things (and that’s where the drinks come in, when my inner Game Show Host can come out). I like this.

And as for Taking Writing Seriously. Well. I defy anyone to read this blog and come away that I don’t take it seriously. I take writing as seriously as it needs to be taken. Sometimes that means not at all. Because writing is an expression of one singular person’s perceptions of the universe and how fucked up it is or how amazing it is or how awesome it used to be or how mind-blowing it’s going to be in the future. Sometimes that’s really fucking serious. Other times, serious is the last thing it needs to be. There is a lot of serious shit out there that people want to turn away from, to put a wall up against, and reading is that thing for an awful lot of people. Writing doesn’t need to be Serious, and neither does a writer.

I do see both sides, I really do. I want to be taken seriously as a writer who doesn’t take himself or the world very seriously. Tough row to hoe.

I think, in the end, this blog stays the way it is. I’d go crazy otherwise. Maybe someday in the future, when I’m not as lazy and feel like dealing with shit like domains and HTML and web design or just throwing money at it and hoping for the best, I’ll make a site that’s clean and pristine, professional and Serious, a platform as I build my Global Image. It’s the smart thing to do. I see others’ web sites and I feel small and envious. Until then, this will be the best I can do.

Christ, it isn’t like you care anyway. I know why you’re here. The exercise reviews are here. Enjoy!

About Alan Edwards

An indie writer who does accounting full-time on the side.

Posted on May 12, 2011, in Philosophizin' and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. I guess I would be disappointed if you changed your blog. I am one of the people who found it because of the Bob Harper DVD review you did last summer. The review was not only informative, but funny as hell. I did not know you were a writer back then. I noticed the Curse of Troius book pic on the side bar but never thought twice about it. I ended up subscribing because you made me laugh when I read your posts. You have a great sense of humor. When I figured out you were a writer I thought, hey, that’s cool, I should check out his books. See, I may have come here originally for a DVD review, but I stuck around. I look forward to your posts and am excited for the new book to come out. I understand wanting to be more professional and maybe cater more to other authors or publishers. You gotta do what you gotta do. I’ll keep reading.

    • You’re actually one of the people I thought about when I wrote this. You are I think the only reader who actually commented on any of my stuff (that I didn’t already know) and stuck around to read my ramblings. I’ve always really appreciated that. It’s also one of the reasons why I’d have to make a separate “professional” site that focused mainly on authorly-type stuff and dropped most of the cursing. I think this blog will always be just like it is now.

  2. Do you think Andrew Dice Clay took his career seriously, or do you think he was just some loser who messed up fairy tales and dropped the f-bomb because he didn’t know no better? Taking yourself seriously doesn’t mean you wear shirts with high collars tucked in to your velveteen pantaloons while dipping your quill in ink. It means you decide what face you are going to give to the public and you professionally and consistently deliver said face.

    I would tell you that this blog could be redesigned to be a little more surf friendly for people curious about you. I’d like a page that talks about your books, a page that talks about you, a media contact page, etc.

    I think I’m going to talk about this some more tomorrow on my blog–because a lot of people confuse being deliberate and professional with being boring, and that just ain’t right.

    • I don’t disagree with you and your view on “professionalism”. What I’ve been reading mainly about websites seem to have a much narrower idea about what is “professional”, unfortunately. What you are saying goes back towards my own views.

      That said, even under those guidelines, I don’t think I measure up here, heh.

      Thanks for the points about this site being friendlier – I’ve thought about it before and have never thought it necessary. Your feedback makes me think differently, heh.

      Hey, and you got a blog post about it. Bonus!

      • “Taking yourself seriously doesn’t mean you wear shirts with high collars tucked in to your velveteen pantaloons while dipping your quill in ink.”

        …um…what if he does that already?

      • That’s true. I do totally do that. But only when I wear the shoes with the big brass buckles on them.

  3. Though I have been on you to buy a Tweed Jacket for years… I would encourage you to keep this as your personal webpage, sure, in the future when the Fan club numbers in the Millions you’ll want to maintain some “Blah Blah Blah” website that contains “Official correspondence” but I find that those “Professional” pages lose their touch to the truely personal side of the person. People start editing their thoughts…. saying “I can’t post that, it may piss off the X group of my reading population” and I think its great to have a outlet for what you truly think.

    But at the end of the day…I’d say “Dude, what makes you happy?”

    • I have a tweed jacket. Shhh. I only wear it at night, when I pretend that I’m answering questions from a thong of eager fans and the press, then I carefully remove it, pack it back in its box, then weep silently in the fetal position.

      I think the self-editing thing is one of my big sticking-points. I’ve already faced it a couple times, thinking “I don’t want to write about this thing, because I might offend someone”, and it drives me crazy. I DON’T want to offend people with my oft-times puerile humor, but again, like you said, it has to make me happy. I’ll have the site that makes me look Serious and inoffensive while people who want to hear my stupid opinions can come here.

  4. Trying to be who you think you are supposed to be is the first step in forgetting who you are.

    Don’t do that.

  5. Aravan, if you change your blog or dare to become too serious, I’ll have you burned alive by midget zombies. Clear? Good, thought so. 😉

    • Hmmm. I can see you’re on the fence about this, not sure which way I should go. Well, I’ve tallied the votes, and it looks like 5 votes for keep it as is, 1 vote for Aravan is an ass for bringing it up anway, and 0 votes for professionalism. It’s close. I think, though… Bullshittery wins the day!

  6. I just “discovered” you today on Twitter, but I totally agree with leaving your blog the way it is and being yourself =) One of the awesome things about being an indie author today is being able to personally interact with so many of your readers, and readers today really love to be able to get to know the Real Person behind the book. So I think your blog awesome, even for marketing purposes.

    Plus, you’re taking advantage of random visits by featuring your book prominently in the sidebar. You have a good, clean theme, and no clutter or ads on your site. It looks professional to me!

    The only thing I would suggest is investing in your own domain name (like “www.aravan.com”, or your real name). Then you’ll be golden =)

    • Thank you very much for stopping by and commenting. I really appreciate the viewpoint you brought, because I feel the same way – I can enjoy a blog dedicated to someone’s work, but I don’t get anything behind who they are and what they think. I much more prefer the ones that give you a glimpse of the living breathing person behind the masthead (is that the right word? I feel like it’s the right word. It might not be the right word.) because it gives an idea of the things that make that person tick.

      I think you are right about the domain name change, though. Blarg. That sounds like work in a world I know nothing about. Heh.

      • It’s actually pretty easy to do through WordPress.com =) I think it’s under Options -> Domains in the Dashboard. You can buy the domain & set it up there. If you need any help, feel free to email me, I don’t mind at all =)

      • Oh cool – found it! Thank you! LEt the investigation begin!

  7. Thank you for calling my new website “professional” and linking it here. I’m really stunned at all the positive feedback I’ve been getting from it. It’s actually kind of stressful because now everyone expects me to act like an adult and wear pants when I go outside.

    I know we chatted briefly yesterday about this (as much as you can in Twitter) but I still felt that I should comment here. The thing is, I also have a personal blog where I say stupid things and make jokes and talk about writerly things like first person prose and adverbs. My mom loves it. A handful of other friends keep it in their readers because they feel sorry for me.

    See, my blog isn’t as good as yours. That’s why I needed a “professional” website. You don’t. Everything you say is so funny and random, it doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, just as long as you do it. Your blog is good. It’s not like other blogs. If your book is anything like what I’m seeing here, I will read it. If it’s good, I’ll even tell everyone about it. I like this blog and I like you.

    Enough of this huggy-feely crap! It’s Noogie Time!

    • First off: your web design makes me envious. I love that it is professional without looking sterile.

      Second off: I seriously doubt that my shitty little blog (I can say that, I know the guy that writes it) is better than yours. I’ve read your writing, and it’s excellent. You also manage to convey humor and warmth and serious depth to posts involving 140 characters or less. So I find it hard to believe that your blog isn’t funny and interesting. And if it’s the site you had before switching to your new one – I’ve read it and loved it and will hear no more bad things about it.

      But honestly, thank you very much for the nice things you said. I don’t take compliments well and my face is all flushy but I am grateful for what you said.

      Sadly, Curse isn’t anything like my blog. Haha. It’s more serious (although there are characters that are supposed to at least be a bit funny) and constrained and stuff. I still think it’s entertaining and a decent story. (Damn, am I a PR genius or what? “Yeah, it’s OK, whatever.” Heh.) My next project (after the sequel is done) is going to be a modern-day “memoir” of a survivor during a zombie apocalypse. The “voice” is very much like the blog, along the lines of my short story “Blamers” which you can find here for free if you search for it or click the Stories Tag Cloud thingy whatever-its-called.

      Very much thank you for your comment. I have to stop now or else my reputation as a bitter angry person will get roont.

  8. I’ve been saying it for years–bullshittery should totally be included in Webster’s. If you want my opinion, I say be who you are. If you like your blog, keep it the way it is. If you comport to the ideals of others, you’ll be miserable. Just my two cents.

    • I’m with you. It’s definitely a word.

      Thank you for your opinion, because I am glad to hear what you have to say. I think you’re right – having to second-guess whether or not I want to say something would lead me to posting nothing at all. And my “mouth” is way too big to allow that to happen, heh.

  9. Dolan Barnaik

    I googgled “professionalism” and found this blog, and I can tell just by this that you’re enjoyable to read. I still don’t know if or not I want to be published someday, but you got me thinking about that question again, after a long time of ignoring it. I’ve also been blogging once and a while, and I find that it’s incredibly hard to keep the blog focused, without getting the urge to rant about something off-topic, or break the ‘profession’ tone. I’ve developed a mixed style of professional and casual speak that my high school English teachers have pointed out a few times, confused. The last one I got, was when I said “There’s a ton of…” during an unlike-me feminist rant about how women’s potential and intelligence is often dismissed. The teacher marked “ton” with a red arrow, above which was asked “better word?” What I’m trying to emphasize, is that I think it’s inevitable… writers don’t actually just have one style of writing. We have multiple. We have our job-seeking cover-letter writing style, and our Seinfeld “hey, listen to my lame weekend” writing style, and our cursing, raving style. Then some of us try and mix them and confuse people, haha. This is what makes us people, though. When your readers can see your humanity like that, they’re going to get the same impression of you I got from this post. I’d be delighted to sit and hear you tell me a story.

    • Alan Edwards

      That’s the nicest compliment anyone could ever give me, so I thank you for that. It is much appreciated.

      I always struggled in English classes, because, although I could write well, I was often chastised for using an informal tone. After working hard to break that, I’ve found that I’ve gotten much better reception for the things I say or write when I combine the two. Like yesterday, I end up having to run a department meeting. I’m not head of the department. In fact, I’m one of the lowest paid people in the room. I start the meeting off professionally, and there are a ton of blank faces and eyes on the windows. Then I started to intersperse the meeting with informal actions and words and phrasings, and suddenly everyone’s paying attention. The whole dynamic changed. People started interacting and talking because I was acting like a regular human being acts.

      I think we were done a disservice in school. Informal speech goes a long way towards establishing contacts with people. Plus, I get to drop the f-bomb much more often that way.

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