Monday, March 5, 2012
Sabbatical Sunday—"Be a person"
Sorry for the late Sunday post; I've been in Chicago, at the annual Associated Writing Programs (AWP) conference. Now there's a test of Mindfulness, if ever there was one: 10,000 writers all in the same hotel, buzzing and bumping and endlessly talking; 15 panels and readings every hour; the Bookfair, with its endless rows of tables chock full of swag to give away, to lure you into their clutches.
I was at one of those tables, dear reader. I wanted people to stop, to look at the magazine I edit, the book I wrote, the blog I write. Hundreds of people walked by with their gazes aimed at chest level, reading name tags, determining who was worth talking to and who was not.
And there were SO MANY panels and discussions about one's presence as an author, about how to promote oneself and keep building your audience, especially online. It seemed like we were talking more about how to market our writing, than about doing the writing itself.
So, the best advice I heard—in a panel on online writing and literature—was simply: "Be a person." The guy who said it, Blake Butler, is the editor of HTML Giant, one of the most popular online aggregation sites out there. He said it in response to a question about networking online, and all the advice we'd been receiving about blogging, twittering, linked-inning, Goodreading, and the rest of it.
He shrugged his shoulders. He said "Just be a person."
Forget all the rest of it. Do what comes naturally. If you read someone's blog and like it, tell them so. As a Person, not a "networker." If you have something to say in your blog, do it As a Person, not as a promotion hound. If you friend someone on Facebook, be a friend—As a Person, not someone padding their database.
It seems so simple. But as I sat there in the grand ballroom of the Palmer House Hilton—surrounded by people staring at their cell phones or listlessly flipping through the weighty conference schedule—I knew how easily our personhood gets squashed in this life. And yet how easily we can resurrect it, if we're reminded to do so.
So my motto this year is Be a Person. Be a Person first. In my work, my writing, my friendships, my life. And all the rest will follow.