Sunday, August 31, 2008

Are You Who Say You Are?

"Cat with a Pearl Earring" 2.5 x 3.5" colored pencil on paper.
Copyright 2008 Maggie Stiefvater.
Available on mugs/ bags/ stuff here.

Sunday is my blog-reading day. Well, it's really my lazy all-purpose doing things I don't have time to do the rest of the week day, but it's quicker to say "blog-reading day."

Anyway, the bigger my blogging circle gets, the more chances I seem to get to actually meet some of the folks whose blogs I read or who comment on my blogs. It's always a weird experience. Because sometimes, you meet someone whose online persona is just like them -- their speech patterns and their . . . I dunno, aura . . . are exactly like their real-life mannerisms.

But more often than not, there's a strange disconnect between someone's online persona and their real-life persona. And as a blogger, that's a bad thing. Because most of us are way better at speaking in real life than we are in writing. Sure, a lot of us can throw together a nicely patterned sentence or a formal paper, but we sure as bunny-fluff don't actually speak like that.

So the reason why this sucks for bloggers is because the success of your blog (and for artists who rely on blogs to drive purchases) relies on how well you can connect with your fellow man. The younger set doesn't have the same problems with this because they've grown up talking to people online. To them, there's no difference in how they speak and how they write (which of course has its own set of problems when they try to move into formal writing). A great example is this teen review of Lament. Tell me you don't know exactly how this girl would be in real life. I had the great fortune to meet her after she wrote that review and I have to tell you, what you see is what you get. And that's refreshing a world of insincerity and anonymity. People want to get a sense of who you are.

On the other hand, I get e-mails from older folks -- and by older I mean thirty -- and I get run-on paragraphs of stilted e-mailese. Often it comes across as curt or uneducated; it frustrates me when I meet them in person and realize that these are highly educated, well-spoken people whose communication skills fall apart when converted to the written word. In a word . . . ack. Communication disaster.

So here's the question for the week: are you who you say you are on your blog? Or are you buried beneath clunky prose and funkier punctuation? Here's an exercise: hold a conversation with someone. Anyone. Your husband. Your dog. Then run to the keyboard and write down exactly what you just said. With some polishing and slightly fewer swear words, that should be what your online persona sounds like too.

Hope everyone's having a great Labor Day . . . I expect I will have a blog post containing humorous antics and tales of disaster as I try to host my first ever multiple-family BBQ at my house tomorrow. I'm afraid, very afraid.


Jennifer Rose said...

How I write is how I talk (with lesser swear words). What you see is what you get. I didn't grow up talking to people online, only the last 10-12 years and I try being myself online. Make more friends that way. I try to post video on my blog so that people can see and hear exactly who I am and how I talk (with the swearing :p)

I have a huge problem when younger people only know net speak and use it to write essays or talk. It feels like the English language is dieing :/ (not evolving as I have heard some people say)

freebird said...

Hmm, I think I am who I say I am. When I am writing I even hear all the places I want emphasis placed and try to put punctuation in to reinforce that. I get misunderstood too often already; I don't need more of it.

Jo Castillo said...

I hope I am me. I try to write each post to read well, even if it is the first time you see my blog. Thanks for keeping us thinking. :)

Anonymous said...

I blog anonymously, although I don't paint anonymously. heh

I write much more fluidly than I speak. Either place, though, I innately use Yoda-like expressions, for lack of a better way to describe it. I put words together differently than most, but it is present in both places and quite reflective of me.

My pet peeve on the topic is as a middle-aged single woman. Given an ad at an online dating site, I immediately judge according to their writing style. I'm not the best speller, so I can give a bye on that, but I consider three word answers to a site's get-to-know-you questions to be indicative of the sort of conversations I would have with this person. Maybe they differ in written and spoken word, but I usually don't take the time to know.

I guess choosing blogs to read works the same way.

Jennie Norris said...

This was one of the best posts I've read in a long time - Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

I suffer from this exact problem. I joke around a lot and am pretty down to earth and very much a people person. I suck horribly at writing, and I'm quite sure I come across as a totally different person. I am going to try your little experiment with writing down a conversation I just had ( with a "LOT" less swear words) and see if helps me loosen up a little in my writing.

Thanks for this post Maggie - I need all the help I can get!!

Monette Satterfield said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monette Satterfield said...

Food for thought! I have written technical and business pieces for years and am in the habit of using more formal wording and sentence structure. Now it's time to loosen that up on my blog.

Another side to this is how you are perceived by what you present in words. No matter the tone, more care is better rather than less. Typos, poor sentence construction and aimless prose do not speak well of anyone.

Rosemary S. Antel said...

I love your cats of the old masters series. Very witty.

I think that my writing is more formal than my speaking, but I spend a lot of time in my studio and don't do a lot of talking. I had to join toastmasters to get back in the hang of conversation. I think I am who I say I am, maybe more so in writing than is conversation.

Take a look at my blog and see what you think.

Anonymous said...

I hope I write as me! Fantastic topic, by the way.

As a former English teacher, I'm kind of particular about spelling, slang, etc. There's different kinds of writings each with an appropriate place, but I hope my blog reads like I'm heard.

Actually, my blogging is probably better than how I sound in that (a)I think about what I'm saying before I say it *wow!* and (b) my occasional stuttering/slow mindset/long conversational pauses can't be read.

Anyhoo, I just hope I sound personable on the blog.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Hmmm, I think I am who I am on the blog. I feel an ease of communication with my readers and try to give a little slice of the storyline in brief, hopefully amusing posts :D

Paula Pertile said...

Thanks Maggie for adding more fuel to my "am I crazy?" dialog I already have going with myself on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

When I write a story I'm writng, but if I'm commenting I'm speaking. Unless I quote something. I research the things I quote I'm not that clever. If we were speaking there would be a chuckle or strange noise here. I try to comment honestly, but with some etiquette. Really, are we friends or just bloggers? I like you, hell I love you - respect, admire, inspired by, amused by, learning from - you. Is this how I'd speak though? It's what you'd feel if we were having a conversation. When I read something you write, short story, I can find you in it, and I'd hope I can be found in what I write, but online blogging is a strange way to interact. How much honesty is there in the process? I'll keep pretending (snigger, strange noise again). Cheers, Simon.