To be a professional means a person behaves in a predictable way. Doctors do no harm. Firefighters save lives. Police officers protect. Circus clowns freak out little kids. Oh, and me too. Who taught them to apply make-up anyway? Yikes!
There are many facets to professionalism, but today I’ll blog about boundaries. A boundary is literally a line that separates; one person from another, your public persona from your private. There are likely to be cultural variations on where these lines are drawn. For example, Americans have no qualms about sharing – no, detailing fits better – every ailment, surgery and defunct bodily function they’ve experienced over the last ten years. Other cultures find this a little weird.
On the other hand, conventional Americans draw the line at flashing our tatas. Well, except at Mardi Gras, but there are shiny beads and Hurricanes involved, so those ladies get a pass. But you Girls Gone Wild on spring break, what were you thinking? Didn’t you know that was a camera? Did you even retain the international rights to your assets? Someone is making money off you. Respect yourself.
Sorry. I’m off topic. Anyway, when we talk about boundaries in a professional sense, we mean keeping our private life from spilling over into our professional life. This can be difficult for writers especially, because we draw a lot of feeling for our work from our personal experiences. We also form close relationships with our writer friends where we share things from joys to frustrations.
Does this mean I believe we shouldn’t share anything about our lives in blogs, Facebook and Twitter? No. I’m not advocating that at all. But, I think it is very important to consider what you are broadcasting to others. People form opinions about us in a matter of seconds. Humans are quite judgmental that way, but in fairness to the human race, our species has survived thanks to quick judgments. Snarling tiger? Danger. Run!
Consider this scenario. You’re lying on the surgical table, waiting to be put under. The surgeon storms into the room, yelling, “I hate my wife. I can’t believe she ran off with the personal trainer I hired. I’m so angry I could kill someone. Anesthesia. Where’s my blasted scalpel?” Gadzooks! I don’t want this doctor working on me, do you?
In the same token, let’s say you are an agent or editor, and you read a writer’s blog listing his or her various struggles with personal issues or bad-mouthing someone else in the publishing business. What potential concerns might come up? Maybe you would be concerned the writer has too much going on to focus on writing. Maybe you would be concerned about the ability to meet a deadline. Maybe you would be worried every conversation would turn into a quasi-therapy session. Maybe you are simply worried about negative associations with that author affecting sales.
Realistically, we all know no one is perfect. However, we have certain expectations for behavior in the public arena. When people violate those standards, others question their abilities, whether right or wrong. Be careful of what you put out there for others to see. With any luck, it isn’t just your friends reading your tweets and blogs.
Has a blog or tweet ever influenced your view of the person writing it?