Monday, April 30, 2012

Personal vs. Professional

Once established as a writing (or insert any other type of profession) personality, that personality must be treated as a product, a separate entity, or as its own company.  A clear line must be established between the personal and the professional to ensure success.

Why?  Since I’m currently a writer, I will use this profession as the example to express this point.  However, I will draw on my years of experience as an entrepreneur and business profession to help illustrate the topic.  Perhaps it is from having this experience that has helped me better understand the importance of the matter.

When you become a writing personality, either through writing books, blogs, reviews, etc.; your name (or pen name) become a product - one with an audience, a customer or a follower.  For authors, this audience is readers and fans of their novels.  For bloggers, it is their followers.  For a feature writer of a magazine or newspaper, it is the customer, the subscriber and the general community.  These become the audience.  The writer’s words become the product, not the writer themselves, even if what they write are personal opinions or stem from their personal education, understanding or skill.  Just as in a corporate world, the employees’ personal knowledge, skill, understanding, integrity and educational degree play an important role in the decision-making process while on the job, and the company they work for hired them because of those traits.  However, the employee is still an employee, and the employee represents and works for the company – regardless of their personal thoughts, beliefs and ideals. 

I’ve watched many writers alienate a portion, if not a majority, of their audience because they do not separate their personal identity from their professional one.   The same thing goes for anyone in the entertainment and artistic community.   Ever quit watching a certain television show because one of the actors on that show were being overly political, religious or outspoken on a topic or issue that you perhaps disagreed?  I have, like many, many others.  I’ve seen careers destroyed because of personal opinions.  I’m not saying you can’t have a personal opinion.  On the contrary – I ‘personally’ encourage everyone to have and form their own opinions about everything.  However, there is a time, place and platform in which to express those opinions, especially those that deal with touchy subjects like religion and politics. 

In a perfect world, EVERYONE would be fair-minded, weigh and give considerable thought to every ideal, and would withhold judgment and prejudice until all the facts have been clearly and fairly examined. We DO NOT live in a perfect world.  So, we must use discretion, wisdom and patience in deciding when to speak or when to remain silent.  If you are a public personality, such as a writer, then it is advisable that if you feel strongly in areas of politics and/or religion, use a pseudonym for your work, and keep it separate from your personal life.  It would be a shame if your hard work and talent becomes hindered because your personal opinion alienates, separates and offends a portion of your target audience.  As a reader, I don’t care what your politics are when I’m reading your book, your article, your review or your feature.  I’m interested in your work.  However, if your personal opinions and political diatribes overwhelm and consume your personal presence, I won’t be able to ignore those ideologies as I try to read your work.  I’m human.  I’m subject to prejudice and judgment.  I simply will stop reading your work.  There are too many other writers out there where I won’t have to fight through such issues.   If you want to be overly political or religious, then write for that particular audience.  That way, those who WANT to hear your opinions, will, and you won’t lose huge portions of your audience. 

I have, at times, let my personal opinion escape at the wrong time, in the wrong place and on the wrong platform.  I’m learning.  That’s the whole point of this blog – to share those idioms of wisdom.  I have opinions, strong ones, in fact.  But those opinions are for me, my family, my friends and my personal life.  I don’t want to alienate my readers by overly expressing them in the wrong format (such as my website, Facebook (under my pseudonym), blog or at public appearances).  Again, don’t misunderstand me.  I am who I am, and I don’t change who I am no matter where I am, or what platform I stand.  Who I am today, at this moment writing this blog post, is genuine to who I am should we be standing face to face.  I have no problem sharing my thoughts and opinions (I’m a writer – duh), I’m just learning when it’s appropriate. 

If you’re overly opinionated, and don’t care about the consequences of expressing those opinions regardless of the audience, then by all means - proceed.  However, don’t be surprised when you face difficulty gaining or maintaining a general audience.  You’ve shot yourself in the foot.  You may have an audience, but it’s a specific and targeted audience, often filled with the same ideals and thoughts.  Ever heard of preaching to the choir?

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

No comments:

Post a Comment