We're talking about the writer's image this week on The Lady Killers. When I saw that topic, I have to admit that my first thought was, "I have no idea what to say. I'm going rogue. I'm going to talk about...um...this piece of chocolate here in my hand. It's really yummy." But I went rogue with my last post, and then Ann followed me down the garden path of rebellion. If we keep this up, chaos will ensue. Do you really want to live in a world where a bunch of Lady Killers are on the loose and there are no rules????
I don't. So I intend to play by the rules today. The blog wants me to write "A Writer's Image," so that's what the blog shall get. But I freely admit that this is a ticklish subject. Think about my average workday. I'm sitting at home alone, working in a t-shirt and jeans, and this is only because I have a modicum of self-respect. I could do what I do in flannel pajamas and bunny slippers. (Well, it's Florida, so flannel pajamas would be overkill. However, I cannot describe the flimsy stuff I usually sleep in, because my son might be reading this and he would then feel compelled to rip his mind's eye out by the roots.) At least 95% of the time, I have no "image" to uphold, but there is that other part of my job. Sometimes I have to go out and meet the public.
Saturday, I gave a talk at a bookstore. Tonight, I'm speaking at a library. For such events, bunny slippers and a flimsy nightgown do not cut it. Jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers would be less likely to get me arrested or institutionalized, but I don't think they convey the proper respect for my audience. How I look has no bearing on the quality of what I write, but there is an element of show-biz to what I do for a living. People who enjoy my books can read them in the comfort of their home. If they leave the house to come see me speak, it is because they are interested in me as a person. I do not think they want to see a frumpy 50-year-old grandmother.
I cannot do anything about the second and third descriptors, but I don't have to be frumpy. I put some thought into how I dress for an event. I wear makeup and a little jewelry and I fuss with my hair a little. Probably more importantly, I try to reach out to the people who attend, making an effort to tailor my talk to their interests and to answer their questions with thought.
On a less personal level, I think it's important for me to present a professional image even when I'm not there. I put a great deal of effort into my books, and I want to present them in a way that communicates that care. So I paid a professional to design my website. I also paid the best photographer I know to take my author photo, so that I would have a picture that did actually look like me, yet didn't scream "frumpy grandmother." I have a few projects that I published myself, and I paid professionals to lay out the text and design the cover. Again, if I don't project a professional image, how can I expect my work to be taken seriously? You can't judge a book by its cover, but you can get a sense of the degree of importance its maker assigns to its public image.
But this is all icing on the cake. First, you have to make the cake. I spend 95% of my time putting together and polishing stories that are worth the reader's while. My business is creating works of the imagination, and the worlds in those books are far more real than any surficial "image" that can be painted on them or on me. My imagination is what I have to offer. My image is merely a tool to get people to look more closely at my imaginary worlds as they decide whether to dive in.