Monday Guest Post: Sujata Parashar talks about the online persona of an author, and the dilemmas faced

Book Thought 1509014_10205225482465112_1635501827188516052_n

As a writer and a public figure, how much is right to share about the personal aspects of my life, thoughts and views with my readers?

You have an image to maintain. You must not share your thoughts so freely with your readers. I have heard this well-meant advice from friends, family members and other well-wishers so often
that it got me wondering. I thought it would be nice to write my views on the subject as a guest post for your blog. I thank you Kiran for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I’m not much of a blogger and your very popular blog gives me a chance to share my take on the matter with a larger base of readers.  

Yes, I have an image to uphold. Don’t we all? The only slight difference would be that I might be one of the better known/visible persons among my immediate circle of friends and family since the time I turned writer. So what I say, write and project myself as, creates an impression among the readers and other people.

We all know, most people form their opinion based on what they read about you. Social media platforms have revolutionized the way we interact with each other nowadays. Public figures especially high – profile individuals have to be conscious and responsible in what they talk about or disclose and discuss openly in these public platforms. I’m but a minor writer. However, I too voluntarily share my views on different matters and other personal details of my life with a larger group of people now than I did five years ago. It is natural and unavoidable that people will think/look at me in a certain way. The question is should I maintain a superficial image then?

Over the years, almost all the different social platforms where I hold a personal account have been swelling up and currently I have a reasonably good following in each. It clearly shows, readers are interested to know the author closely. My publishers played their role well.  And I won’t deny that I think my stories touched a chord somewhere with the current generation. Of course, there were many who didn’t like my books at all.  Many formed an opinion about me based on the books that I have written.  That is expected and another matter altogether but an image was created due to my presence and usage of the social network extensively since the time my first book was published. As I move forward in my writerly life, and as more and more people connect with me, it becomes necessary I respond to the questions posed to me by my well-wishers. Is it okay to share my personal thoughts on different issues openly at a public platform?  How much is just right to share about my personal life, views et al with my readers, acquaintances, well – wishers and even total strangers especially those connected to me virtually?

Now the above question would not have arisen had I just shared about my work and its related aspects with my readers.

But I am a human first and then a writer.  Writing happens to be an important part of my life. However, there’s so much more that I am involved in other than writing. Why should I not share those other aspects of me (that I deem fit) with my readers? For me, it is important to know the person I’m interacting with, better. Even if it’s merely a business interaction it can’t be a one – way thing. It does not work for me. In fact, all relationships however distant they maybe are based on the basic principles of mutual respect, honesty and reciprocal behavior. If even one of them is lacking, there’s no relationship. In order to have that kind of a human to human bond one has to make an effort to be honest, open and expressive about one’s world view, thoughts etc.

And it is impossible to achieve that if one remains superficial or simply use the social media to promote their books with one liners like – My book among top 10…available on Flipkart, go get your copies. Or Happy to share my book has been declared a bestseller by xyz in the very first month of its release. Have you picked your copy yet, et al. (Although, there’s no denying a writer needs to promote his or her work and such posts are the order of the day and play an important role in gaining the attention of the readers). To exclusively or extravagantly focus on just the most superficial part of you would be like giving a piece of information that has little value to others. Readers may certainly admire you for a while or be in awe of you but they won’t be moved or feel anything more than that. To strengthen the bond they need to know the author a little better.

In my case, I share what I think would help bring out the person that I am other than my profile as an author. Staying aloof, interacting with my readers in spurts and jerks; writing lines that I neither mean nor follow, talking shop or merely discussing superficial stuff, is not acceptable to me. Now, I know while interacting with others I might not be able to develop the same level of bonding with everyone however well-meaning the other person (s) might be. That’s neither possible nor desirable. But I’m open, expressive and responsive as much as possible. Of course, certain decorum has to be followed. There are certain basic rules of communication which must be adhered to and respected by both parties. Besides, writers are highly sensitive people. I am no different. So I don’t like it if someone acts too cheesy with me or gets too personal. By using my better judgment such sporadic incidents can be handled. After all to err is human. Besides, my thoughts and expressions may or may not go down well with everyone. That is fine. We are all different and our world views depend on our environment, different life situations and experiences that we’ve faced in life. It would be wrong to judge anyone.
My thoughts reflect my true- self and that is what is important to me as a person.  The stories that I pen and the real me maybe intertwined in some ways because they are been created by me.

However, the author is not the character of her book. The story she writes is not necessarily her story. She has her own personality. To display a false image would be wrong. The real person behind the author must also be visible to a reasonable degree to her readers and other people.

That is my aim when I interact with my readers and others connected to me virtually or in real life.

Thank you once again and Keep smiling!  

Sujata Parashar

Novelist, short – story writer and poet

(I welcome guest posts on my blog every Monday. Sharply written, insightful, provocative posts welcome, I do no editing, except perhaps spell check. All topics welcome, except politics and religion. If you would like to contribute, do mail me at kiranmanral@gmail.com. Why am I doing this? Just paying it forward.)

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