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Guest Blog: How to Hold on to Who You Are

One thing we at ATW believe in is the power of writers collaborating. It makes sense, right, given that our business model is based on partnering? In that spirit, we’ve decided to take part in a blog tour through our local writers’ network Write by the Rails (WbtR), where I serve as Vice President. I’m delighted to present our first guest blogger, author Tamela J. Ritter.  Tamela offers some fabulously frank advice on how to survive in this public world we live in, and how to hold onto a sense of self in the social media sphere. Not one to mince words, Tamela is refreshingly authentic and transparent. This is a should-read for anyone using social media. So without further ado, I give you Tamela J. Ritter.

-Katherine Gotthardt, CEO, ATW

How to Hold on to Who You Are

by Tamela J. Ritter

When the personal becomes public, how do we remain ourselves?

I guess, in these days we all live in public. We chat with family and friends on Facebook, share our travel and foodie photos on Instagram, rant with strangers about politics and test out our one-liners on Twitter. We all worry about oversharing, about voicing opinions that will get us ostracized, or worse, attacked.

Yet, for artists, authors and anyone else that makes their living of the goodwill of the public more than the art they create, it is a tricky thing. There are just some things we shouldn’t do in public, and some things we need to make even more public than would be considered safe for others.

I’ll admit right off, all of this stuff is my very least favorite part of being an author—but that can be said for almost every part of it that doesn’t require me to daydream and create—and probably most of the advice and instructions I was given by my publisher at the time of my book’s publication *mumble* years ago are probably outdated by now, but *shrug* it’s all I got, all I’ve picked up in the years I’ve been trying—with varying success—to do this. Do feel free to update me and share your ideas in comments, cool?

A few Dos and Don’ts of Social Media

Do: Follow and engage with people in your field/genre/interests.

This is especially useful and important on Twitter and Instagram where more engagement with strangers is encouraged. Ironic that the mediums where character space is limited is the place where better conversations happen, but its true. Facebook is good for connecting with your family across the country and sharing news of your day to friends, but with its constant rule changing and algorithm tinkering, it’s not a great place to have a public platform.

When I first joined Twitter, I followed all the places I wanted to be published, all the agents, all the editors who were currently doing things and talking about things I needed to know. As I continued to work on getting my book published, I started following people who were talking about things that were relevant to my book—other people writing books about Native Americans, people who write about the West, who write about coming of age, young adult.

Twitter makes it even easier to focus on what is important in your social media at any given time by allowing you to create “Lists” that will keep you current with the fraction of your feed that is important at the time.

Don’t: DM/PM people who start following you with links to your book. It’s a dick move.

Do: Follow and use hashtags

Expressing yourself by following a trend is a good way to get noticed by people who aren’t already following you. Following hashtags is also a good way to find out information from many varied sources.

Don’t: Hijack a hashtag.

Using trending or well-established hashtags for your own, completely off topic purposes just to get more viewers is also a dick move that will give you the opposite of the attention you want.

Do: Engage with your current and potential readers as a person and not a “brand” (or whatever they’re calling it these days).

Social media is a place for readers and potential readers—aka people—to engage with you as a person. It’s okay to share the writing process with them, share as much of your life as you’re comfortable with, and anything else you want. You can even share your political views if you’re not worried about readers being turned off by it.

For me personally, I have no problem voicing my politics and have a hard time not voicing them. I just assume that most people who disagree with me enough to refuse to read my book because of my views are people who aren’t really going to like what I write anyway. Maybe I’ve lost readers for this, but it’s a personal risk that I’m willing to take to be allowed to talk about things that are important to me.

I do try to limit it, or at the least, make sure that there is a balance.

Don’t: Engage in arguments in comments. EVER.

That’s just good practice in general, really. But, if you do, make sure your argument is sound, true and relevant. And always know when to walk away.

Do: Give your followers exclusive content or previews of important upcoming projects.

Some of your followers are just there because they like your take on current events, or because you said something witty about the writing process, but others are there because they’ve read your work and want to read more. Reward this. Share things on your social media as they happen, give them peeks into things in the process. Let them be the first to read your newest work.

Don’t: Treat your followers as “fans.”

Just a pet peeve of mine, but I don’t care how many books you’ve sold, how many “fans” you have, you give them a name—like your “Wolfpack,” or your “Horde” or whatever—and I’m done. You don’t get to give yourself a nickname and you don’t get to create your own fandom.

Just don.t.

And finally, just a piece of advice that served me well when I was first going through the stress of being a private person who had to be public, it is possible to have more than one twitter/Instagram and whatnot. If you’re afraid that you won’t be able to reign yourself in or stop yourself from ostracizing potential readers, go ahead and get yourself an account specifically for that.

Or, if you’re like me, and you write about serious, often times heart wrenching things, but in real life just like being ridiculous and nerdy and are afraid those two won’t mesh, it is possible to have accounts just for that aspect of yourself.

I write stories about family dysfunction and trying to find a place to belong, but sometimes I just want to talk about the geeky thing I’m obsessed with at the time. When I first started out on Twitter, I didn’t think I could be both those things. But, as I got more comfortable with my geeky side—and started to write about Doctor Who and Star Wars for publication, I let that other Twitter—that other fraction of myself—go. I learned that I can be both, just as I learned that my readers can be interested in more than one thing.

It’s been great to finally let my geek flag fly, but it’s okay to not be there when first setting out. Just, do me a favor, don’t set up that account for nothing more than trolling people, because that’s a whole other blog all together.

Tamela can be found on ALL the media sites (well most):

@tamela_j on Twitter

TamelaJRitter on Facebook

Tamelaritter on Instagram

Want to get involved with a writers’ community, even if you’re not local to northern Virginia? Join the #WbtR #BackOnTrackNow social media campaign. Spread creativity, not negativity and earn an opportunity to be published in our anthology. Get the details here.

Katherine Gotthardt, CEO

Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, has been writing, editing and teaching for more than twenty years. For the past ten years, she has focused on content development and content marketing for small to mid-size businesses, writing and disseminating material that increases client visibility while supporting their brand. Besides being published in dozens of journals, Katherine has authored eith books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water, Bury Me Under a Lilac, A Crane Named Steve and Get Happy, Dammit. Learn more about her creative life at