We live in an age of sharing. Social media has created a platform where writers can share quite personally. Because of this, it’s possible for readers to see something of the actual lives and inner workings of the people whose work they consume.
This isn’t entirely new, but it just seems to be a lot more common. Some people like to be private. Some share. Some over-share.
Some present a manicured version of themselves to the world: their glittering image. Others are more authentic and let it all hang out.
Personally, I think it’s good for your readers to get to know you a little bit. After all, you are asking them for two things: their time and their trust. If you read my work, I have taken up some of your time, which for many people is a limited resource. Hopefully, you’ll get something back in return.
But I’m also asking you to trust me: you have to feel that my opinions are my own, that they are honestly held, that where I’m stating or reporting facts I have acted with diligence, and that I’m not being influenced by undisclosed payments or favours.
So, if you get to know me a bit, even if it’s through social media, this strengthens this relationship and better assists you to decide whether reading my work is going to be productive.
Over two years ago I shared on my blog about getting divorced. It was an intensely personal piece of writing, and I received more feedback from this article than anything else I’ve written:
This contrasts with the approach that maintains that a text should be understood independent of its context, and that it’s actually unhelpful to know too much about the writer. In some ways, I quite like the abrupt biographies you used to find in old books: ‘XXXX XXXXX is a novelist who lives in London.’ But, then again, I’m fascinated to know more about them.
So, a couple of questions:
How much are you able to separate a writer’s personality from their work?
Does knowing more about the context of the writing, and specifically about the writer (their background, personality, motivations, preferences), help the reader understand the text better?