anthony dobranski online


Performance anxiety (Facebook edition)

If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise. — William Blake, “Proverbs of Hell”

I noted recently that writing has become a performing art, one where we writers all have to be promotional and public. I’ve been mulling that over in regards to social media. Specifically, Facebook.

I made my first business career developing the consumer side of what we once called “cyberspace,” but I was quite late to Facebook. Most close friends who wanted to keep up with my personal life soon wised up and Friended my wife. My main reservation was Facebook’s awesome store of personal data (even now, my Facebook account is still under a different computer login than my work or personal logins), but it seemed harmless enough — shared humor, family updates and the occasional expression of political dudgeon by people whose politics I knew well.

When I signed up for the Superstars Writing Seminars, I joined their very active private Facebook group for news and updates on the seminar, and by extension, on the writers’ individual careers. To my great surprise, a lot of those people Friended me on Facebook — most before ever meeting me, and the rest after a very limited interaction (though you learn a lot playing Cards Against Humanity, and none of it good.)

I was bemused. Why on earth would these people want to Friend me? Did they care about my son’s new style of dancing to 80’s pop? Would they be as thrilled by the new retaining wall we’re getting as I am?

My folly was in not recognizing that Facebook has become a public space to the exact degree that one is a public person — and performing artists are public people, and writers now performers. This for me makes Facebook an increasingly staged and risky place. In Soho where she lives, a major fashion model can go shopping without makeup and in sweatpants — but when that same model hits the stores at Mall of America, she is not shopping. She is making an appearance, as rehearsed and planned and calculated as any Oscar Wilde bon-mot.

Thing is, I have plenty of friends, and extended family, for whom Facebook is not that space, and whose socializing there is more honest, more mundane, and in some ways more substantive. If I actually become a successful writer, commenting to me on a Facebook post will be the equivalent of meeting your friend for coffee when your friend is on a reality-TV show and has a camera following everywhere. Little-f-friends, are you ready for that? Am I? Continue reading


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Writing is now a performing art

In high school my friends had a punk band called Prep H. They mostly played for fun, but I was easily persuaded to host a punk party where they could perform publicly one Saturday night. For the show they placed a round poster board sign in the opening of the bass drum, with their name hastily drawn in crude colored marker. It wasn’t much of a sign, but no matter. They were a band, and bands put signs in their bass drums.

I have easy digital tools so my signage was cleaner, but I am no more a web designer than my friends were drum painters. No matter. I am a writer so of course I have a website.

And a feed and a blog and, if I am smart, a presence. (I’m getting smarter.)

Writing today is a performing art. I don’t mean in the sense of Harlan Ellison’s instructive gimmicks, writing full stories in bookstore windows over an eight-hour day, but an ongoing habitual performance. I’m not just talking about a good voice for readings and trimming those eyebrows for a photo. We need to write the copy for our stories and books, not just the text inside them; we need to think about cover art and head shots; we need to blog and tweet and post and make ourselves present as more than reviews in newspapers and spines on shelves. We need to get out there. We need to be public.

It is a reality that most of us are unprepared for. Continue reading