Social Media for the Memoirists (Or… “Aren’t I naked enough already?”)

This week we’re writing about technology, and wow, Crystal nailed just about every tech tool that can help you keep your otherwise-unruly in-process novel organized. And Amy put up another hilarious-yet-not-hilarious post about what it’s like to write in this political climate (oops, I think that was a bit of a spoiler). Anyway, I thought I’d put my usual (somewhat whiny but always real) memoirist tilt on things.

When I was at AWP in DC last month, I went to a panel put on by a few of my friends about social media for writers, especially memoirists. The panelists talked about how social media has united them with writers from around the country – and world! – who also dare to write their vulnerable personal stories. They talked about how without social media, they wouldn’t have a community of hundreds to lift them up on the hard days, to validate their social justice concerns, and to trade both unpublished and published work.

Panelist Vanessa Mártir said, “Social media was a way for me to take back my power.”

Alice Anderson, who nurtures an impressive writerly following, noted, “You, too, can build a platform by being transparent. Social media doesn’t have to be meaningless.”

Hell yeah! Awesome! All of us in the audience nodded and even clapped.

That last bit about being transparent is exactly the rub for me. Alice was exactly right: the more you can be honest and authentic on social media, the more those in your network will relate to what you post.

The thing is, the further I’ve ventured into memoir-ville, the more I’ve had this feeling that I am doing a striptease act for whoever wants to watch. I’ve delved into some of my most humiliating and painful experiences and documented them for even those who have hurt me to read. Sometimes I feel like wandering around asking people about their relationships with their mother, just so that their vulnerability matches my own.

I know! I’ve complained about this feeling before! It’s all still true though.

So given those feelings, it’s sometimes quite difficult to show up authentically on Facebook. Like, don’t you already know enough about me? Haven’t I embarrassed myself enough?

It’s a day by day fluctuation. Some days I wake up feeling great and have no problem putting myself out there more. Other days I over extend, and realize belatedly that even commenting on a few friends’ posts puts me over the edge in terms of my capacity for exposure.

One problem with this is that I need social media at the moment to put out information about the exciting happenings post-publication. But without genuineness to balance those posts, it all feels like endless self-promotion. (I know that’s something every author struggles with.)

I have to think that in even only a few more months these feelings will fade, and I’ll be able to take back social media in the ways that work for me. But who knows: this is my first time visiting memoirist-ville, so I continue to navigate the unknown.

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Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

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