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The Right to be Invisible

I had an odd internal battle while designing my web page. I have a beautiful headshot done by a photographer friend, and I felt it was a wonderful expression of my inner personality. I rarely photograph well because, if I can be honest, I don't like my teeth, so my smile is frequently stilted and forced. But in this picture, I look great. As I have been told by the many author blogs I read, it's important to have a platform and develop a presence before your book is published, and a great author photo is a part of that. But something held me back. I didn't want anyone to know what I looked like.

Don't get me wrong—overall I am pleased with my appearance. But the thought of having everyone out there know what I looked like made me feel...vulnerable. Perhaps my instincts were wisely instructing me, because I didn't have any actual reasons I should avoid putting my picture up. I don't belong to any online "communities," I only rarely post in comment sections, and those are only trusted, moderated blogs. And I certainly never post inflammatory or even mildly controversial comments or articles. Ever.

So it was a surprise to me when someone used the "contact" form on my webpage to send me this little gem:

Hey Sweetheart. Your page would be a lot better if you showed your tits on the front page.

As trolling goes, this is mild. Sounds like one of those asshole 20-year-old college dropouts who  moved back in with mom and dad. But after doing a little bit of light reading on the Huffington Post this morning, apparently putting yourself online in any capacity opens you up to outright abuse.

Meditating on this, I realized that fear of being mocked or derided was one of the reasons I am an introvert—why I pursued my love of writing and not my (very deep) love of acting. You see, acting requires you to get on the stage in front of people. You are presenting a performance, but the people in the audience see you, not the art you are making (or trying to make). It only took one drama class in seventh grade to make me realize I didn't want to be an actor, or any other type of entertainer. I didn't want people to see me. I wanted them to see what I had created.

In this age of author entrepreneurship, authors are now expected to not only write their books, but do everything else as well, including go on television (if you should be so blessed) to promote them. Though we all idealize the success of J.K. Rowling, the idea of ever walking a red carpet at a film premiere for the adaptation of one of my books is, frankly, my idea of hell. All those people yelling at you, all those people looking at you...comparing you to the lovely young people who comprise the cast of characters. Hell on earth, I tell you.

So what is left for those of us who eschew the limelight? Can we ever be as successful? I would argue yes. Think of Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series, or of Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller chronicles. Are they married? Where do they live? What are their political views? Despite being a fan, I know none of these things—these authors let their work speak for them. They are both average looking, but no one really cares, because they are fantastic writers and a tribute to their respective genres. That is what I want to be—a writer, not a celebrity, and certainly not someone who generates hits on their website by saying outlandish things.

So I will keep that picture up. Perhaps I will get more nonsense from late teen-early twenties malcontents. But I think I will get more readers (once the book is out) who will be happy to see what I look like—to see the person who created a world and characters they enjoy.


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