I’m glad you mentioned Pessoa and his heteronyms, the way they might or might not relate to our current-day world of digital avatars and alter egos and the notion of authenticity in identity in general. I might have a somewhat different take on online presence/community than many, maybe a more amateur-ish take you might say. I’m a writer who blogs and comments on other writers’ blogs in order to have sincere, authentic conversations about literature, art, philosophy, and the like. My primary interest is not self-promotion or professionalism, but simply this experience of authentic conversation, of connecting with others intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, aesthetically, ethically in a real way. There’s a vulnerability and openness that I’ve found I can have online that is hard to achieve in the physical world, where all the professional & personal facets of my life are interconnected and often collide in conflicting ways that demand necessary compromise. In other words, I feel I can rarely say what I really think or feel in my “real” life, I can rarely have meaningful conversations about topics that really matter. This feeling of dearth, lack of space/time for the meaningful, is what has motivated me to write fiction & poetry & essays in the first place. But I’ve been able to have conversations that matter through blogging and commentbox-conversing with other bloggers,
and this blog world has become a surprisingly important, nourishing, and authentic community for me.
Interactive blogging is like being both a writer & a reader at the same time. It’s like reading an ongoing book and being able to talk directly and personally to the author. It’s like writing and ongoing book and being able to talk directly and personally to your readers. I think this experience of intimacy through words, the connections that are formed through sharing and speaking about texts, is something that drives the literary impulse at the core.
I just finished reading Claudia Rankine’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” where she quotes Paul Celan comparing a poem to a handshake. He can’t see any difference between a poem and a handshake, he says. In others words, a poem is an act of personal exchange, a meeting & an agreement, a point of contact, an article of trust. Trust is a hard thing to sustain and foster in the “real” world, especially the real world of professional literary activities where there is much competition, self-serving, careerism, one-upmanship, back-stabbing, and the like.
A number of the bloggers I interact with blog under their real names, and some blog under pseudonyms. I belong to the latter group, although I’m still trying to figure out if I’m using a pseudonym or an actual alter ego. An alter ego that feels, in many ways, more authentic than my real-life self. My real-life self is a published author who exists quite fluently in the professional literary world. But in that professional mode of being, I cannot have the conversations that I have on my blog; in the professional mode of being, so much is about status & protocol & appearances & hierarchy. Under the polished veneer of “reputation,” there is very little room left over for the real. If I blogged under my professional name, it would be good publicity and help my career. But it would feel inauthentic to me, in the most soulfully damaging way possible. It would feel inauthentic to literature. At least for me. I am talking about my specific unique personal situation. I have seen others who are able to blend their professional and personal selves in a kind of public writing and public outreach that is true & authentic to all these facets of self. This blog is one example of such, and that is why I felt inspired to write this somewhat confessional comment. Hope this is okay, and that my comment contributes to the conversation.
Doesn’t the very act of becoming an author amount to the creation of a public persona apart from one’s personal self? And yet literature itself is where the truest things can be said. Fiction of fictions! We live in paradox…
Check out more of Roz Ito’s thoughts on her blog Supernumerary and please feel free to join the discussion.