Reduce, Reuse, Revise

I’m deep in the thralls of writing my prospectus, which essentially means dealing with a great deal of feedback on a regular basis.  This feedback is all constructive and extremely useful, and I’m learning a lot about so many different aspects of the academic process.  That said, I’d be lying if I told you that this was anything but overwhelming at times.  Because, let’s face it, if you’re a writer there is nothing more nerve-wracking than getting feedback on your work.

Here’s the big problem: you wouldn’t be showing your work to someone if you thought it was horrible.  Yes, of course you know that there will always be little kinks and things that you need to sort out, and every piece of writing is a work in progress (how often have I had to go re-jigger something I’ve published on this blog because someone caught a spelling or grammar error that I simply didn’t?).  Despite this, you wouldn’t be doing your work if you didn’t think it was important and/or worthwhile, so allowing someone a window into

This is a bookstore; not my apartment; but I kinda wish I lived here.

This is a bookstore; not my apartment; but I kinda wish I lived here.

your world before the work is complete is extremely anxiety provoking.  What might they say?  You know it isn’t done, but how done is “done” and can this be done enough that it makes sense to someone outside of your brain?  Will they judge you as a horrible writer, person, teacher because your draft wasn’t pristine?  IT COULD BE THE END OF THE WORLD AS YOU KNOW IT!

Feedback is an important part of the writing process.  I always tell my students to write with enough time to ask for peer and/or mentor input.  What makes sense inside your head will almost always make sense to you on paper but it’s the other person that this all has to coalesce for.  Having someone else take a look at your work is a vital counter-check to ensuring logic, sensibility, relevance, and efficacy in communicating your thought process.

This is especially true if you’re experimenting with a style of writing that you don’t normally utilize.  The first time you write a cover letter, or CV, or (in my case) a prospectus, you’re bound to do a few things wrong.  After all, if you knew how to do everything, why aren’t you making a million dollars running the world at the top of you own evil empire?  Remembering that feedback is a constructive part of the process can sometimes be difficult; again, if you’re like me, you put your heart into your work.  You sweat, you cry, you bust your proverbial bum to make certain that there’s something special and worthwhile in every piece you turn out.

So cut yourself some slack when you let someone else in.  It’s okay to feel disappointed that you didn’t “DO IT RIGHT” the first time.  Us perfectionists are always going to put pressure on ourselves, but doing so also means that we need to develop a keen ability to let it go (this is still in progress for me, I’m not great at the whole “let it go” part… despite Idina Menzel’s insistence otherwise).  Getting back on the horse, back at your desk, and back in the fray is what’s going to keep you working (and sane) in the long run.

I like to think of the revision process as forging a paper (much like forging a blade).  You put the unmolded lump through fire and hammer it until it looks more like what it’s supposed to.  Then you cool it off in ice.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Each iteration lends strength to the finished product and, with perfunctory repetition, you don’t turn out something with integrity.  Maybe you’ve made an object that looks pretty, but it lacks the strength to do what it was meant to.  Under the pressure of battle, it will fall apart and be useless.  The only thing that will give the finished product the strength it needs is constant and vigilant reshaping.

Besides, the process of ripping something apart can be extremely cathartic once you get through the preliminary tearing.  The longer you sit with those red-penned drafts, the longer you have to get worked up over the feedback.  So face your fears; conquer the red pen; let us go boldly forth today comrades, and revise.  ONWARD!  INTO THE NIGHT!

 

I Would Prefer To: Scrivener

As any crafter, home improver, or DIYer will tell you, having the right tool for the job makes the job a lot easier.

And, dear internet, I’ve been writing papers with the wrong tools for so long.

Basically I’ve had access to a sledgehammer and a machete when what I needed was a jeweler’s hammer and a surgeon’s scalpel.  Microsoft word is many things and it’s a workhorse of a program.  Basically anything you want to do you can somehow find a way to make it do.  In terms of text manipulation and the actual process of word processing, it’s got many great features (tables of contents, version control, find and replace, text manipulation capabilities, etc.), but for a research paper it’s so not the tool for the job.  At least, not the way I write.

Most writers are lateral thinkers.  You’ve definitely heard me expound upon the beauty of lateral thinking before, so I don’t feel a need to go into it here.  Basically, we (of necessity) hold many different bits of information in our mind at one time in order to forge new thoughts and ideas on the page.  What this means is you’re juggling a lot of things at once: references (both bibliographic and visual), notes, facts, timelines, inspiration, and a host of your own thoughts.  I work with a dual monitor set-up on a Mac, so I can keep a lot of windows open at once, but it’s often inconvenient to have to bounce back and forth between windows when the information I need could be gracefully compiled side-by-side in one place if I had the right interface for it.

Well, it turns out that they make the right interface for it.  It’s called Scrivener and it’s my new best friend.  While it definitely ran me a chunk of change ($45 for software is nothing to sniff at when you’re living on a grad school budget), I consider the investment worthwhile in just the last week of playing with the tool.

My best beloved turned me on to the software and introduced me to the notion.  It’s apparently something that novel-writers swear by (and I can definitely see why).  In fact, Scrivener is so awesome that they even offer a one-month trial version for folks participating in NaNoWriMo every year.  I can’t imagine writing one large project on this and then being without it; I’m absolutely certain that the good folks at Scrivener make a ton of business that way.

I was resistant at first.  It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and the Scrivener help files are long and a bit arduous to get through.  Scrivener will automatically open up to a tutorial upon your first usage after installs, and that tutorial will take you some time to get through.  Consider it an easy-access pass to the yellow brick road; a small time investment will definitely save you in the future.

I think the best feature for me is that I can see, as I go, the accumulation of what I’ve

In center, my research notes.  At right, you can see my comments; each comment is a new source.  I can auto-jump to that source by clicking in to the comment.

In center, my research notes. At right, you can see my comments; each comment is a new source. I can auto-jump to that source by clicking in to the comment.

done.  If I set up my comments correctly, I can see how many sources I’ve already compiled (and in what category so I know where I’m weak without having to dig through all of my notes).  Since I’m currently embroiled in preliminary Prospectus research, this is HUGE to what I’m doing right now.  Additionally, I can file multiple documents in one project; my notes are thus auto-sorted as I research, and I can swap back and forth between them with extreme ease.

Another feature I absolutely love is the ability to embed images in a project.  If I happen upon a broadside or picture in a reference book that I’d like to include in my notes, it’s incredibly easy to do so (I generally snap a shot with my cell phone camera, which auto-syncs to my dropbox, and then I can just drop the image into the scrivener folder and link it within the text).  I don’t have to fiddle with dimensions (as in word), or worry about text wrapping or layering.  The image is just there for me to look at when I need to see it.

Corkboard View of my current prospectus research

Corkboard View of my current prospectus research

One of the selling points for me was “corkboard view”.  Each document has a set of notes you can file alongside it, and when you drop into corkboard view the document is represented by an index card.  You can move the index cards around with drag-and-drop to visually rearrange how your material will be presented.  I can picture how wonderful this is going to be when I start drafting chapters; I can even break those chapters up into sections and drag/drop my material as I write it.  As I’ve said before, I’m a tactile learner which makes the vast amount of reading/writing/research I do extremely difficult; this kind of interface really jives with my learning style and helps to de-conceptualize my writing.

Another great feature is custom meta-data tagging.  Within each document, you can specify meta-data fields that can help with search functionality later.  Scrivener provides a robust search interface (which really means that it will search many different parameters to find the data you’re looking for).  Essentially, the more ways you label your writing, the easier it will be for you to find what you need.  I can also see this coming in handy when generating an index.  You know.  For WAY in the future when that sort of thing is a part of my life.

On the whole, Scrivener has made me excited to write.  This, as you may or may not know, is a HUGE hurdle in actually getting your work done.  Experimenting with the program’s features and finding new ways to make my life easier has made dragging myself to my desk in the morning a task rather than a chore, and if there’s anything that will make life easier it’s inspiring the impetus to work.  When I get going, I’m always fine (my work is fascinating and I love doing it), but climbing to my desk is an uphill battle.  Scrivener has made it that much easier to ascend Everest, and it’s definitely making organization a pleasure.

I would highly recommend giving this program a shot; especially if you’re struggling with keeping your dissertation material in a format that’s not overwhelming.

Through Good Times and Bad

In case you haven’t been super-stalking my digital life, you may or may not know that I’ve just come off a grand adventure.  Three days; three plays; three reviews.  All have been posted to New England Theatre Geek (since in my copious free time I moonlight as a reviewer there), and you should check them out if you’re at all interested in the American Shakes-scene right now.

What this really means is that I’m exhausted.  I’ve been working so much that I’ve forgotten what “fun” is.  I demonstrated this fact the other day when I sat down to my desk, looked at the pile of books I set aside to read that day for my Prospectus prep, and thought unironically “THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST DAY!”  (… it was “THE BEST DAY”

Not my book fort, but some days it feels this way.  This is a used bookstore in Salem, MA.

Not my book fort, but some days it feels this way. This is a used bookstore in Salem, MA.

for maybe two hours before I realized that I had about 1,000 pages of reading to do before sundown, wasn’t getting through it as fast as I wanted to, and OH BY THE WAY also had a veritable pile of other work to do).  The stationary bicycle of PhD work has really got me down this week, and as a result I’m plugging along like the little engine that could (“I THINK I CAN I THINK I CAN”), or if you prefer, Dory the forgetful fish (“JUST KEEP SWIMMING! JUST KEEP SWIMMING!”).  That said, I have a hard time sitting down at my computer for more than twenty minutes without my eyes glazing over.  It’s just the way it is sometimes.

The problem is that it will always be like this on occasion.  There are days, no matter what you’re doing and how much you love doing it, that you simply don’t wanna.  Heck, there might even be whole weeks when you simply don’t wanna.  That doesn’t mean you don’t love your work, it just means that you’re a human being and not a research machine.

Understanding this and getting through it is a process.  Up until now, I’ve prided myself on the point that I can work through just about anything; extreme weather conditions (you laugh, but it’s actually a problem in deep summer when your apartment doesn’t have central air or deep winter when you’re freezing mid-day because you’re trying to keep your heating bills down), extreme emotional conditions (life happens and you still have to work), extreme stress (I swear I will never again be able to hear the words “exams” without a small spine-tingling shudder), extreme pain (I’ve undergone minor surgery and still had to work the same day), and extreme workload.  The fact that these extenuating factors take their toll is not something that I’ve cared to put much thought into, but we need to face reality.

Being a graduate student is hard.  Doing the work for a Ph.D. is REALLY hard.  There’s a

A gem from my stack of dissertation reading.

A gem from my stack of dissertation reading.

reason that not everyone gets one.  What we’re doing is extraordinary.  Period.  If, at any time, you feel tired, overwrought, or wrung out, it’s probably because you’re working your smart little elbow patches off.

This work is exhausting, life-consuming, and never-ending.

It’s also incredibly fulfilling, exciting, and the most enormous privilege.

To pretend otherwise is ridiculous.

There’s good and bad in everything and, when you’re doing something extraordinary, the extremes are pretty extreme.  Admitting this is not admitting defeat.  If you’ve hit a point where you’re just tired don’t let it stop you, but don’t assume that it makes you weak or lesser in some way.  Taking breaks is healthy and finding your break zen is important to productivity (I, for instance, need longer days to work at a slower pace.  I will take an hour and a half mid-day to fit a workout in, but I will work until 9 or 10 at night to get what needs doing done).

Really, though, if you’re going through a rough patch for whatever reason, be gentle with yourself.  It doesn’t make you a bad scholar, it doesn’t make you a bad teacher, and it certainly doesn’t make you a lesser person.  Just take a moment to accept that you’re a human being.  Remember your triumphs, and consider slowing your pace just a tad.  You’ll pick up the slack when you’re back in the saddle.  As long as less work doesn’t become a habit, it all evens out in the end.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go watch some trashy television and detox from my Academic Life for a while.  If you need me, I’ll be on my couch with my Netflix.

 

Ascendance

After a hard-fought uphill battle, I am EXTREMELY pleased to report that I have ascended to Candidacy (with distinction, even!).

I would like to say that this occurred with great pomp, ceremony, circumstance, a standing ovation, and an elephant parade.  In actuality, it occurred in an office, at an unremarkable hour on Friday with little ceremony other than a few hearty handshakes.  T.S. Eliot’s prediction about the world ending could very well apply to my ascendance (…while I could also use the word “advancement”, how often in life do you get to say that you “ascended” as applied to yourself?).

I didn’t then make a great clamor, but rather had a lovely lunch with a friend, went directly to rehearsal to choreograph the murder of Young Siward on the battlefield by a bloodthirsty Scottish King whose name shall remain unsaid (using broadswords even), then went out to dinner with my beloved.  Saturday we celebrated with a spectacular trip to an ice castle in the White Mountains (a gorgeous drive, even when

At night, lit up, the ice was just lovely.

At night, lit up, the ice was just lovely.

headed through a not-so-small snowstorm on your way home).

I’ve begun a two-week sabbatical from most things academic because I’ve been running on overdrive since May.  I can only stop doing “most things” because the semester has already begun and, therefore, my acting class is in session.  Luckily it’s a joy to teach and not as thinky as something like… say… Postmodern Theory.

While I would like to say that being ABD doesn’t feel any different from being a Ph.D. Student, right now it feels completely different.  For once, I get to think about my own projects and only my own projects.  I get to stop worrying about crazy exams and tests that measure my aptitude for things that I may or may not use (probably will, but who knows?) in the near future.  I get a chance to really stretch my wings and fly home to victory while dancing in the glory of my subject matter.  In other words: from here on in, it’s all-Shakespeare all-the-time.

Mostly.  Unless I pick up an intro class, or a history of theatre class, or a writing seminar, or any number of things that they might ask an adjust instructor with a degree in English to teach.  I might even teach (gasp!) novels!

But for the next two weeks, I’m catching up on e-mails, putting projects to bed that have been awake for far too long and are (thereby) cranky, running errands that have lain dormant far past their expirations dates, and on the whole preparing for the next step in this grand adventure that is doctorhood.

So for now, I sign of as (for the first time),

Danielle Rosvally
ABD!!!!!!!!

First Day of School!

The first day of school, no matter how many times I experience it (and at this point in my life and with my level of education, trust me, it’s a LOT), is never less exciting.

I’ve found that many of the same things which got me going as a student also get me going as a teacher.  Will I like my new class/classes?  What kinds of exciting challenges does the semester have in store?  Where will be my habitual sitting place so as to exude the proper air of interest without creepy slobbering over-engagement?

What should I wear?  What’s the first thing I should say?  Every semester, I’m allotted the golden opportunity to leave yet another first impression.  These people will, over the course of the next several months, becoming incredibly important in my life and with whom I will (with any luck) leave some kind of impression.  It’s absolutely vital that they take away from that first moment some kind of essence of who I am and what they’re about to get.

My room.

My room.

I’ve always seen a kind of magic in the first day.  Like you can somehow use it to gaze into the murky depths of the future and see what kind of semester you’re in for.  My experience over the years has been mixed with this tactic, but I’ve never stopped trying and today will be no exception.  Looking around the room, I will absolutely attempt to glean the nature of the students before me and what kind of challenges we will face together.

Another great thing about teaching is that I know this will never work.  At some point this semester (and probably at several points this semester), my students will throw me something that I absolutely could not have seen coming.  Some curve ball or complication, some question or concern, something I had never thought of before.  Solving this problem will be a learning experience for all of us, and this is part of why I love my job so very much.

The moral of the story is this: I love school.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t still be here.  Teaching excites me, learning makes me feel alive, and the exhilaration of the classroom just hasn’t gotten old.  If I can instill one thing and one thing only into my students during any given semester, it would be my love of learning things.  I suffer under no delusions about teaching classrooms full of future Broadway stars, and though I do firmly believe in the infinite potential of my students, I also recognize that most of them are probably taking my class for a liberal arts credit.  As such, it’s important to me to leave them with skills that they will use no matter what they choose to do with their lives.  To love learning is one of the greatest gifts I could give them.

Archives: The Real Deal

So here’s the thing about archival work: while it is absolutely thrilling in concept, in practice it is more often dusty, sneezy, and tedious.

Let me paint a picture for you here.  Mind you, this is a hypothetical situation based upon a compilation of real-life experience I have had.  Take it as historical fiction.

You know that a certain performance, which you are extremely interested in, played at y London theatre on x day.  Let’s say, for the sake of ease, that this performance is a performance of Hamlet in which Hamlet was played by a woman whose name you have found but not her picture (yet).  The theatre is a medium-sized London house in the early twentieth century (before WWI).  You know that the archive has a stack of broadsides for this theatre which spans the date range encompassing the performance.

First of all, getting into the archive is a process.  Generally all you will be

it’s been a while since I’ve posted an artful picture of my desk. Seem appropriate here.

permitted to enter with is a pencil, a laptop, a notebook, and a camera.  They’ll have lockers outside where you will be expected to strip away and store any “unnecessary” materials.  This includes your coffee and water bottle for obvious reasons, but in so doing also means that you have perhaps a 2-hour working window before you need to take a break, get a drink of water, or run to the powder room.

So you call up the broadsides and they come in a giant box that looks like it hasn’t been opened in twenty years.  The broadsides are crumbling at the edges because they haven’t been stacked properly and, as a favor, the archivist asks if you could re-stack them as you go in order to better preserve them.  The stack is approximately four inches high.

So you page through one at a time (because you can’t page any faster than that if you’re re-stacking, or even if you’re not re-stacking since they’re arranged in precise chronological order and you don’t want to disturb that… also they’re fragile and will crumble if they aren’t dealt with properly).  While this is exhilarating at first (tee!  You’re a real researcher!), it gets tedious very quickly.  Inevitably what you’re looking for is at the middle of the stack.  As you approach the target date, you can feel your blood begin to pump a little faster.  Here it comes.  That thing you were looking for!

You hit the target date.  And there’s a broadside, but not the one you were expecting.  Alternately, the broadside is missing.  You squint, wondering if you missed something, and continue paging.

If you’re lucky, it’s only moved by a day or two.  If you’re having a particularly bad archive day, it may be filed in the wrong year.  The archivists are horrified by this oversight (and very polite about it and extremely helpful in assisting you to locate the missing broadside).

While you’re paging, you find something that’s tangentially related to your primary research topic.  Alternately, it’s related to some other project that you’re working on.  You find some way to make a note to yourself that you pray you’ll remember to look at later on because, really, where do you file random notes to yourself with any efficacy?

So you finally find the stack of broadsides advertising the run.  Now you need to document them in detail as precise as possible.  You set them up to take pictures with your camera (or, as I’ve recently started doing, your phone since its camera is actually better than the one that’s dedicated to being a camera).  But make sure you take at least two or three because heaven forbid your pictures come out blurry.

Unless you decide to tether the camera to your computer (or, again as I’ve recently started doing, use dropbox to wirelessly transfer the pics so you can take notes on them as you go).  You now need to figure out how to demark which of these extremely similar looking broadsides is noteworthy, why, and how this broadside is different from all other broadsides.

And you hope you’ve gotten it right because coming back to the archive is a difficult/impossible task (depending on its proximity to your home/office) so really you’ve just got this one shot to document it.  In the immortal words of Ru Paul “Good luck; and don’t F#&% it up!”

So yes, archive work is thrilling.  If I wrote here saying that I had less than an amazing time during archive days and that I was anything under exhilarated by the prospect of rare books and manuscripts, I would have to hang up my scholar cap right now and go join the circus.  But that being said, it’s one of those tradeoff things.  You suffer for your art; for that one moment of “ah hah!”; and the dinosaur bones are always buried under layers upon layers of dirt.

Looking Back to Look Forward

Today was back to the grind.

Which meant that I, like the rest of the world, spent the first half of my day unburying my inbox and summarily removing my head from the sand.  While I did do e-mail triage when I was away (I really can’t help it; I absolutely hate seeing those little red notification numbers pop up on my iPhone and not doing anything about them), this still took up a significant chunk of my time.  Which was a shame because my to-do list today was mammoth and included a large number of tasks, most of which could go on for an indefinite period of time.

I haven’t, until recently, really tested the outer limits of my juggling skills.  I know that my time management skills are superb, and I know (relatively) how much I can take before things begin to slip through the cracks.  As such, I tend to take on projects (especially short-term or intermittent projects) until my plate is absolutely at its breaking point.  I recently did a count of how many jobs I am actually working right now.  To qualify, I

A neat bookstore we found during our New York Adventures last week.

A neat bookstore we found during our New York Adventures last week.

considered a “job” as an ongoing project that has to do with my professional resume (either as an artist or an academic; because at this point one feeds the other and so they are essentially the same thing… I’m a mecha-demic).  Since I’ve been taking on various fight directing projects and small acting gigs (to keep up with these or where you can see my work, bop on by to my extracurricular activities page which I regularly update), the number fluctuates somewhere between five and ten on any given week.

It’s gotten so bad that my boyfriend, when I mention “my boss” or “my job”, has taken to asking “which one?”.  When we go see a show, which we do on a regular basis, he has to ask me “where did these tickets come from again?”  Usually he remembers to ask this question before the show so as to temper his feedback accordingly (you don’t know awkward until you’ve experienced a car-ride home from a show which you slammed before asking your companion how she was actually involved in its production only to find out that her input was exactly what you just vehemently protested*).

Occasionally I think that perhaps I should scale back.  When I have these thoughts, I like to remind myself that despite working long days, late nights, odd hours, and weekends on occasion**, I actually enjoy 80% of the things that I do (and that lingering 20% consists of necessary by-products; i.e. paperwork, annoying administration stuff, etc.).  There aren’t many people who can say that their job is consistently rewarding, always interesting, and ever-changing.  So even though paying my bills every month is a constant struggle, I can’t help but feel inescapably lucky.

I’m lucky to have the opportunity to pursue the level of education that I have, and I’m lucky to do so at an institution which is geographically located in a place where I actually want to live.

I’m lucky to have friends and loved ones who support (even if they don’t fully comprehend) my endeavors and are willing to listen to me ramble about history when I’ve had a bit to drink.

I’m lucky to be an artist of enough varying types that people are willing to pay me to

If you go see my latest FD project at Apollinaire, you'll see this audience set dressing.  You won't see the shadow puppet; that was a special addition from my darling other half.

If you go see my latest FD project at Apollinaire, you’ll see this audience set dressing. You won’t see the shadow puppet; that was a special addition from my darling other half.

execute my art, and give me the opportunity to showcase and stretch it on a regular basis.

I’m lucky to encounter so many talented and intelligent people in my travels: students, mentors, and colleagues.

I’m lucky to have the means to participate in all the extracurricular activities which keep my multitude of jobs going; conferences, workshops, seminars, performances, classes, lectures, etc…

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a great start.  As I look into 2014, I see some changes on the wind.  It’s nice to take stock of what I have, even as I know it’s going to become what I had.

One more week of break before classes start and I’m determined to make it count.

 

 

*please note that this hasn’t happened in quite some time; whether that says something about the growth of my skills or the quality of my current company is yet to be determined.

**…okay, fine, on a regular basis.

Snow Woes

My brain is a little numb.  I’ve been working very hard for a very long time, and there really isn’t a break in sight.  Well… there kinda is, but not one that I’m getting any close to (in a matter of a month I can take a pseudo-break but I can’t call it a “real” break since the semester will have just started and, thusly, I’ll be teaching at that point).  For now, I’m buried in books and, no matter how much reading I do, the book fort never seems to get any smaller (probably due to the fact that I keep piling library books on top of it even as I read them out from the bottom of the stacks).

To make matters worse, over the weekend we got our first major snowstorm here in the

From last year and with an APPROPRIATE amount of snow. Harumph.

Northeast.  This at least gave me the ability to successfully test my hypothesis that I would rather do any other task in my household than shovel.  As I suited up to deal with the icy toboggan-trail that had become my driveway, I couldn’t help but wryly remark to myself that snow days really ain’t what they used to be.

The funny thing about snow in Boston is you’d think that, since it’s a city inhabited by New Englanders, nobody would have a problem with it.  They’d go about their business without much to-do and continue on their merry ways amidst the downfall.  But no.   Somehow, inevitably, the first snow of the year transforms the city into a conglomerate of royal jerks who have all miraculously forgotten how to drive.  Additionally, even though the roads are still slippy/slidey, Bostonians think that snow on the sidewalk makes it acceptable to walk in the road rather than tromp on their nice, safe, designated walkway.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many pedestrians I almost ran down on my way home from rehearsal last night.

As an added bonus, since my driveway is uphill both ways and the nice fluffy pillows of wonder that fell from the sky this weekend froze over with about an inch of caked-on skating-rink quality ice, my back seems to have called up its union and gone on strike in protest of hard manual labor.

And we’re expecting more snow tomorrow.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my cave.  Grumbling.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation!

Alright, so you’ve done some thinking about the cardinal rules of the internet.  You have an understanding of social networking platforms.  Now you need to figure out who you want to be online.

No, seriously, that’s really important.

The internet persona is the projected image of yourself that you put on the internet.  Through a combination of social media, blogging, and strategic web page contributions, you can curate an online presence which projects a very specific image of who you are.  This image can have as much (or little) to do with reality as you deem appropriate for your chosen objective.

These days, curating an online presence is an extension of creating a marketable resume.  Because trust me, one of the first thing your potential employer is going to do when your resume hits her desk is google your name.  So what is she going to find there?  Pictures of you making stupid life choices in your undergrad, or information to support the notion that you’re a responsible and respected professional in your chosen field?

This is the first image that pops up in google when you search my name (that's because it's my google+ profile pic); know how your networking effects your search results.

This is the first image that pops up in google when you search my name (that’s because it’s my google+ profile pic); know how your networking effects your search results.

Now.  This isn’t to say that you can’t have multiple online personas (you can); you will just need to be extremely careful at the personal information you share with each social networking platform (and keep clever track of your online dossiers).  Often times, even if your full name or e-mail isn’t available in a public profile, it can still be linked via meta-data to whatever network you are currently using.  So if you want to do the alter ego thing, you really need to be on top of who you are where and what your privacy settings look like at each port of call.

Personally, I think it’s just easier to keep my digital nose clean.  My job is the biggest extension of my personality anyway, and often the quirky personal details that I use to spiff up this blog, my twitter feed, and certainly my facebook lend credence to my framing argument: hire me because I’m passionate, knowledgeable, and (literally) live for this.

I do realize that I’m a special case.  I happen to love my chosen vocation and, even if I wasn’t getting paid to do it, I’d still be involved with it.  You can take the girl out of the theatre, but you can’t take the theatre out of the girl.  Additionally, theatre (and academia) are both life-devotions rather than professions.  I don’t have regular set hours, I am basically on-call all the time, and I never really “walk away” or leave my work “at work” because there’s actually no way to.  I will always be thinking about my research.  I will always be grinding on my next project.  My brain doesn’t compartmentalize very well.

Even if you function under more conventional rules of “work”, you should consider your web presence to be an extension of your professional self.  What qualities does your industry require to be the most successful in it?  What personal flair do you bring to a project?  What does your industry value in a worker?

This is not to say that your online persona should be a robot-you single-mindedly programmed to do nothing but work; far from it.  Your online persona should be personable; human.  Just a human built to do the job that you want to do.

Does your industry require tenacity?  Straightforwardness?  Verve?  What is it that makes people want to work with you in your industry?  What can you offer to a project that no one else can?  If you can figure out how to answer these questions, you can begin to craft a persona that exhibits these qualities.

Where would someone in your industry be expected to hang out?  Do in their free time?  Think about how your leisure activities reflect upon your human aspects (for instance: you will notice an inordinate number of tweets on my feed about going to the library, grading, and otherwise working on things…. That’s by design, folks).  What are the kinds of things that someone in your industry would be expected to notice from the places you go?  The

I am, for instance, the type who takes pictures of beautiful libraries (yes, this is a public library)

I am, for instance, the type who takes pictures of beautiful libraries (yes, this is a public library)

architecture?  The marketing potential?  Find a way to cleverly insert your observations into your tweets, facebook posts, instagram pics.

Social networking is a careful game of show and tell.  You assemble the pieces of a puzzle to resemble what you want to show people.  Sometimes, one piece out of place can get glossed over (perhaps one less-than-appropriate tweet).  Sometimes, the egregiousness of an already problematic infraction multiplies into proportions which swallow the rest of your public image (see: the recent Steven Taylor Twitter racism scandal http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/steven-taylor-could-charged-fa-6310354 ).  But this shouldn’t be a problem for you since you’re following rule one of the internet, right?  RIGHT?

Know Thy Platforms

One size does not fit all with social networking.  While it’s true that anything put on the internet becomes public domain, you should always keep in mind the forum which you are using.  Different platforms lend themselves to different kinds of information sharing (and different degrees of privacy).  Here are the ones I use and here are some general tips about using them:

Platform: Twitter

Privacy options: nominal; Twitter is the most public (and the most viral) of social networking.  Since re-tweeting is so easy and micro-blogs published via twitter are so digestible, a single tweet can travel pretty far.  Additionally, without toggling the one privacy option (you can opt to “protect your tweets” and only show them to approved followers, not allow them to be retweeted, and bar them from being crawled by google), your feed is visible to everyone, whether they follow you or not.

Ephemerality:  Since twitter is so easy to update, information appears and disappears

Twitter also encourages me to take shots like this so I can tweet them at the University.  Look at the campus being gorgeous and autumny!

Twitter also encourages me to take shots like this so I can tweet them at the University. Look at the campus being gorgeous and autumny!

quickly via this platform.  It’s extremely easy for a tweet to get buried in a busy feed (unless it’s been re-shared many times over in which case you’re relying upon virality to keep the information available rather than any platform-supported permanence).

 Contribution to your web presence: HUGE.  Since google crawls and re-crawls twitter, frequent tweeting can help to boost your SEO (google my name for example and see how high my twitter profile is on the hit-list; as well as how many items there are twitter influenced).

Things I generally use it for: witty one-liners, quick news updates, sharing pictures, publicizing blog posts, interesting links, networking at events (it’s a lot easier to connect with someone when you have an established twitter rapport than if you’re going in cold).

Things I never use it for: extremely personal items (my students actively follow me on twitter), reproducing unpublished work (my own or another’s; this is particularly important to remember when live-tweeting conference papers)

 Guiding analogy: Posting on twitter is like yelling something into a room crowded with all of your friends, family, coworkers, and potential future bosses: you never know what portion of it they will hear so you’d better keep it safe and interesting.

Platform: Facebook

Privacy options: Some.  You can adjust who sees which sections of your profile by way of creating lists and jiggering your privacy options.  For instance; only certain subsets of my friends lists can see pictures I am tagged in; I keep some status updates semi-public (available to the lists I specify).  This does require a time devotion because you need to go through and listify your five hundred something previous friends, but once you’ve set this up it require relatively little maintenance.

Ephemerality:  Medium.  Due to facebook’s constantly changing news list sort algorithm, only certain things will appear in certain feeds.  That being said, once they’re up those pictures last FOREVER.  I would highly recommend that you keep particularly your photographic facebook presence highly guarded, and highly professional.  If you have any silly shots of yourself that you want to post, make sure that you figure out who you really want to give access to before you post them.

Contribution to your web presence: some; it won’t readily pop up in a google search (especially if you have a lot of other things there), but it’s definitely a way to establish a digital network.

Things I generally use it for: Neat links, sharing pictures, status updates that are longer than 150 characters, crowd-sourcing casual queries (“hey guys, who studied at X actor training institution and what did you think?”), interacting with the latest news or buzzfeeds, contacting individuals without having to acquire their cell numbers and/or opening an e-mail client (really useful at conferences).

pictures like this should probably be locked down.  You know; the ones that are silly but maybe not 100% professional... unless you're a fight director in which case it's your job to play with arms and armor (see?  See what I did there?)

pictures like this should probably be locked down. You know; the ones that are silly but maybe not 100% professional… unless you’re a fight director in which case it’s your job to play with arms and armor (see? See what I did there?)

Things I never use it for: personal items that I am not comfortable sharing with a roomful of friends (and I am ALWAYS careful when I share personal items via the internet anyway because you just never know who will wind up seeing them), public messages which should be private (“Dear Housemate, let me passive aggressively post a status about something you did which bugs me so that all my (and your) friends can see it and judge you for it rather than talking to you directly like a reasonable human being”), news which I’m not ready to go viral (I have a short list of people that I tell big news items to before posting them on facebook).

 Guiding analogy: Posting on facebook is like whispering something in a sorority house; no matter how you modulate your voice or how many promises of privacy you wring from the recipient, the information is undoubtedly going to be given to everyone around you in a matter of days whether you want people to know it or not.

Platform: Instagram

Privacy options: Nominal.  You can have one of two profiles: very public (default), or private (which means that only approved followers can see and follow your posts).

 Ephemerality:  Reasonably permanent.  Instagram photos are crawled by google which

Instagram has also, unfortunately, made me the kind of person who takes pictures of my beer.

Instagram has also, unfortunately, made me the kind of person who takes pictures of my beer.

means that they are almost impossible to get rid of.  You can delete them purposefully, but once they’re out there they’re really out there.

 Contribution to your web presence: Nominal.  Even though my instagram account is linked to my full name, it barely registers on google searches (even google image searches).

Things I generally use it for: Pictures.  Duh.  Instagram is, honestly, rather new to me.  I mostly use it to get my artiste kicks out (and because I’ve recently become obsessed with the iPhone 5’s photography capabilities).

Things I never use it for: Pictures that are criminal/inappropriate, anything I would take issue with being projected on a wall behind me while I was giving a conference paper.  I don’t tend to post pictures of myself (simply because I see my instagram feed as an art project rather than a vanity project), but I wouldn’t have a particular objection to someone posting pictures of me so long as they were reasonably professional.

Guiding analogy: Posting on Instagram is like leaving your photo album on the table of a popular doctor’s office; you have no idea who is going to look, but you’d better not put anything in there that you regret.

Platform: Blogging

 Privacy options: Depends on your platform; if you use a pre-made blogging service (like livejournal), you can lock it down pretty easily.  However, if you’re using an independently operated blog, the general idea is for it to be a public forum.

Ephemerality:  Extremely permanent.  You always have the option to take down or hide posts which aren’t working for some reason, but really consider that whatever you put up there is going to be a lasting record until either you or your blog service choose to remove it.

Contribution to your web presence: Huge; especially if you’re a regular/frequent blogger.  Google crawls and re-crawls sites according to an algorithm that fluctuates based on many factors (among these are the instances of new content with each crawl).  Essentially, if google’s spider finds that your site is different on this crawl than on its last crawl, it will flag the next crawl to occur at a shorter interval then the last one.  In short: content makes SEO.  Update regularly, update frequently, and don’t update with identical information.

Things I generally use it for: If you are reading this, you don’t need glasses.

Things I never use it for: Extremely personal information (seeing a trend here?), actually generally personal information (I keep things here well within a crafter persona… more on that in the next post of this series), things that deviate from my theme (that theme being graduate school, Shakespeare, and theatre in general; sometimes divulging into what it’s like to be a woman in academia).

 Guiding analogy: Posting a blog is like keeping a diary in a public-access library: it’s there whenever for whomever to pick up and read, and it’s going to last until someone tears out or burns up a page.

I am purposefully leaving Pinterest off this list.  While I know that it’s technically social networking, to me pinterest has always seem like a time-kill or video game rather than anything else.  Also, I still don’t understand my pinterest privacy options, so I’d have a hard time explaining them to you.  Just stick to the general rules of the internet and you’ll be fine.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series: developing and cultivating an online persona.

Cheers!