Author Krista Tibbs

To Potential Employers on Behalf of Part-time Writers

In Being Human, Commentary, Integrity & Freedom, Original Fiction on February 27, 2011 at 11:30 pm

If you’ve ever agonized about telling a significant other those three big little words, then you know what it feels like every time a writer pulls words from her heart and sends them out into the world — deciding whether or not to say it and imagining all possible reactions, the sickening wait while your confession travels on a sound wave, and the obsessive rehashing of the moment in your mind, analyzing the details of the response.  Except for a writer, instead of confessing to one person, publishing an essay or story means forwarding her I Love You e-mail to all of the friends on her contact list, her judgmental Uncle Bob, and a variety of strangers.

It also means exposing her soul-bearing thoughts to potential employers and clients in the non-writing world. Because for the vast majority of authors, writing is necessarily just a part-time gig. It’s no wonder so many authors choose to write under a pseudonym. (However, as this article about blogger teachers indicates, anonymous is not synonymous with unidentifiable.)

I made a conscious choice to write this blog under my own name, because I think very hard before I speak, in person and on paper. But I can’t say that I realized all of the ramifications before I began. No matter how carefully you word an essay, if it is worth thinking about, there are going to be people out there with a different opinion — and those people may judge you professionally based on their personal interpretations without ever talking with you. That’s the risk you take when you write.

I never write anything I wouldn’t show to my mother. But while I don’t mind my mother thinking about me in a fictional conversation with my boyfriend, do I necessarily want a recruiter, my boss, or human resources to think about me in that context? No. But that’s the risk you take when you write. 

A web search is a fact of the professional background check these days. So beyond rehashing what was said in an interview, a part-time writer also has to wonder what effect his or her public writing will have on his or her “real-world” career. So below are a few things I’d like to share with the people whose job is to judge my professional (non-writing) capabilities, to keep them from jumping to the wrong conclusions:

  • When I write about the voices in my head, it’s okay; I’m just referring to my characters. I can tell fiction from reality.
  • My cats write my blog sometimes, but don’t worry; they refuse to go to meetings in my place.
  • The characters’ actions in my stories do not necessarily represent what I would do in the same situation. In fact, they are often exactly the opposite; I think of something I would never do or say in real life and let my characters try it and see what happens.
  • Just because my character advocates it, it doesn’t mean I advocate it. I write fiction from inside their heads, not my own. (Refer to first bullet.)
  • My essays are just one perspective at a point in time, a snippet designed to provoke thought and conversation; they are not my entire world view set in stone. 
  • Just because I say it on this blog doesn’t mean I will say it in the boardroom. Politics and religion aren’t appropriate subjects for the dinner table, either.
  • If you disagree with the viewpoints or beliefs in my essays, it doesn’t mean we can’t work together. Likely half of your best teammates share my point of view; they have just never said it out loud in your presence.
  • I write under my real name so that I am accountable to everything I say. So you can rest assured I will also conduct myself with accountability and integrity in your organization or on your project.
  • If you ask me in an interview what is the biggest risk I have taken, I will tell you it is publishing my book and exposing my words to the public. Was it worth it? Yes.

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