Whitman Would’ve Googled Himself Daily
I publish myself, and Google myself,
And what Google assumes you shall assume,
For any atom not belonging to Dis as good as belongs to Goo.
It’s a hard thing, being human. But—and this will no doubt shock a good many people—there is a group of people who fancy themselves harder pressed than the rest:
Being one myself, I can vouch for the truth of this matter, and no doubt my peers would think nothing of me speaking unequivocally on their behalf. We tend to feel things much more deeply than humanus nonpoeticus, as many scientists have no doubt confirmed by now.1 After years of inbreeding and pushing our limits by sitting through the entirety of open mic after open mic, we have developed keener senses than your average bear (poets can, for example, read entire books of poetry in one sitting, a task that would kill most individuals at the outset).
But one of the most impressive struggles a poet must face, should he or she live long enough, is the conundrum of the author’s website. Namely, should we make one? The answer, it would seem, can only be found out through a firmer understanding of what purpose these websites serve. For more famous authors, this is easy. The website serves as a landing page for fans who are eager to read your work. It’s a beautiful creature, the relationship between an author and her fandom. Not only can fans interface with someone whose work they consume and admire, but also they can converse with one another, and if the internet has taught us anything, it’s that people coming together en masse to anonymously exchange their opinions only ever ends pleasantly. So, in this sense: yes. The website is a worthy cause.
But what if you’re one of those authors who fears that their paychecks reflect the quality of their work? For this group, community isn’t an immediate benefit (though a sense of community could be fostered carefully over time if one were to survive the initial onslaught of stray trolls and, more likely, resounding lack of traffic). But hoping to become the next J.K. Rowling or… ah… one of those other really well-known authors lauded by the public is not unlike hoping to become the next millionaire sports-playing-person. That is to say, good luck to you, dear reader.2 This is especially dire for the poet, who, even when poet-famous, generally has no fans—save for himself (when he’s not busy being his worst enemy), other poets (who are more likely only reading his work in hopes of getting him to read theirs), and the one drunk guy who always manages to amble into the poet’s readings (but he’s generally a fan of everyone).
The obvious answer seems to be, “No. It’s not worth it.” And that’s probably true. Thankfully, poets were born to reinvent the truth, so we’ll follow the contrary all the way to, “Yes. Yes, you should.”
The résumé, for example, or online C.V. is one justification for making the leap. It has become commonly grotesque for potential employers to scour the internet for traces of you online that give them the slightest sense of why they shouldn’t hire you. The authorial website is your chance to fight back. By creating a website of your own, on your own, you get to telegraph whatever persona you want them to see, and there’s power in that. A word to the wise: make sure your persona isn’t the poet-who-blogs-infrequently-and-can’t-internet-generally, as it is over-used and has become a bit of a cliché.
But beyond (though still within, I suppose) career considerations, you can list all the places your work has been published, which gives anybody who was hoping to read your work in one convenient location the opportunity to explore the web for even longer than they originally dreamed possible (and, as everybody knows, more internet = more fun). Who knows? You might even encourage them to invest in an issue of some literary magazine you’ve appeared in, and they won’t regret that purchase, no sir! But beyond helping your reader, it helps you. Nothing will get you back in the game faster than realizing how few acceptances you’ve actually received (or the realization will send you spiraling into a special poetic-depression, but even that will ultimately feed back into your work, all muselike and in need of revision, so… win-win).
But I digress (and tire of this tone), so let’s say that the best reason is that your voice is worth hearing, and you never know who your words will reach.
It’s easy, I think, to doubt one’s worth. While there often seems to be a special social precedent for self-deprecation within the arts, that devaluing of self can happen to anyone. Make no mistake, doubt can be a powerful tool. It can help us to reexamine our world, our beliefs, our work, ourselves, and give us what we need to better them. But doubt can also make us question our place on the stage, convince us that we don’t have anything to say, or—at least—that nothing we have to say is worth sharing. It’s easy to look out at the crowd and see the people as a monstrous writhing mass, pushing at each other, trying to get to the top, and in that we forget more generous readings of the scene: people together, breathing, moving, living. Making art with each other and for each other. You aren’t just another voice in the crowd. You’re a voice in some grand choir, and you bring a timbre all your own. The world is less beautiful without you.
Be here now.
Don’t compete. Contribute.
Even the best millionaire sports-playing-people have a team or some sort, and your team is all of us, right here, right now, together.
So make that website. Share your doodles, songs, and rambles… and encourage others to share in turn. There’s a lot of us out there, hiding in the shadows, and we’re better together. That much I know.
1 As a poet, I can gesture at science but never touch it (I’ll wither up and implode, as any scientist will no doubt confirm).
2And if you do make it as a success, dear reader, remember your old pal Drey who wished you luck way back when, even if only indirectly through his blog. I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a cheese pizza today.