Be Yourself. Or, if you have to, be a Goat.

Last Friday, I posted this photo on Facebook:

15C15 Goat

The caption read: “It’s Friday. Here’s a picture of a Goat.”

I took the photo at Sutter’s Fort the previous Tuesday, during a historical re-enactment. The goat (a Nubian cross) spent the entire day at the fort, either walking around or hanging out with the other goats in the animal pen (a restored original one from the Gold Rush days).

A crate full of peevish chickens sat nearby.

15C15 Chickens

I posted the photo on Facebook because I liked the image and also because my social media feeds seem dedicated to the idea of Random Uber Alles – and people like it.

Wherein lies a tale.

I speak with a lot of authors and artists, either in my attorney role or while wearing my artist’s hat. (OK, you caught me. It’s not a hat – it’s a sparkly cape and Batman underoos – but I digress.) Most of them ask advice about social media, and people often inquire about the way to “Establish An Online Presence” because it’s increasingly important for authors and other artists to engage with people online.

My first and best advice is: BE YOURSELF.

And most people find it terrifying.

Society, school, and professional jobs often teach us exactly the opposite. Instead of “be yourself” they teach us to be The Person People Expect When Imagining You, In Your Best Iteration. The Best You That You Can Possibly Be. By those standards, an author’s blog and social media feeds should be filled with intelligent articles, dripping with useful content like honey from a carp full of bees. (What? Fish-honey is going to be all the rage. You can trust me…I lie for a living.)

In reality, the difference between what most authors think they need to do on social media differs from the reality in the same way my residential disaster area house (and hopefully yours…) differs from the pages of HOME & GARDEN MAGAZINE.

Yes, you should strive to say something useful. Yes, the content should be your own. But too many authors fail to blog, or tweet, or post things to Facebook because they’re afraid that “who I am” is not a person others would like to know.

“I’m boring,” an author recently told me. “I haven’t got anything to say.”

And yet, this same person managed to write almost 200,000 words last year….”Nothing to say” isn’t quite the tag I’d give him.

The problem, dear author, is not that you have nothing to say, but that you’re not letting yourself say the things you’d like to. Your blog doesn’t have to be filled with writing wisdom (it’s fine if it is, but it certainly doesn’t need to be). You don’t have to spend all your time promoting your book. Facebook, Twitter, and blogs get clogged with people promoting and advertising their work–without realizing that people who sell–sell–sell without pause are the ones we all avoid at cocktail parties.

If you really want to jumpstart a blog, a Facebook page or a Twitter feed, the key is to figure out where your passion lies–and use that as the core of your content. What are your hobbies? What makes you smile? Those are the things your audience wants to hear–whether or not they directly relate to your writing (though obviously, bonus points if they do).

If you write historical fiction, you must like history. TELL ME ABOUT IT.

If you write mysteries, speak to me of the poisons you researched.


Do you sail, or ride horses, or jump off bridges with bungee cords attached to your ankles? PHOTOS, PLEASE. We all want to see them. Trust me on this…it’s true.

Case in point: Right this moment, as I write this, there’s a turkey on my lawn. You want to see the turkey, don’t you? Here it is:

15C15 Turkey

Five years ago, I started a reef aquarium in my office. I raise seahorses and rare corals, and I take enough pictures to make an adoring grandma look like a novice when it comes to sharing “family photos.” At first, I held back, thinking no one would care about all my pictures of seahorses.

15B09 Magellan (first)

Turns out, they’re the most popular part of my feed. Yes, part of it has to do with the fact that they’re seahorses, which are awesome…but also, it’s where my passion lies, and people love to share the things that we love. It’s a human constant – and something all authors and artists should keep in mind.

So the next time you’re looking for something to write, or wondering “who to be” on social media? BE YOURSELF. Find your passions, the things you love, and share them (politely) with the world.

And if you can’t figure that one out…go find yourself a goat, take its picture…

15C15 Goat…and go from there.

5 thoughts on “Be Yourself. Or, if you have to, be a Goat.

  • March 16, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Believe it or not, I still have some trouble with this one, but I think that’s because I’m being both “Bayard & Holmes” and Piper Bayard — two different voices altogether. Great advice, great story, and great goat. 🙂

    • March 29, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      That might be, Piper – I’m sure it’s much more difficult when you have to be someone “else” as well as yourself. You have a great blogging voice at Bayard & Holmes, though, so I’d say you’re not having as much trouble as you might think!

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