I had a question I was hoping you could answer on your blog. Basically, I'm new to writing with a few short stories published, and am working on some novels, which might be ready to query in the next couple years. My question is in regards to my personal blog, which I've been posting at since 2004. There's mention of my mental illness, personal life events, etc, which I've always felt reasonably OK about because my full name isn't on there and anyone mentioned is anonymised with nicknames. However, my first name is pretty unique and I'm the only person ever born in my province to have been given it (no seriously, I looked it up!). It's also in my blog URL. Anyone Googling me who knew my approximate location would conclude in 0.00002 seconds that the blog is mine.
My question is, if I start a new website that's just for my writing, do you think my existing blog is going to cause problems? I would hate to think that a prospective agent would think about representing me, Google my name, come up with that blog, and then turn me down...let alone prospective readers or just people interested in my writing. Do you think I should delete the personal blog? (I've got a lot of memories on it and it would make me very sad.) Lock it? (Or would that look suspicious?) Pretend it doesn't exist and hope the author site comes up first on search results?
When you introduce yourself at a business function, what do you say? If you're like most people you say your name, your company, maybe your job title. When the conversation continues you talk about things that are in the ballpark of your job. If you happen to find a point of personal intersection with the other people in the conversation ("We both hate kale!" "We both know Felix Buttonweezer" "We both think Barbara Poelle is the cat's pjs!") then the conversation might get more in depth.
My guess is however that you're not going to mention your mental illness, personal life events etc. This is not because you are ashamed of your life. It's because it's your personal life, and the conversation is a professional one.
Querying is a professional conversation.
Thus you'd NOT put your personal blog link on a query letter.
However, whether you leave your blog up, lock it so only designated readers can see it (people will just think it's nekkid pictures of you, don't worry), or take it down is a choice only you can make.
Generally speaking I'm going to click on the links you give me, not start randomly googling your name. I'm not trying to play gotcha with people querying me. I'm trying to find out if they're asshats or they failed to mention some key pieces of information (previously published books; previous agents; a distinct lack of love about agents and querying.)
Now of course, the elephant in the room here is "my mental illness." There's a huge stigma attached to mental illness and anyone who says otherwise is naive.
How much to reveal of your personal journey is your decision. Yes, there's a risk in being open about something a lot of people neither understand nor feel comfortable discussing.
That said, you must be yourself. At some point in conversations with an agent about representation, this topic will arise. Choosing when that happens means you don't have the information available to the googling public.
And your unasked question is "will someone reading about my mental health issues be more likely to reject my work?" I don't know the answer to that question. I know that someone who does is probably not a person you'd want to work with anyway.
The bottom line is I care first and foremost about what you're writing. I've also been in this business long enough to know that great art can often be accompanied by an unquiet mind. Being honest about who you are, what you've experienced, and how those experiences have shaped you is important. You may have a bigger impact on your readers by being honest about your life than you'll ever know.
One of the Rules for Writers is Be Brave.
I think being brave about your life is good, but that blog post is about a different kind of bravery.
I think you need a new rule: Don't try to spackle, paint or remodel yourself to please some unknown arbiter. You don't have to reveal every detail of your life, and certainly we all tailor ourselves in small ways to accommodate the feelings and mores of people around us. But, closeting your true self will kill your spirit and your creativity.
Thus the new rule: Be Yourself.