Your history of work is as important as the work you'll do tomorrow.
- Seth Godin
In a post from last Thursday, marketing guru Seth Godin talked about backlists: the body of work once reserved for authors and musicians that now everyone builds when publishing to the Internet. It's what we in education have come to call one's "digital footprint" - a term usually accompanied by stern admonitions for students to be conscious of the footprints they are leaving.
While a negative online reputation can be damaging to one's career, I don't think we stress with students or teachers the benefits of a positive online reputation. Godin predicts:
Two things are going to change as you develop a backlist:
- You’re going to become a lot more aware of the posterity of the work you do. It’s all on tape, all left behind. Just as you’re less likely to litter in your own backyard, the person aware of his backlist becomes more careful and civic minded.
- You’re going to want people to pay attention to your backlist... in my case, the free videos, various ebooks and printed things I've done over the years. In your case, maybe it's your blog, or the projects you've built or the reputation you've earned.
This is a strange weekend for me with no columns due, no book chapters to proof, no presentations looming, and no grandchildren to help babysit. The weather doesn't permit much outdoor activity. Sort of scary to have all this open time in my schedule.
So, at Godin's suggestion, I thought I'd look at my "backlist." To date, I have:
- Published nine books (two of which are second editions)
- Published 126 articles, editorials, and book chapters
- Published 236 columns in eight different publications
- Posted 1,983 blog posts on the Blue Skunk
- Given around 600 presentations, keynotes, and workshops for around 200 schools and organizations.
When I first started publishing on a regular basis, back in the early 1990s, I created what I jokingly referred to as my "vanity" file - a copy of every magazine and book in which something I wrote was published.
Here's what that looks like now:
Already filed. I need more storage boxes.
Yet to be filed.
The old saying "Avenge yourself: live long enough to be a problem to your children" comes to mind when I look at this stuff. I hope when die, my children have absolutely no problem heading to the recycling bin with all these magazines - and can find a use for the nice storage containers.
The other question that popped into my head is "Can writing be a form of mental illness?" Would a rational person have authored this much stuff? I have published roughly 4,000 pages of professional commentary - roughly 200 pages a year for the past 20 years. (It doesn't sound as bad when one realizes that's only 4 pages a week.) Is hitting a small white ball with a long stick in hopes of getting it in a tiny hole a long distance away more sane? Watching heavy steroid users bash into each other over the possession of a pigskin ovoid for hours and hours? Raising zucchinis each year that will rot or become a nuisance to the neighbors? Pasting things in a scrapbook?
Ah, well. The subject of another post - or column or book...