I've heard the term 'stunt blogger' used to describe my 2008 Living Oprah
project. In the beginning, I would get slightly offended about being categorized in this way. I felt a little misunderstood and undervalued and I even once pouted like a little girl. I wondered how I might respond constructively. Following the guidelines of my project, I checked Oprah.com
(which I was using as an encyclopedia for daily living) for ways to deal with this stress. Much to my chagrin, Oprah's event planner, Colin Cowie, didn't have any advice on how to throw a great pity party, so I decided to get over myself and move on with my work. Besides, I reminded myself, it's really none of my business how other people define me or interpret my work and I shouldn't focus on this. Easier said than done, of course. See, I'm used to performing and writing for live theater — where there's a more interactive flow between actor and audience. This genre of writing is new for me. After all, once my words are in print, I have no power to adjust their delivery to each reader. And if a reader thinks I am pulling a "stunt" with another year-in-the-life experiment, then I have to let it go.
Besides, I'll admit it — it is not original to write about one's experiences. It's not new to try something out for a finite amount of time and attempt to put the results on paper or computer screen. It is not new to use a blog as research to write a book. While my madness might be unique, my methods are not. But, as my mom pointed out to me recently, when James Patterson writes a new novel, nobody rolls their eyes and says, "Oh no, not another mystery. How unoriginal!" I love my mom.
For better or for worse, this genre is here to stay and I'm really grateful it exists. It was very important for me to step into the shoes of a complete Oprah acolyte for a year because I learn best by doing, rather than simply speculating. I'm not an academic; I'm a performer and completely amateur social scientist. I wanted to come to a conclusion in an active, down and dirty manner. I think that's why these books are getting published, because readers enjoy putting their feet in the "stunt" bloggers' shoes for 300 pages. We reorganize our lives in a manner that allows us to devote 24/7 to our curiosity so other people don't have to.
I can't speak for other "stunt" authors, but I can assure you that when I strap on my elbow pads and helmet in the morning to get ready for work, my intentions are pure.