I started this post three different times.
I’ve been blogging over at LiveJournal since early 2004. Originally I planned to stick more or less to writing, but in addition to book angst over the years I’ve discussed two surgeries, one cross-country move, four years of grad school at two different programs and countless amusing anecdotes about my kid, most notably when he dropped trou in the cafeteria and instigated a worker’s rebellion in Language Arts.
And while I’ve always been fairly circumspect about what I post, lately I’ve been redacting before I’ve even written anything. And it’s not so much the content I’ve been scrutinizing. It’s the tone.
It’s easy to suss out what not to say on a blog. Don’t be a jerk is a good rule of thumb if you’re not sure. Those are the easy decisions to make. What’s trickier is knowing how to present certain events in a way that keeps you on the right side of the line between heartwarming details that humanize the working writer and dude that’s TMI.
The state of your WIP, for instance. Once upon a time I might have posted Man, am I feeling crappy about this revision or This whole scene is weak as hell, but ever since The Wicked and the Just even sold – to say nothing of going out into the world – I’ve been second-guessing things that aren’t glowing and rosy. On the flipside, if you’re always all upbeat and Pollyanna, aspiring writers struggling with their own work may be offput by what they see as 1) hubris or 2) the effortless crafting of saleable prose. Not to mention the intellectual dishonesty I personally feel about not presenting writing with all its warts.
And what about some personal disaster? My basement flooded last year. A few months before that, my barely-paid-for car was totaled. Right now it’s an ongoing property issue. How much do you post about things like this before you come off as pathetic or whiny or clamoring for sympathy? How much of this do your readers even want to hear about?
I tend to err on the side of authenticity, but the critical thing for me is to be mindful of it. I was blogging long before I had any potential audience to consider. I came to think of my readers as friends, and I still do. And really, as long as I continue to do so, that line between heartwarming and TMI should be easy to recognize.
by J. Anderson Coats