How Personal & Vulnerable are You in Your Writing?

Are writers exposing too much personal information on blogs, twitter, and facebook? In this cyber information age, where are the personal boundaries and how much is too much?

Last week, literary agent Nathan Bransford had a post that addressed this issue. How much does the modern author have to share on the Internet to gain an audience? Is there a way to balance Internet presence with privacy?

I thought it was an interesting but ironic question. On the one hand, I do agree that many of us are sharing much more personal information than was ever possible in the past. On twitter I can see that my favorite author ate ten hot dogs for dinner then later went out and walked Pooky the poodle in the pouring rain.

Many authors are using social-networking to promote themselves and their books. And of course such networking easily lends itself to quick bursts of information about what we’re doing, eating, or thinking that often go beyond the bounds of our writing.

But writers aren’t the only ones divulging personal information. Everyone is. The deluge is a product of the new era of cyber communication. So, perhaps the question shouldn’t be are writers exposing too much, but is the population in general crossing too many personal boundaries?

What I find ironic about the privacy question, however, is that regardless of how much of ourselves we expose in cyberland, by nature as writers we’re already pouring out our deepest, most intimate thoughts into our writing. In other words, our books disclose much more about us than we share in short bursts on Twitter and Facebook, or even on our blogs.

When we write, whether fiction or non, we open ourselves up and spill out our most intimate thoughts on paper. The creation of our stories, the essence of our characters, the heart and soul of our words—we bare it all. We expose ourselves to the world.

Writing IS personal. Even if we try to hold back the true details of our real lives, our books usually reveal a great deal about us, particularly our passion. I would go so far as to say, writers who don’t infuse the very depths of who they are into their writing often produce flat, lifeless stories.

And because writing is personal, writers have to be vulnerable. When I visited my publishing house a couple of weeks ago, a number of staff told me they’d read my book. I had a weird feeling, like they’d gotten a glimpse into the inner workings of who I really was. What did they think? Did they like what they saw?

I experienced a new kind of vulnerability because I’d exposed myself through my writing to my publishing house. And in a few months when my book is out, I’ll really be going public. For better or worse, the whole world gets to take a peek into my inner world. If that’s not personal, I don’t know what is.

Yes, it’s a scary feeling. Anytime we’re vulnerable we risk hurt, rejection, and misunderstanding. But think of what we sacrifice if we’re not vulnerable: the true joy that comes from getting beyond the surface and relating on a real and deep level.

What do you think? Do you set personal boundaries for what you share on the internet? And do you think a writer can ever truly remain private?

*Part 1 in the series Writer Emotions: Vulnerability

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