Social media has flung open the door on our private lives. For writers moving toward publication and beyond, this phenomenon of sharing and baring ourselves to any and everyone, can be exciting and intimidating at the same time.
We’re thrilled to meet new friends, find support, and connect with readers. But we’re also afraid of facing rejection and misunderstanding. Maybe we’re even worried about safety for ourselves and our families—after all, criminals still troll the internet.
In striving to be public authors in a digital age, we can’t stick our heads in a hole and hide away. Most of us agree we need to be involved in social media. But do we necessarily need to fling the door wide open on our personal lives to build an online presence?
I’ll offer my opinion on a few questions I've recently received, but bear in mind, they’re only my opinions. I’d love for you to chime in with your thoughts.
Should writers use blogging as a form of public-journaling?
Yes and no. Yes, we should all strive to uniquely express ourselves through our blogs. Whatever focus we give our blogs, our posts will often resonate best with readers when we’re real, authentic, and open with both the joys and the pains of our experiences.
On the other hand, blogging is not private. Obviously anyone in the world can visit our blogs. And as professional writers who desire to use our blogs as a way to develop a platform, we’re not just writing our posts for ourselves. We’re writing with our readers in mind (the same way we are with our books). We need to give our readers something if we hope to keep them coming back. That won’t happen if all we do is ramble on about ourselves.
What should writers do if they’re shy or hesitant about sharing personally online?
By nature of the writing process, we already pour our most intimate thoughts on the page. Sure we can conceal those deep feelings within the folds of fiction. But when our books are made public, we’re revealing ourselves and making ourselves vulnerable.
If we’re seeking publication, we have to resign ourselves to the fact that we’re going public. Readers and reviewers will search us out (especially if they like our books). They’ll want to learn more about us.
In fact, Guardian had a recent article Engage With the Public or Fade into the Past: “There's a new generation of readers who crave an interactive experience with writers. Is it not enough to read and enjoy the book in private? Apparently not . . . If you don't engage with the social media, you'll get left behind."
We can learn to step out of our comfort zones, little by little. And as we get used to opening up before publication, we’ll be better prepared for the spotlight after.
How much should writers share? What should writers keep to themselves? How can we be “real” but maintain healthy boundaries?
The thing with social media is that we can portray an image or create an illusion of who we want people to believe we are. And it may or may not actually line up with the real person.
When we only open the door a crack and reveal small bits of information about ourselves, we risk alienating people. They may perceive us as unfriendly. If we share primarily the positives, we might come across as conceited. If we share mostly the negatives, we could earn a reputation as a complainer.
When we open up the door all the way and let everyone in to every minute detail of our lives, we may give too much information and risk turning people off with all of our problems.
However, we can strive to put ourselves somewhere in a balanced middle. We can try to be as real online as we are in person, but then set boundaries for how far we’re willing to open the door.Yes, we want to be authentic, but the public doesn’t need to know all the details about our personal and family lives. There are just some things that need to stay within the confines of our inner circles.
Your turn! I’d love to hear your thoughts! How much do you share online? What kinds of things do you think writers should keep to themselves? Are there any areas you think are taboo?