I get asked about this all the time.
One of the most common questions I get as a transformational writing coach is how much vulnerability and nakedness is too much in the writing we send out into the world.
At its heart, blogging is a medium devoted to communication between the writer and the reader. Each post is a conversation starter, after which you invite the reader to continue with you-- whether that's in the comments that follow the piece, a free session, a personal email, or by reading other amazing posts on your blog.
When we have in-person conversation with our friends, family, colleagues and clients, we generally have an intuitive sense of how much to share and how vulnerable to be, based on the type of relationship we have with the person, understanding the depth of intimacy already established in our relationship, the person's body language we are speaking with (so we know how open or not they are to what we're saying), and of course, our personal energy that day, our desires, and our willingness to get naked and raw with that particular person.
But writing can be murkier, because at least some of the ways we are used to knowing how intimate to get -- such as reading a person's body language, or having a strong sense of the intimacy and vulnerability already present in the relationship -- are hard to read and interpret from the writer's chair.
Plus, just like with other forms of intimacy, how much to share and how naked to get is a very unique, personal decision each of us makes. Some of us are simply more extroverted and exhibitionist than others.
That said, I think there are three essential concepts that can help you navigate these murky waters:
1. Be Passionately Personal (in Service to Your Readers + Intention).
Being passionately personal, and revealing who you are, your style, your stories, your sense of humor, your vulnerabilities, your wacky talents, etc., gives your content an intimate quality that people crave.
It sets your content apart from the cajillions of other stuff on the web and in the media these days that is clamoring for your readers’ attention (not to mention, that sweet feeling of true self-expression is one of the things that’ll make it easier to actually sit down and write).
Ultimately, you want these stories and your personal flair to be in service to your readers and the magical spell your writing is casting– to inspire, amuse, educate, and catalyze your readers.
So when you're trying to figure out "is this too much?" the very next questions you should ask yourself is, "how is revealing this in service to my reader? how is it in service to the ultimate intention of the piece?"
2. Try Getting Totally Naked Every Time You Write A First Draft
Ever heard the phrase, "names have been changed to protect the innocent?" Notice that it's not, "Names have been substituted from the beginning to protect the innocent."
That's because when we're working on our first drafts, and trying to capture the diamonds from within and follow the deepest, juiciest threads of our consciousness, we inherently sabotage the process if we are simultaneously editing, backtracking, and second-guessing ourselves.
So the first time through, allow yourself to be as messy, real, and risky as possible. Throw in the stories about your mom, even if she reads every single thing you write like mine does, and your kids, who are helpless to protect themselves. Revel in the honesty and rawness of it -- it will help you open up more fully in your writing and reveal to you what's really going on in there.
Then, before another soul reads a word, go back and finesse your work: change the names of your one-night stands, turn your kids into your friend's kids or some kids you ran into on the bus, call your aunt a client instead, or take out the part about how you were actually dancing in your underwear that day because you were drunk on whisky if it's not helpful or relevant to your health coaching business.
3. Think About Who You Are, and Who You Want to Be, to Your Readers
Are you their older sister and best friend, whispering secrets from the bunk over that gently but -- full of sass-- guides the way? Are you a muse for them-- mysterious, elegant, and inspiring? Are you a sex-pot with a decidedly practical backbone that you bring to everything you do? Are you the expert / guide / guru?
Deciding on the nature of the relationship you want to have with your readers will play a big part in how much personal information and vulnerability it makes to share.
One of the ways that I like to do this is by playing with archetypes. As you deepen your style, identity, and voice as a writer, it often becomes more clear, but beginning with a sense of the archetypal energy you are cultivating in your creative life can really help you know how vulnerable you inevitably will get in your writing.
When I do this kind of work with clients, I find that most end up with a blend of two main archetypes that guide the voice and content of their work, which, as with everything I do, is helpful for as long as it's helpful to get and keep them writing-- and then after that, if it becomes limiting, we toss it.
TODAY: Spend some time thinking about, and playing with, the idea of the archetypal energy or relationship that you have, or want to have, with your readers.
Look at the writing you like the best from your blog or journal and notice what's already there.
Journal about archetypes that draw you.
And play with a couple of different voices: I often have my clients pick two to three styles, and then write about the same idea or story in each, setting a timer for five minutes per voice.
P.S. "Wait just a sec!" you might be saying to yourself. "What's all this about archetypes and using different voices? What about my authentic voice?!?"
That's a whole other post.
What I can say about this (that will fit into a "P.S.") is that none of us has just one authentic voice. Naturally, we shift the way we speak when we're talking to a five year old niece, and then again when we're speaking to a new lover, and again if we happen to be chatting with a girlfriend of twenty years or seeking guidance from grandma.
All of these voices within me, are me.
Authenticity isn't about sounding exactly the same no matter who we're talking to-- actually, that might be one of the least authentic things we could do, turning us into monotone robots, endlessly reiterating the same part of our personalities over and over no matter what the situation was or who we were with.
Or, as the dear, and very intelligent Brene Brown says, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”