One of the underlying themes from last weekend’s SOBCon was putting more you into your work. There are literally hundreds of millions of blogs out there, with more starting every day. In a sea of competition, you’ve got to capitalize on what makes you unlike anyone else.
Your unique point of view. Your writing style. Your own individual, personal stories and the way they shape your message.
There’s just one problem with all of that. It’s terrifying.
It sounds great and idealistic to just be completely yourself online, to strip naked on your blog and hope people will love you. In practice, it’s not just scary, it’s a good way to give yourself a ferocious case of writer’s block. Not to mention making life easier for the occasional wacko or stalker.
Fortunately, there’s a middle ground between being Howard Hughes and Roseanne Barr. There’s an art to revealing personal details on your blog without making yourself look dumb, pathetic or just giving out TMI.
There’s Naked and then There’s Naked
Don’t wing it. Sit down and work out, in writing, exactly what you will and won’t talk about. Maybe you’ll talk about old boyfriends but not your current husband, or you’ll say anything about your parents but nothing about your kids. Decide exactly where you draw the line, and live by that.
If you write a post that goes over your particular line, you can edit it and save the personal stuff for your private journal, or sleep on it (at least two nights, ideally) and post it anyway. Either way, you’ll have made a conscious decision.
When Blogging Naked Isn’t Your Idea
If you’ve got a secret somewhere, you may be closer than you think to having it shared with the world. Your sexual orientation, questionable business deals, the foulmouthed voicemail messages you used to leave, that inconvenient FTC filing. If it’s out there, someone will find it.
The first rule of professional communication is: Always tell your own story. If there’s a juicy secret out there, beat ‘em to the punch. Don’t wait around for someone else to break the news. Come clean, be as honest as you can stand, admit you’re embarrassed (if you are) and move on. When you spill your own scandals, you take away about 98% of their energy. Any political advisor will tell you that the cover-up always does more damage than the original indiscretion.
Don’t Undress Anyone But Yourself
Your spouse, your kids or that hilarious control freak neighbor might not be as ready to unveil themselves as you are. Pseudonyms are a great idea if you’re going to write about other people. The occasional obfuscating detail is good, too. Change the unimportant stuff–race, age, weight, height–so you can keep the important emotional details intact.
And if you’re a little nervous about your own personal details, there’s nothing wrong with using a pseudonym yourself. Woody Allen, Billy Holiday and Lenny Bruce all managed to communicate an intensely personal message without using the names on their birth certificates. If using another name gives you a little more courage to let your readers see through to the real you, go for it.