Telling stories

Revealing: What We Say With What We Say

Posted by southwrite on June 8, 2014

Nude Man Back


Blogger Damyanti Biswas recently asked her readers How much should I reveal about myself on my blog? Her short answer: “…as much as you’re comfortable with.”

The question got me thinking about how much you should reveal or better – how much do you reveal in your writing. Every writer drops the mask and steps out into the light of public attention with her words and the more you write the more you say about yourself. You can’t help it. At least not if you want to connect with your readers in any meaningful way.

No matter how “professional” you try to be – maintaining a reporterly detachment from the subjects you cover – you will say things about yourself through your language and selection of material. The real you – beneath the reporerter – will come out. And, if you’re blogging there’s really no way not to get personal. Blogs are by their definition designed to draw out the writer’s opinions and characteristics. If nothing else, readers will make giant leaps of speculation using small details.

So if you’re going to reveal yourself by default, it’s a good idea to think about how you want to present yourself.

Consider not just what your words say, but what they say to your readers. Don’t censor yourself. You should tell your story and speak your truth. You also have to remember that the goal of communication is not knowledge, but understanding. Are your readers going to understand your words in the way you want?

Mandy Stadtmiller, who writes a personal column for xoJane and hosts the News Whore podcast has been described as having a “boundless ability to plumb her personal humiliations for blog posts raises the question: what could possibly come next? Where does a writer who has confessed to stinking up the office with a rancid tampon find the next degradation to exploit?”

She and many other writers have adopted an exhibitionistic approach to writing. Self-revelation gets them more attention than straight reporting ever could.

Even those who seem to be constantly telling you a lot about themselves are calculated in their revelations. They’re not simply laying out their personal life as if they have no filter. They usually have a well-developed one and always know how their words are going to connect with their readers. In fact, some of those who seem the most open and personal are in many ways the most calculating.

Penelope Trunk has founded four startup companies and is a popular and talented writer. Her blogs have built a huge following by presenting useful, engaging and often edgy ideas about career and business. Admits all the big ideas and good practical advice for creating and sustaining a successful career in a difficult economy, she also seems to lay out her personal life in painful detail. She’s blogged about her children, her sex life and marriage.

One post opened with a large nude photo of her showing the ugly bruise she had gotten from her husband. The post – like many others – sparked a loud and largely sympathetic reaction from her legions of fans. Many told her to leave her husband who was clearly an abuser. I came away after reading the post feeling manipulated. This post, like others I has read, seem designed more to gather clicks and comments as much as sympathy.

So what should you do? You could push the envelope on personal revelation or play on your reader’s emotions. To be a successful blogger you’ll probably need to do a little of both. Readers want to delve into a writer’s personality – enough to determine whether they like you enough to be on the journey. You want to help them get on board by giving them enough to stimulate their interest.

Do that and also provide some decent and stimulating writer and you’ll have them hooked.

4 Responses to “Revealing: What We Say With What We Say”

  1. John Cooke said

    This post was a stretcher for me. It might help me out of my comfort zone. I’m in this blogathon to learn about my self as much learn about writing and blogging. The safe zone says says just write about Cape May, like a travel writer. But perhaps I have more to say on the journey as well. Thanks for posting.

  2. Although I’ve been blogging for over five years I never tried to extensively blog about something important in my life – not that much, anyway. I’m trying to stretch myself in this Blogathon and still find myself not wanting to totally take that leap of revealing more. And, a fellow blogger who tried something even more personal but along the lines of what I am trying, had a bad experience with commenters. She ended up taking down her blog. Sadly, there is a lot of hate out there and sometimes those of us who want to post on certain subjects (such as disability) do have to practice some self censorship. Or, develop an extremely thick skin.

    • southwrite said

      Sorry to hear about your friend being driven off the web by trolls. There are a lot of them out there and some seem to have nothing else to do. However, you can’t censor yourself out of fear of being attacked. It might happen or it might not, but it’s always better to express yourself. Let the trolls take care of themselves.

  3. I don’t get into a lot of “deep” stuff on my travel blog, choosing to present fun/irritating/sometimes bad stories from my trips, along with tips and advice. However, I decided to touch on/ write just a bit about a particularly painful subject for a guest post because, frankly, it was time to open that door, even if just a little. It was scary to start writing but such a relief when done, and the comments posted afterwards made me think perhaps I should do this more — especially if it can in anyway provide comfort to another person. By the way, here’s the guest post:

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