Over the past few years, I’ve come across an increasing number of posts from people who share a lot of private stories on a blog. I’m all grown up and I’ve (so far) lived a reasonably interesting life; it’s true. Yet I still find myself surprised when bloggers write personal, sensitive information that isn’t even about them — it’s about someone they know. Too much information, a.k.a., TMI, people!
When I set up my first blog, I was completely unaware that the next chapter of my future would hold a non-stop series of new beginnings, painful endings, major happenings, funny mistakes, completely avoidable mistakes, one-of-a-kind blessings, and unexpected deaths. Oh, and love.
I want to tell you everything.
More times than I can count, I’ve set my fingers on this very keyboard with the intention of sharing with you stories about twists and turns no one could have predicted. Through my flashbacks-in-the-form-of-blog-postings, I could have given you fantastic evidence that human beings are curious creatures.
What stopped me?
The stories weren’t mine to tell.
A Blog Is A Powerful Tool – Learn To Resist Temptation
I would like to point out that my lack of story ownership didn’t diminish the intensity of my urge to record the events. Not at first, anyway.
One night, a couple of months ago, I had nearly finished a post before admitting to myself I would not be adding it to my blog. In the post, I was using my insider knowledge to recount a series of connected events that had unfolded the previous week.
It was an interesting story — and none of my business.
It is healthy to use words to cleanse one’s soul or heart by releasing heavy or misplaced burdens from tired shoulders, and I’ve come across hauntingly honest posts from men and women who are keeping to that purpose with their blogs. I applaud the strength of these individuals, and admire their commitment to total honesty.
They are relaying details of their personal struggles. They are healing, not engaging in TMI.
Creating a Positive, Purposeful, Interesting Blog
At the beginning of my blogging journey, I combed the Internet, searching for best practices guidelines for a new blog. While I never found exactly what I was looking for, I did come away from my research with an understanding of how best to proceed.
The key, I discovered, was to clearly define the purpose of the blog, and then stick to it. I decided to keep the focus of that first blog solely on self-publishing. Any reference to my personal life was restricted to stories and details that were in keeping with self-publishing.
Of course, that didn’t mean I couldn’t have a little fun.
One particular blog post, Single and Looking, had an astounding number of hits the day it went up. I suppose readers were expecting some sort of modified eHarmony-type description of the perfect man for me, plus maybe a mea culpa for all my past dating mistakes, just for good measure.
Aww, hope they weren’t too disappointed to find out it was about new authors looking for readers. I am an author, after all.
But I digress.
Where Is That Pesky “Too Much Information” Line Located, Anyhow?
In the end, I decided to conjure up a few fake “what if” scenarios to help me make a decision about where to draw the line between appropriate communications and Too Much Information (TMI). Here is what I came up with:
Scenario 1: No one reads my book, so no one cares what I post on my blog. Obviously, this pathetic excuse is completely lacking in self-esteem. If I don’t believe in the value of my work, then absolutely, positively, no one else will.
Scenario 2: I think the movie Fletch is absurd. I like to play Christmas music all year round. Antique quilts are my secret obsession. In my recurring nightmare about being trapped in an elevator, there is always an angry bee near me. What do any of those things have to with a blog about the business end of self-publishing? Yep, you guessed it. A big fat nothing.
Scenario 3: My book sells in wild, unimaginably high numbers. Some interviewer digs up an old post and asks me on live television if I still refer to my sister’s menstrual cycle as “shark week.” While my book sales don’t seem to be affected, my extended family holds a secret meeting and votes unanimously to stick me with Thanksgiving dishwashing duty for the rest of my life. Did I mention there are 43 of us?
Scenario 4: Instead of confining my impressions of an event to a blog post, elements of what happened become the basis for an entire novel. While not all that’s told is meant to be a story, all stories are meant to be told. Honor the difference, then get thee to a keyboard.
Final Thoughts About Creating A Blog
Are you a self-published author thinking about creating a blog? Remember to plan ahead, and to clearly define your goals and boundaries. Use discretion, kindness, and your smarts.
When temptation runs its practiced hand over the soft spot in your willpower, remember these imaginary words from the real Elizabeth Taylor: “Diamonds, and the Internet, are forever.”
How do you want your forever to read?