The Balance Between Authenticity and TMI

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A caution sign used on roads made in inkscape,...

I’ve spent my writing time the last several days researching literary agents. When you Google someone’s name, you get a lot of clutter, but if you take the time, you can often get a good sense of who they are by the things they say online. For an author hoping to find someone to represent her, this is a tool you’d be foolish not to use. And for an agent considering a potential client, the same holds true. So authors are always admonished to be professional in their online presence: to be careful what they say and how they say it.

“Careful” is a hard word for me. I overthink almost everything related to what I “should” or “shouldn’t” do, and the tension between what to say and what not to sometimes creates complete logjam. I’ve been wrestling for two weeks with a query pitch for my novel, for instance, because I’m pretty sure it’s not right yet, and I’m having trouble shaking loose a fresh take on it.

Online, the tension is between stories that are mine to tell and stories that are not. Between sharing the journey and risking looking whiny. Between affirming other people’s struggles by opening up about mine and opening myself to criticism and judgment for what I did or didn’t do.

Caution sign, in parking on 5th street

Caution sign, in parking on 5th street (Photo credit: gregoirevdb)

Life is not all unicorns and rainbows, and when I run across people online pretending otherwise it really grates on my nerves. Yet I can understand why a person might whitewash (or self-censor) the tough moments, the ones where defending yourself might make you look petulant, or the ones where you don’t come off like mother of the year and it’s not funny but instead an excoriation of the soul. Your “tribe” will get it. They see you as a whole person. But they’re not the ones you have to worry about. It’s the person who’s Googling you out of nowhere. What if that moment is their introduction to you?

The balance between authenticity and TMI is something everyone who is online faces–or should be cognizant of, at any rate. I stopped Journaling when this blog took over that role, but more and more often I’m recognizing the value of an outlet where I can work through things without worrying about who’s looking over my shoulder. Now, where to find the extra half hour of time?

On to the next impossible question…

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4 thoughts on “The Balance Between Authenticity and TMI

  1. This is something I struggle with so often. Just last week I wrote a post I regretted and yet, it just went up this morning and a person commented that it was a good reminder. Fine lines and grey areas instead of unicorns and rainbows!

  2. Always worrying about this. Sometimes I want to go back and re-read and delete posts where I’m no longer “in that place” but then I think…but I was and I am who I am.

    I know sometimes parents at the school where my kids go (and teachers and apparently our pastor) have read my blog. It definitely gives me pause about whether I want to write something or not…

  3. I’ve never quite figured out how to be honest in talking about myself and my family without invading our privacy and either coming across as a braggart or airing our dirty laundry in public. Generally, I think you hit it about right most of the time,

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