The Trouble With Self-Disclosure

When I first started writing, I didn’t know how personal it was. I thought I was writing about heroes and villains far removed from my dull existence. It took several years before I realized that I was actually writing about myself.

That doesn’t mean my characters are facsimiles of me. But deep down, at the core of the story, there is a truth about myself. It is layered into every story like the mortar between the bricks. A story told right, it turns out, has to have a basis in your own fears, brokenness and resilience.

Nowhere have I learned this lesson more keenly than in the writing of this very blog. I set out to chronicle the writing process from my eccentric point of view, but over the years it has evolved into a reflection of my inner life. I didn’t set out to write a memoir, but it happened anyway.

Writing, it turns out, is a very public art form. You wind up laying your faults, your aspirations and your dreams in the spotlight. I don’t mind being transparent, but sometimes I have to censor myself, because when it comes to the Internet, offhand comments can come back to haunt you years later. Some matters need to stay private; some insecurities should be safeguarded. That’s difficult to do when I see great bloggers and novelists alike earning praise for publishing their darkest secrets and the minutia of their everyday lives.

That is the balancing act of the writing life. How do you weigh self-disclosure against mystery? How can you be honest with your audience without exposing the inner workings of your relationships, family or workplace? How do you guard those boundaries without sacrificing the truth of the story? Any ideas?

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Jonny Eberle asks a lot of questions. He is also a writer in Tacoma, WA and a frequent Twitter user. Thanks for reading?

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