It’s a question a lot of us struggle with in our writing, whether that be in our books, on our blogs, in our social media. How much sharing is too much sharing?
The truth is that this line is different for each of us. Some of us feel very comfortable sharing a lot of things about our personal and professional lives – I’m one of those people.* Some of us like to keep most of what we do and think private or face-to-face. There is no “right” answer here that is universal. We each have to decide where our line is drawn and then draw it clearly for ourselves and others.
The Guidelines I Use to Draw my Line
I follow a few simple principles for myself when deciding what to share and what not to share.
- I don’t share things that are the stories of other people. So if someone tells me about a struggle or a personal pain, if someone has a story that I find important or captivating but of which I am only an observer or listener, that is not my story to share.
- I don’t share things that are about personal conflicts that I am involved in, even obliquely. I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way – by being hurt when others have done this and by hurting loved ones when I’ve done it.
- I don’t share anything – and this is the big one – that I’m not ready to get feedback, negativity, or critique on. If I can’t handle people commenting on my experiences, ideas, or work, then I’m not ready to share it. Period. I can’t control other people’s responses (more on that in a minute), so if I’m not prepared to hear criticism or commentary on something, I don’t share it.
That last one is the most important one. People often quote – and I have quoted too – the wisdom about sharing from our scars but not our wounds. I’ve come to think that advice too broad. I do, however, think the center of it is true – if I’m too raw, too embroiled, too weak, too sensitive to handle responses to what I’ve written, it’s the wise thing – and an act of self-care – for me not to share it yet.
When People Respond
As I noted above – and have to learn again and again as a writer – I cannot control how readers respond to what I share, and I’m continually surprised at the responses I get to things I write, both on and offline. Hence, the importance of being wise about what I share and when. I have, however, developed a few practices that help me manage these responses, especially when they are negative or critical.
- I don’t respond publicly to any negative critique of any sort – online, from an editor, in a review – for 24 hours. I can quickly get defensive and ugly if I don’t give myself some space. So I read, I reread, I craft snarky, cutting responses in my head, I unload on my dear partner. But I don’t put any response out there for at least 24 hours.
- I manage my online spaces in a way that feels comfortable to me, and I am upfront with that and state it often. I’m not comfortable with disrespectful language toward me or anyone on my personal or public social media pages, so I just delete those – often without comment. I tell people that often when I post things that might get heated responses, and I feel good about that. I wouldn’t allow that kind of talk in my home or any face-to-face spaces I managed, so I don’t allow it online.
- I don’t respond to reviews. I’m still working on this one for my online businesses and am still struggling there, but I’ve learned – mostly from seeing other writers look foolish and defensive when responding – to leave book reviews alone and trust that if they are unfair, they will fall to the side quickly.
- I seek kindness, even as I speak my truth clearly. Again, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way – and am grateful for the friends who have called me on it. I don’t need to be cruel or cutting to be truthful and hold my line with things. I can almost always find a place where I can acknowledge while still clarifying my idea or point.
The reality is that the only thing I can control about how people read and comment on my work is my response to their notes, feedback, and criticism. I can’t manage – or even anticipate – their responses, so my best bet is to manage my own. It’s hard work, but I am finding that the more I follow these guidelines the easier it is.
What about you? What are your guidelines for what you share and what you don’t? What strategies guide you when people respond to your work?
*I talked about some of my ideas about why I share so openly on social media in this podcast episode with Cindy Wang Brandt of Parenting Forward.
I’m currently in the process of building my launch team for my forthcoming YA novel, The Silence at the Lock. If you’re interested in helping me spread the word about this book, the third in the Steele Secrets series, or would just like to see one model for a launch team, I’d love to have you on the team. Come on over to Facebook and join us.