Personal Views: How Much Should Writers Reveal?

Jason Trommetter via flickr

Many people that are involved in, or interested in the writing world know about Orson Scott Card’s evolving foot-in-mouth debacle that has really cost him some likability points. Tom Cruise seriously tanked in public opinion after he followed up his public couch-aerobics routine with proclamations that postpartum depression could be cured by aliens [1], and that Brooke Shields was not courageous for coming forth and revealing her own struggles with postpartum depression, but rather a bit loony for taking medication to help her in that time. I may not be a PR genius, but I don’t think it really is never going to be popular to to mess with anything that involves babies and mommies.

If we were to take the opinions of everyone that reads this post, then I am sure that both of us could come up with many other examples of celebrities with too much time on their hands, shooting their mouths off and inadvertently hitting themselves in the foot.

So the point of this post is that people should keep their opinions to themselves?

Not really. I will probably say this many times before I die, that I believe in balance in life for most things and I am not a black-and-white thinker. People have always been interested in the private lives of celebrities. I teach psychology classes, and whenever we can do vignettes where the target subject is wide open, most people pick celebrities to write about. I think that the same has become true of writers, where readers really want to feel some connection to the writer. I know as a reader myself, I am much more likely to shell out the cash for a high-priced new novel when I feel like I know something about the author and that I really want to support them as a person.

How much sharing is too much though?

Sometimes a third person perspective is great to be able to see things clearly. For example, it is easy to see from the outside that Tom Cruise and his beliefs are not mainstream, and it is clear to many that he needed to just keep his mouth shut a long time ago. He went from being America’s pretty boy, to being just another celebrity whack job that illustrates just how celebrities often have an unhealthy combination of ego, money, and way too much free time. Orson Scott Card has made many contradictory statements that just keep burying him deeper and deeper into the pit “should have shut the Hell up.” [2] In retrospect, it is easy to see where they veered off the path. What does that mean for others though?

We do want to have that connection with people who write our favorite books, especially with the changes brought on by social media. But what should a writer share with others, and what cuts too deep to the controversial topics that end up hurting reputations more than helping? It is not that I think writers should not have their own opinions, but that people should remember some topics are just going to turn a lot of people off. No one is so big that they can never fall.

When I started this blog, I decided a long time ago to keep politics and religion out of my posts. Not because I do not have any of my own opinions, but because I am not here to stir controversy and push for some kind of social change. When  I do, I do not want to push some specific concept, or try to use my tiny platform to push a radical agenda. Most people in the Western world are not people that are homophobic people that believe that Brooke Shields is a horrible mommy because she sought treatment for her postpartum depression. I am not saying these opinions are right or wrong, I am just saying that at some point, it is a good idea to realize when your point of view is going to be wildly unpopular, and that discretion is the better part of valor. Not that I have not had my own posts that seem like a bad idea when looking through the telescope of retrospection. 

I really believe that social media should convey some sense of fun about the writer, help make the writer a real human, share some admirable values such as the value of family or charity, and should maybe reveal a bit about the writer’s process and those “behind the scene” tidbits that all of us as readers love to read about. Patrick Rothfuss is someone who I believe has really been able to do this with his blog. I have not read every single post of his, so this may be something that comes back to haunt me later, but from what I have seen, he has that balance. He shows his compassionate side, his personal side, how much he loves his wife and son, and a little about his process as a writer. When he does post something of his opinion, he is not too far “out there” so as to alienate a large segment of the population.

I know for me the model and general rules I plan to use when I share personal information in my blog. What about for you, how much is too much sharing?

[1] This may be a slight exaggeration and oversimplification on my part. 😉

[2] Located right next to the pit of despair.

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