Revealing Yourself: Divulging Personal Information in Your Writing

Today’s post is by Bailey Belmont.

Deciding how much personal information to share in your writing is something that every writer needs to address.

While it is sometimes disconcerting to expose too much of yourself in your writing, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, there are benefits and disadvantages to sharing your personal experiences and information with those whom will read what you have written.

The benefits to using personal information and experiences are plentiful. Not only do you have the benefit of speaking, or writing, from experience, but you also are able to write more authoritatively because you are simply relaying events that have already occurred, relying on your personal reactions and emotions rather than trying to invent or predict how someone might react hypothetically.

This is invaluable, regardless of the context in which you are writing, because speaking from experience makes your writing more powerful and believable.

Take Your Readers with You

When you write, you are asking those who read to follow you on a journey, and you lead them by the hand along the path as you show them your message.

This is true regardless of whether you are writing a short story, a novel, or an article for a major news aggregate. You are telling a story and need to bring an air of authenticity that will make the reader trust and believe you.

If your characters listen to music, it is better to have them listen to music that you listen to because you will be able to describe it more accurately and convey the experience in a genuine fashion.

Whether you are writing about a factual event or creating fiction, writing about what you know personally is always more effective than writing about something that you do not have experience with. It is the difference between relaying information that you have researched and telling someone about what has happened to you.

I can describe how I would imagine it is to eat escargot, for example, but I would never eat that personally. It will be more believable and come across a more descriptive event if I describe eating a steak, something I love.

It can be difficult to share personal information. Exposing yourself to scrutiny can be a frightening prospect and very difficult to do. However, this is where poignant information comes from and how you attract readers in a powerful way.

You draw people to yourself by sharing of yourself. Showing your warts or opening the closet door and exposing your skeletons is always a scary feeling, but you must understand that everyone has things they are ashamed of, or afraid of revealing; however, you are a more effective writer when you expose yourself to your audience.

How Much to Share?

How much is proper to share?

That is a question that can only be answered by each individual writer. There are no set rules, only finding the comfort zone that exists between anonymity and full disclosure.

I am generally more comfortable talking about my personal experiences and how they have affected my life than others that I know, but finding your own level of disclosure is what is important. I am comfortable talking about myself and what I have done, right and wrong, because I own those experiences and can let others learn from my examples, good or bad.

Choosing to expose yourself through your writing is a delicate task. How much do you wish to reveal? A news article can be a dispassionate affair, devoid of any personal opinions or circumstances, but writing fiction or an opinion-based article lends itself to the writer exposing his or her own feelings, opinions, and experiences. This can be result in personal attack.

The Benefits of Sharing

There is no formula that can be applied to every situation. Every writer must decide how much of themselves they are willing to share and how much they are willing to invest in their writing. While this can be a frightening prospect, the rewards are also great. Sharing something traumatic from your past gives you mastery over it, in my opinion, and renders it toothless and unable to hurt you any longer.

Talking or writing about oneself is a therapeutic endeavor that brings reward to writer and reader alike. Personally, I feel that if I am able to describe a personal event, or an emotion that I hold strongly, and convey it to a reader, I am a master of that situation or emotion. I have taken control and no longer have to suffer anxiety or fear about it. The event becomes truly a part of my past, and I no longer have to fear it or hide from it.

Push Yourself; Expose Yourself

For some, writing about personal issues is too daunting or means exposing vulnerability. Personally, I choose to find places where I feel it is appropriate to share my experiences and write about them. I find I understand myself better when I’m able to put my feelings into words and record them for others to read.

Knowing how much to share with readers is a personal decision that each writer must undergo, and finding the ability to display one’s personal experiences and emotions makes for much better writing and reading. So when you sit down to write, think of how your personal experiences—successes and failures—might infuse your writing with authenticity and move your readers emotionally.

Bailey Belmont head shotBailey Belmont is a professional writer, blogger and learning geek. She is here to share her thoughts and ideas on how to use writing to expand our personal and professional frontiers. Keep updated with Bailey via Facebook.

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