No, you can't read my tabs from hereI started this post three different times.

I’ve been doing that a lot lately.  Writing the first few words of a post, then deleting it and squinting critically at a blank page.

I’ve been blogging over at LiveJournal since early 2004.  Originally I planned to stick more or less to writing, but in addition to book angst over the years I’ve discussed two surgeries, one cross-country move, four years of grad school at two different programs and countless amusing anecdotes about my kid, most notably when he dropped trou in the cafeteria and instigated a worker’s rebellion in Language Arts.

And while I’ve always been fairly circumspect about what I post, lately I’ve been redacting before I’ve even written anything.  And it’s not so much the content I’ve been scrutinizing.  It’s the tone.

It’s easy to suss out what not to say on a blog.  Don’t be a jerk is a good rule of thumb if you’re not sure.  Those are the easy decisions to make.  What’s trickier is knowing how to present certain events in a way that keeps you on the right side of the line between heartwarming details that humanize the working writer and dude that’s TMI.

The state of your WIP, for instance.  Once upon a time I might have posted Man, am I feeling crappy about this revision or This whole scene is weak as hell, but ever since Without the Walls sold, I’ve been second-guessing things that aren’t glowing and rosy.  On the flipside, if you’re always all upbeat and Pollyanna, aspiring writers struggling with their own work may be offput by what they see as 1) hubris or 2) the effortless crafting of saleable prose.  Not to mention the intellectual dishonesty of not presenting writing with all its warts.

At this point, it's down to my ankles.And what about some personal disaster?  My basement flooded a few weeks ago.  A few months before that, my barely-paid-for car was totaled.  How much do you post about things like this before you come off as pathetic and whiny?  How much of this do your readers even want to hear about?

I tend to err on the side of authenticity, but the critical thing for me is to be mindful of it.  I was blogging long before I had any potential audience to consider.  What you post should be just as much about you as any potential reader, but it should absolutely reflect the face you want to present to the world.


Filed under Writing and Life

9 responses to “Self-Censorship

  1. Cynthia Levinson

    This is such good advice! Sometimes I cringe at blog and FB posts. It’s as if people don’t understand the meaning of the words “universal” and “permanent,” which is what these posts are.

    I especially like your sentence “I’ve been redacting before I’ve even written anything.” That certainly applies to all my writing altogether!


  2. J. Anderson Coats

    I tend to think of these things as obvious, but they certainly do bear repeating.


  3. Ha. I try to direct all of my whining through what I hope is a comparatively professional and thoughtful prism. So while I’m honest, I do self-censor.

    It’s been fun checking out the journeys!


    • J. Anderson Coats

      It helps if you’re clever enough to cast yourself in a hilarious misadventure that’s suspiciously close to real life.

      I’m not sure I’m there yet. I’ve got the misadventure part. The jury’s still out on “hilarious.”


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  5. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    First of all, J., I’m so sorry about your basement and car! Ugh.

    What struck me about your post is that fact that a writer’s blog audience changes when said writer becomes an author. I think it will be hard posting my thoughts when I don’t know if a fellow writer/author will be reading, or a 10-year-old reader. I suppose blog readership is something that authors of YA books are more concerned about than authors for middle grade readers. Which makes me glad to be a middle grade author at the moment, until I can figure this who-is-my-audience thing out…


    • J. Anderson Coats

      No one was hurt in the crash and the basement floor has never been cleaner. Um, yay?

      Kids like to see our feet of clay. It makes us human. It makes us real. And really, that’s my ultimate goal – to be interesting, accessible and real.

      If I can do that, I figure the audience will take care of itself.


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