Self-Censorship Part Deux, or Um, Yeah, I May Have Boundary Issues…

Geez, the things we do to please our blog readers. Yes, the shoe DID taste nasty, thanks so much for reminding me.

…heh, you think I’m kidding about the boundary issues. Now, I totally get (and agree with) what J. Anderson Coats said in her self-censorship post. If you’re swimming around in the same big steaming cauldron of social media as all the other writers it’s hard not to be aware of the accepted wisdom about discretion, you know? It’s all extremely public and searchable and so on – stick that foot in your mouth and a picture of you, mouth stuffed with foot, will live in eternal infamy on the internet somewhere. For example, Verla Kay took this photo of me at SCBWILA10 and it’s never, ever, ever going away.

And yet, and yet, and yet yet yet, I still find myself carrying around an armload of perplexity, because I think too much information is a little subjective. And when I say “a little subjective,” what I mean is “really gigantically subjective.” One person’s “dude, TMI” might be someone else’s “heartwarming detail that humanizes the working writer,” to blatantly steal J’s verbiage. That’s not to say there aren’t concrete lines that shouldn’t be crossed – of course there are, and please ignore that horrendous triple negative. One of the perverse joys of landing that first book deal and bounding into the glittery landscape of published authorhood is the fact that you can ask your editor and publisher about stuff like this! So cool! And your editor can also alert you to stuff you have said online and say “yo, take that down, pinhead.” Which is admittedly less cool, although I’m relieved to say it hasn’t actually happened to me. Yet.

No, I’m not talking about obviously verboten stuff like “der, gee whiz, I think I’ll put my editor’s cell number on Facebook so people can call him to say how much they love him, hyuck hyuck!” My editor would deliver a five-fingered cobra strike of instant death to my sternum if I did that, and all I could reasonably do is whimper “I deserve it” and expire in a cloud of pulverized sternum. I’m talking about stuff where the danger doesn’t involve spillage of confidential info, but instead involves potentially negative perceptions of me.

In some ways this feels like a very delicate and fraught time in regard to the “negative perceptions” thing, because so many of the X-factors are in flux now that I have a book deal! I’m definitely in uncharted territory. Whoa, when I announced the book deal I got all these new Facebook friends! More people are reading my blog! My name is appearing in places it’s never appeared before! The level of exposure, scrutiny and potentially bad juju feels much higher. It also feels specifically (if unsurprisingly) personal, since it’s all about me and how I present myself to the world. It’s certainly not about my still-embryonic book. Not yet, anyway – that’ll be a whole new bellyful of anxiety, and I’m sure it’ll feel even more personal than things do now. “My book! My baby! Why, you’re reviewing a piece of my soul, you jackals!” And so on.

I do worry that people think I’m a big jerk, which may be hard to believe if you’ve seen me swaggering about the interwebz, crowing about my totally rad agent, superexciting book deal and mondo awesome editor. Subtlety has been a bit lost on me in recent weeks. But subtlety’s never been one of my hallmarks as a user of social media, and really, there are a thousand ways in which I might be irritating my fellow children’s book creators, whether it’s through too many exclamation points!!!!, AN OVER-RELIANCE ON CAPITALIZATION, the air of sycophantic pathos I occasionally project, or my particular sense of humor. Sometimes an excess of braggadocio feels like just another weapon in Mike’s Massive Arsenal of Ways to Annoy People. That’s a somewhat dangerous attitude – I don’t want to stop caring, and I don’t want slip unthinkingly into a mode of being insensitive, insulting or inflammatory – but I don’t necessarily want to accept a blanket definition of TMI either.

We all have different thresholds, right? I wrote a post for Dear Teen Me which was probably the most exposing thing I’ve written in my life. Too much information? In some contexts I’d say yes. And I know plenty of people who would never write a blog post like it. That’s not a criticism, BTW, it’s an entirely valid choice to not flay yourself open on the screen in such fashion. But look at all the authors who did! I’m really glad I wrote that post, and my EMU’s Debut status actually gave me a smidge more confidence to do it.

So when you think about it, my thoughts really aren’t that far from what J. said in her post on Monday. Be mindful. Think about the ramifications of what you say. Think about how the world might change its perceptions of you in reaction. Be aware of risk. And be aware that sometimes it’s okay to take the risk, even if it makes some people uncomfortable. After all, one person’s TMI is another person’s treasure.

Fully aware of the discomfort I may be causing you right this second,


Filed under Blogging, Social Media

15 responses to “Self-Censorship Part Deux, or Um, Yeah, I May Have Boundary Issues…

  1. Wow, guys, I am glad it’s not just me. I find myself thinking about every sentence in light of how the agent/editor/reader will view me. I want to be painfully honest, but I also realize that what that often means for me, is whiny. It would be cathartic to whine about how….well, never mind. I’d better not start. On the other hand, my favorite blogs are the ones that are ironic, sarcastic, funny and true….like your’s Mike. You strike that balance very well, and it’s nice to have those examples as I start out on my own blogs. I hope to find the balance.


    • Mike Jung

      Aw, thanks Lisa. 🙂 And I’m very cognizant of the whiny thing, but it’s challenging too, because whiny is ALSO subjective! But I agree that catharsis is a slippery slope to travel, blog-wise, and finding balance is the key.


  2. I LOVE YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR!!!!!!! (And obviously, your use of capitalization and exclamation points…) 😉 Seriously, love reading your blogs. You seem genuine and real in all of your posts and I couldn’t imagine you purposely offending anyone at anytime. (So says the person who has just painstakingly revised her comment three times before posting…) Can’t WAIT to read your book. 🙂


    • Mike Jung

      THANKS JODI!!!!!!! I do try really hard to be genuine and honest, and as vulnerable as possible, which of course always brings us right back to the TMI question. There are areas which I definitely keep out of bounds, just because sometimes other people might be dragged into it, but if it’s something that’s pretty much about me and me alone…well, there are STILL boundaries, but I try to be pretty fluid, because I really think being willing to put my inner workings out in the world is a big reason why I’ve been able to start a professional writing career in the first place.


  3. Cynthia Levinson

    It’s so great having a guy on this blog! I mean, how many of us would come up with “a cloud of pulverized sternum” to describe the result of a infuriating an editor? That’s great writing! I think we owe it to Mike to make his blog verify the truth of his blog. I, for one, plan to share those mortifying photos of him every chance I get. Facebook, here I come.


  4. Here’s one of my big dilemmas in terms of online presence and censorship. I tend to be quirky and silly on my Facebook posts and in some other online forums, and I’ve actually had people add me as a friend or subscribe to something because they love my quirky voice. But my debut novel isn’t like that—it has a serious, somewhat sentimental voice. It is not humorous, and the prose strive to be more lyrical than quirky. So I find myself thinking, do I need to alter my online presence to better match my book? By being silly and quirky online am I creating expectations that will make people buy my book and then be completely disappointed that it is different than the me they got online? Here on EMU’s Debuts, I’ve tried to moderate my voice a little more toward my book voice, but then I read Mike’s post and think, it’s so much more fun to be quirky. Of course, for Mike it probably isn’t a dilemma at all—I think his debut book is going to be just as hilarious as his online presence. When it comes out, I am going to count the exclamation points, just to be sure.


    • Mike Jung

      I’ve had that thought too, Jeannie, specifically with the Dear Teen Me post. There were quite a few comments saying “I expect you to make me laugh, Mike, not cry!” And on the Guys Read blog Chris Barton (at least I think it was Chris) gave my post a shoutout and said he’d read my book solely on the basis of the Dear Teen Me post. Which is a really nice compliment, but made me wonder if somehow my goofy little MG novel (and you’re right, it’s very goofy and quirky) would come as a surprise to some folks. I think that falls into the category of “risk I want to take sometimes,” mostly because I view my online presence as a creative outlet first, a marketing tool second. So I guess IMHO there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing!


  5. I think you always have to be professional online, in other words, be polite and don’t do stuff like this: If you are upset by a review, grab the chocolate, curl up under the covers and have a pity party IN PRIVATE. Believe me, I’ve done it.

    But I don’t think you have to necessarily match your online self to the content of your book. I mean, most of my books deal with pretty serious topics, but I’m not always that serious online. In fact, I’m often downright silly. I think it gives people a chance to see that I do actually have a humorous side, so that if I ever manage to write my Funny YA (which I’m always convinced is my next book) it won’t seem out of character.

    We’re all multifaceted people. That’s what makes us interesting. I want to be my “self” online, or as close to myself as I’m comfortable revealing to the world.


    • Mike Jung

      You are VERY silly online, Sarah (and I suspect in person too!), but in a good way! And I like your point – it’s not a bad thing at all if people get to see more than one aspect of our personas. That has potential marketing value, if we want to get all distasteful and pull out the M word, and more importantly (IMHO) it has plain old human value, because developing professional and personal relationships is such a big part of pursuing this nutty writing business.


  6. Gwendolyn McIntyre


    BTW, great column.

    I view my online presence as a creative outlet first, a marketing tool second.

    I agree.

    I used to try to keep my web presence separate from social media outlets. One was a tool for marketing and for discussing the serious business-side of writing, publishing and the technology that supports physical and visual media. The social media outlets were for having fun, for being myself.

    Granted that I may be a little more reserved in public …Okay! You can stop laughing now… than I am on-line, but I quickly discovered that what I write about and who I am is much the same, regardless of the outlet. So why bother trying to partition my presence out here when I don’t anywhere else.

    Yet always being mindful of how that public presence can affect you when you least wish it.


    • Mike Jung

      Thanks Gwendolyn! I do social media for my day job, and I make a point keeping that stuff VERY separate, but everything else I do online all runs together – it’s just more fun that way! I think it does make it easier on me that I started my online presence with the intent to make it revolve around my writing career, however. I didn’t have an existing blog or social media presence that was for private, personal uses, which I have to imagine makes it harder. But I’m a big fan of Maureen Johnson’s internet manifesto, which is basically to do stuff that’s fun, goofy, engaged, generous to others, and interesting for its own sake, because THAT is the best kind of marketing in existence for us writerly types. 🙂


  7. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Your Dear Teen Me post was so touching Mike, and perhaps more so *because* you’re so funny elsewhere on the web. But it didn’t surprise me, necessarily, because I’ve seen the way you’ve handled touchy subjects on Verla Kay’s blueboards. Yes, you’re hilarious and quirky and fun, but you’re also smart and thoughtful and grounded. And your manuscript reflects that (which I can say as one of the lucky ones who got to read it even before Mike achieved Intergalactic Domination).

    We all have different sides. We just need to figure out which side to show when, and how much. Easy, right?? 😛


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