29 Feb 2016
One of the great things about being a writer is that you have a creative outlet that you can use to work through your experiences and feelings. Not only is this therapeutic for you, it is also a great way for your audience to get to know you. On the other hand, revealing yourself is something you want to be cautious about.
You don’t want to share intimate details in a moment of vulnerability, and then regret that decision later. You also don’t want to create a situation where there is so much personal familiarity between yourself and your audience that you lose your position of authority. Here are a few tips to help you figure out when, how, and why to reveal the inner world in your writing.
Explore Your Motives and Establish Boundaries
Here is a simple, but very important question. Why do you want to share your inner world with your readers? Is it appropriate? Is it helpful? These are important questions to ask yourself as you decide whether or not to reveal personal details about yourself at all. You should also ask yourself these questions again, each time you are considering revealing something new. Exploring these questions will force you to confront your true motives, and take your audience into consideration as well.
When you establish boundaries, you accomplish three things. First, you protect yourself from revealing too much impulsively. You also protect your audience from being the unwilling recipient of uncomfortable personal details. Finally, you protect third parties from being exposed unwillingly. To begin setting boundaries, write down three categories. These are, ‘things I will never reveal’, ‘people I will never mention’, and ‘Open book’. The first two categories are people and subjects that are absolutely off limits. People may be off limits because of their age, hostility between you and them, or simply to protect their privacy. Think in terms of telling your story, not their story. Subjects that are off limits are any topic that would be hurtful to you if shared, or would make your audience uncomfortable. “Open book” – topics that you are willing to be absolutely candid about. Think of all of this as being the framework to keep yourself safe while also being open about yourself.
Different Ways to Reveal Your Inner World
One thing that you can do, if you write fiction, is to learn to use your imagination to incorporate elements of your personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences into your writing. This is a very safe way to share with your audience because your characters act as a buffer between them and you. If you write nonfiction, you can incorporate your personal stories into anecdotes and examples. Whether you want to share them as your own stories or not, is strictly up to you.
Of course, your writing does not have to have a direct connection to things that have happened to you, in order to reflect your inner thoughts. You can write a character, for example, who reflects the person you think you would be without your flaws. You could also go completely in the other direction, and use a character to explore the darker elements of your psyche.
The Benefits of Incorporating Your Inner Life Into Your Writing
You already know that writing is therapeutic, whether you do it only for yourself or for an audience. However, in order for therapy to be beneficial, it also has to be honest. The more honest you are in your writing, the better off you will be mentally and emotionally. In addition to this, honesty nearly always leads to better quality. Readers will catch on if you are honest in your written expression. They will be touched, and they will appreciate your willingness to be candid. If they have shared experiences similar to yours, they will feel connected to you and your writing.
When you share your personal story in any way, take a few moments to read and reflect on what you’ve written. Then, remember to ask yourself the questions shared at the beginning of this article. If you feel good about your answers, you are probably on the right path.