Many of you know me as the writer who is super open, super brave, and super real. I know because you told me so! I am happy to be that over-sharer because I know it helps at least one person—and most of the time, that’s me. Writing is a way for me to explore what I’m feeling and what I’m going to do about it. Thus, I highly recommend this if you’re ever feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or any other unpleasant feeling.
But how do you go from being “normal” to talking about the hard, real stuff? In the spirit of transparency, I’m sharing the steps I take long before my posts go live.
Free Write All the Feels
Before I post anything, I free write. This is the most healing part about being vulnerable. When I free write, I’m able to stare at my problems or my worldviews in the face. This is how I identify things that are bugging me by just writing down or saying everything that comes to mind. I go as honest as possible and I don’t edit myself. I’m pretty wordy and so this exercise could be up to 1000 words of word vomit. Either way, I just let myself be honest with myself about what’s on my mind and why it won’t leave me alone.
If you’re wondering where to start, just go with “Why” questions. Why are you anxious, upset, mad, stressed, happy, excited, or conflicted? Keep asking why until you get to the kernel of truth hidden underneath.
Understand the Point of Sharing
Sharing your weaknesses and failures is embarrassing. After all, I’m using social media to sell my books; that’s not really a surprise if you scroll long enough. I remember the first time using my tinest voice to say “I don’t write every day.” I thought it would turn people off or make me look like a terrible writer. Why buy a book from someone who isn’t 100% enthusiastic about their book?
But is the reading community really that harsh? Not really.
Ever since I started being honest, I’ve seen whole blog posts, Twitter threads, and more where writers say the same thing. (This isn’t because of me; I just noticed this more.) They lost someone close to them. Being a new parent is hard. They lost interest in their novel and scrapped the whole thing. They’re depressed. Everyone is going through a hard time, but those writers chose to come clean and say “I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to write when life is still happening in the background.” I was inspired by that and knew I wanted to contribute to that trend of transparency and community.
For example, how many of you are currently behind on NaNoWriMo? At any given moment, I’m likely behind a few thousand words. But how normal is it to mention that? I’ve noticed it’s become much more mainstream to do so—to the point where writers don’t care if they’re behind, never finished, or never started. Think of the pressure we can take off our backs when we collectively raise our hands and say “I struggle, too.”
I say all of this to conclude that there is a point to being transparent. The ball is in your court to decide if the thoughts on your mind will help or hinder your journey.
Pick Out the Points that Speak to Your Audience
Next, I shorten down my thoughts to something that fits the social media platforms of choice. I usually take to Facebook to talk about politics and I go to Instagram to talk about body positivity, mental health, and more. Sometimes I go to Twitter but I don’t get a lot of feedback; I might save my Big Thoughts for when I have a more established following.
Anyway, if I realize something fits in these major categories, I pick out my most important points. I’m pretty guilty of writing lengthy Facebook essays/think pieces, so I’m always trying to be as concise as possible.
I know how to pick out these points by considering my audience. On Instagram, I’m mainly talking to IRL friends and my dear online writing friends. They generally empathize with me and have shared kind messages in the past. It’s like sending some texts to a close friend when I’m lost in my self-doubt and I need someone to pull me out.
Conversely, I’ve learned that my personal Facebook account has a bit more of a diverse audience. These are all people I know in real life. Over time, I’ve learned that my friends and family members want to talk about politics or current events but we might disagree on certain points. I’ve been able to find the middle ground of addressing an audience that generally supports me but also doesn’t hesitate to push back. It has taught me to present my viewpoints much more logically with resources and paired with a solution. I rarely use FB to rant anymore because I know as an FB user, I gravitate towards people who provide empowerment, facts from multiple sources, and reasonable solutions.
Keep the Rest Private
As you’re picking out what will jive with your audience, consider what you’ll keep private. While I myself am an open book, you have the choice to keep things personal, too. Often to prove a point, I might go off-topic or I might have thoughts that are too sharp for my audience. Yeah, there are a lot of things about politics or societal views that make me really angry, but I know that telling people how to think or change is not how things go my way. It’s also hateful and divisive and that’s not my mission when I share my thoughts and experiences. I share these views with my husband, a close friend, or no one at all.
Also, you don’t have to share every single feeling you have—good or bad. You don’t owe the general public such an intimate view of your life. I have way more high points and low points than what I share online. I mainly choose to share when I feel like writing on the topic will help me or another person.
Get a Second Pair of Eyes on Your Post
Regardless of how extroverted you are, it never hurts to get a second opinion to read your post. I do this a lot with Travis because when I’m talking politics, I want to be accurate, uplifting, and confident. If I’m sharing stuff I’ve learned from therapy or personal experience, I want it to be concise, helpful, and hopeful. What am I mainly looking for?:
- Does this encourage inclusion and solidarity?
- Am I being honest?
- Does this nurture my mental health?
- Am I being passionate as opposed to angry?
- How would I want my audience to ideally react?
- Have I done enough adequate research or soul-searching?
- Has someone else said this shorter? (Should I re-share that instead?)
Looking back, I’m not sure if I’ve always kept my own rules, but having them has improved my online sharing methods. I know that if my intentions are in the right direction, I can afford to share my thoughts without being angry, whiny, destructive, counter-productive, or a burden.
Take the Leap & Share
The scariest posts I’ve shared have gotten the most love. And often, it’s because I go with my Gryffindor gut and just share without asking anyone if it’s okay or not. I just do it.
This takes me back to early July where I was really struggling as a newly-minted published author. I broke my own author rules and obsessed over some negative book reviews. I knew I needed to get out of the house and spend time with a good friend or else I would get stuck in a terrible cycle of self-hate and anguish. This was after free writing, talking to Travis, calling my dad, and crying without inhibition.
When I thought I had no more tears left to shed, I took to my Instagram stories to share some unfiltered thoughts, knowing that some of the people that left those reviews would be able to see my raw emotion. I didn’t necessarily cry but I had heavy emotion in my voice. My eyes were swollen from crying, I wasn’t wearing makeup, and it was late at night so the lighting was bad. It probably looked like a real cry for help. I re-watched each story segment on my phone before publishing them and it hurt to watch myself try to put to words the disappointment and anxiety I felt.
I chose to share all that because I’ve never seen that before on social media. Everyone else seems to take their trials with stride and here I was falling apart and really questioning my right to call myself a writer. So, I thought that I would be the first to share such a real dialogue. It’s the hard part about being the change you want to see.
Y’all, the heavy feelings were overpowered by the texts, messages, and calls that I received as the story was available for 24 hours. At first, I was embarrassed because it meant a lot of people saw it. I always forget how public I am now but there were so many people that felt moved enough to respond. Most of my writing friends responded with all the right words I needed to hear. And they felt comfortable sharing their personal experiences.
Taking the leap is scary. But so many of you follow me or want to hear from me because I’m willing to take that leap. And to me, that trust and support make it worth it.
Document the Ups, Downs & In-Betweens
Be consistent about whatever life throws at you. People often obsess with their “brand” or online persona to the point where they change their own life to fit with their ideal online life. Many of you take a break from social media because you consume so much of those posed and doctored photos of someone else’s glamorous life. You wonder what you’re doing wrong and thus avoid social media to put an end to the terrible comparisons.
Thus, with great social media platforms comes great responsibility.
If your output is fairly balanced with the ups, downs, and the middles, you can see your progress as a writer and a human. If I only share the heavy, honest stuff, I could easily feel like my mental health isn’t improving. Conversely, if I’m only happy, then I don’t feel like I’m completely honest or I’m holding myself to an unrealistic standard. Being real with all the things has been really freeing to me. I enjoy the good times more and endure the bad times better.
Respond to All the Comments
The general point of posting is to get all those great comments, right? Like, how depressing is it when you bare your soul and it seems like no one saw or care? That happened a lot at first, honestly. Once I responded thoughtfully to all my comments, I grew in my confidence to share bigger and bolder feelings. Even if everyone is saying roughly the same thing (“Hope you feel better!” “You got this, girl!”), it pays to respond with something more substantial. My favorite thing is to thank the person for commenting, and then I refer to another time they helped me with a similar struggle. It’s win-win, trust me.
My main drive is to put myself out there so when it’s my turn to fall or trip, I can rely on a few other friends to help me up. If I don’t reply to the nice people stopping to read my posts, then I’m not really fostering community, am I? Remember, sharing the big stuff isn’t about getting likes or comments; otherwise your post might not be as genuine as you think. People are watching what you say and don’t say, so choose to be consistent with how you interact with people online; it’s the slow and steady way to find the place where you belong.
Well, I think that about covers it! What are your methods for knowing when to share the tough stuff? Have you had good experiences with it? I hope this piece resonates with you in some way so you know that you’re not alone and someone out there understands a part of what you’re feeling.
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