On Over-Sharing

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Thank you, Mr. Sedaris.  We laughed for an hour and a half, from your first sentence to your last.

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After his reading last night, someone asked how he got started as a writer, about his process, about showing work to people (family, friends, beta readers, fellow writers, etc…).  He said he thinks it’s tougher for writers starting out today, that there’s so much expectation to share every thought, to expose yourself, to get your work out there, to “Get Published!” even if you have to do it yourself; that he is often directed to “read my blog” or is given the link to read someone’s self-published book.

No thanks, he says.

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David Sedaris wrote for 7 years before he showed his first sentence to another human being.  We live in the age of over-sharing.  How do you keep yourself current without being carried away by that rip tide, and drowning?

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21 thoughts on “On Over-Sharing

  1. Averil Dean

    That ship has sailed with me on board. I think I was seduced by Betsy’s style of blogging, by the idea that it’s okay to give voice to the angst and the struggle in our personal and writing lives. I’ve pulled back some, but I often wish I had started from a less private point of view.

    1. Teri Post author

      Agreed. And do you think it was easier to go further because of the pseudonym?

      One of the biggest criticisms I get for this blog is “it’s not personal enough” or that I “stop short” on digging deep. They’re right, of course, but I share as much as I intend to in such an open forum. Period. The whole idea of blogging, like Facebook and Twitter and everything else, still holds a good chunk of fear for me.

      1. Averil Dean

        Yeah, it’s absolutely easier for me to write and blog under a pseudonym. I need the distance. I also think it’s different to blog as a fiction writer than it would be if I were writing memoir; the topics are better delineated.

  2. LauraMaylene

    Oh, man. I still struggle with this. I wish I could go back in time and un-share certain things. But alas. The best I can do is keep reminding myself that it’s no so bad to wait, to improve, to grow. Publishing always feels like a race — for me, for the last decade, it’s been a race not against myself or other writers but the industry itself, which is in such a tailspin. But it’s been in that tailspin for quite a while now…might as well settle in, accept it, and keep making my writing better. Maybe without publishing it too damn quickly.

    1. Teri Post author

      Publishing absolutely feels like a race, Laura, especially with the industry changes. I constantly feel like I’m not getting my book done fast enough, before the big, looming implosion. And like most writers, I think, I shrink a little inside every time someone asks if/when my book will be done.

  3. tdapra

    My natural inclination is to overshare, while my husband is much more private. I’ve been working on controlling this and being more thoughtful about what I make public. Perhaps I’m finally cultivating a persona?

    But I wonder if part of what Sedaris writes about is different–marketing oneself as a writer rather than simply “oversharing,” and yes, there’s much more pressure to engage in that than there was even five or ten years ago. Lucky for him, he doesn’t have to grovel to others for a blurb.

    1. Teri Post author

      He was specifically talking about (especially young writers) having blogs and social media outlets and self-publishing their first drafts —- having to get everything out to the public in the instant, with no thought or filter or retrospection. The new world order.

      I certainly feel more rushed now that I’m older.

  4. girl in the hat

    I guess I don’t know what you mean by “drowning.” I’m not sure what the connection is between sharing and getting published. The only time I feel overwhelmed by someone’s tmi is when it’s boring or so painful I don’t know how to respond adequately. (David was fabulous, wasn’t he? He shares things that should make us cringe but instead we get to laugh. I shook his hand and he told me a joke so dirty it curled my nose hairs! I fought back the urge to lick my hand afterwards. Ha.)

    1. Teri Post author

      By drowning I mean sharing so much in social media that there’s nothing left to share in the real writing. Death by writing-for-sharing-right-now exhaustion. And the irony that I’m writing this on my own blog is certainly not lost on me.

      Maybe a bad analogy, but certainly how I sometimes feel.

      But David Sedaris …. my word. Is that man divine or what? I just wanted to wrap him up and bring him home with me.

  5. CJ Rice (@leapof)

    I briefly blogged fragments from my first book naively unaware the exposure could be an impediment to getting an agent and a publisher for the work. Still I am glad I did it. Because I am not a conversational forum friendly writer. I save all the angst for the actual page. Have too. The annonymous ordinary of my daily life is what allows me to go deep in my writing.

    1. Teri Post author

      Exactly CJ. Which is exactly why I don’t like to talk about my book or what it’s about or where the story’s going. I need to harness it to write it.

  6. MSB

    One day I hope to hear this man give a talk and when I do, I’m going to hug him. This I know for certain.

  7. Jennine G.

    It’s something I’d like to teach teenagers, I know that. The things they share that they just shouldn’t are astounding.

  8. Jess

    I have listened to his most recent book SIX TIMES. Six. Times. In audiobook because you really can’t experience Sedaris without listening to his voice. I loved this book. And “Rubbish”? Yep. That’s me. I spend at least an hour every Sunday picking up trash on the way to the dump.

    I don’t carry a harpoon, however.

  9. Lyra

    Drowning, yes, absolutely. I get it.
    I think it’s such a catch 22. The reason I have become friends, close friends, with so many of you is because I went out on a limb and wrote real things about myself, things I’m not proud of, things I regret, ways I wish I was better. By being honest for once, truly honest, I think it allowed for you guys to open up and respond from the gut, from the heart. If I didn’t write that way then, I wouldn’t have the relationships I have now.
    That being said…it gets a little freaky when you get a comment, especially a negative one from someone who doesn’t get it aggressively. I don’t think of it as a freedom of speech thing, more like you’re in my house and if you don’t have common courtesy then don’t let the door hit you on the ass. I’m not writing for The Rumpus, just my own little part of the sky, but that’s where the drowning comes in. I mean sometimes I don’t only feel like I’m drowning but I’m naked as well.
    So the longer I write online, the more I think it’s time to pull back. But there is that part of me that resists that temptation because for the first time in my life, I have put it out there. It’s the same reason I haven’t deleted posts that I really want to delete. I don’t want to hide from anyone.
    I don’t even know if that big rant makes sense…

    1. independentclause

      I started out writing just about my work life, joking about how little of my personal life I shared. But now I’m all personal because, like you say, I develop a relationship with you guys. I want to write about the stuff that sucks, but in a funny interesting way, because I got so sick of self-promoting, distant, lalala, everything is perfect and/or happens for a reason blogs. While I believe there is a way out of everything eventually, I believe that you don’t always see it. And so I share (and overshare!) the struggle.

  10. Josey

    i feel like i’m doggy paddling right now with the social media thing. needed for work–but a complete impediment to my creative writing. i’ll figure it out. it’s like a recipe, you just got to keep at it until you know what you like.

    did he tell the willie nelson joke? i’ve probably retold it 100 times since i say him last month.

    i also love the story for the title of this book…and the title, of course. i agree with jess–he’s one of my favorite authors to listen to.

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