Living La Vida: The Fine Line Between Personal and Public

Being at a strange point in my life (strange, but not altogether bad), the issue of the divide between personal life and public persona, especially online, has loomed larger and larger in my mind of late. My specific question lies in where we draw the line as authors. A lot of my questions stem from the strange quasi-celebrity status that comes with being an indie author. This isn’t to suggest some misplace scale of where I stand in the whole thing; in fact, that diminished standing is what makes it so tricky.

The rules are fairly simple for real celebrities: keep the personal life and the public life as divided as possible. You can let little bits of the personal life poke through, but a certain facade and distance must be maintained in order to keep your sanity. Sure, celebrities have varying levels of how much they share and don’t share, but in general, the line between the celeb and the people with whom they’re connecting is fairly solid.

Not so with the indie author. Most of us reside (and are used to residing) on the other side of the line. That’s great, too. It’s the rare indie author that gets a head full of themselves, and those that do tend to be handled within the community. Most of us are humble enough to realize our true place within the scale of things. In fact, I like that quite a bit about the community: most of us don’t have out-sized egos, and have the freedom to connect with other authors and readers without all the trappings of celebrity. At this point, I’m not sure I’d ever want to experience what real celebrities experience. It seems like a huge hassle.

The problem is, we’re not celebrities until we become celebrities. I’m not speaking of some meteoric rise to fame here – though that might apply; no, I’m speaking of those moments when we’re called upon to act with the grace of the seasoned celebrity who has been separating public life from private life for years. A nasty review. Trash talking on the Internet. Gossip. You get the picture. Some of these are situations that might be handled very differently were you not putting your works out there for public approval, but because you are a semi-public figure, you must handle things with a modicum of respect and never, ever, allow your emotions to show, no matter how much what’s happening may hurt you.

I’ve spoken some in the past about this dehumanizing aspect of celebrity. Thankfully, the friends have stuck with me after all, though I have experienced some shifts in relationships as I develop new friendships. Still, I have experienced some of the situations described in that post and the ideas of just how to act and react that seemed so clear back when I wrote that post have become very blurry. How to deal with comments that include both constructive criticism and just plain snarkiness? We’ve recently seen some downright nasty examples of interacting with reviewers and it’s disappointed me a little bit – on both sides. In some cases, the authors were particularly nasty and reacted very poorly to fair criticisms, but I’ve also seen some authors attempting to be even-handed and thank reviewers for even highly critical reviews and it’s blown up in their faces.

I haven’t had the latter occur…yet. The times that I have interacted with reviewers have been after they’ve personally contacted me about posting a review, and of late I’ve set a rule that I’m not allowed to read any reviews lower than a four star, just for my own sanity. Of course these reviews can still sting, but the code applies: readers are readers, authors are authors, and interaction between the two needs to happen on a very removed, careful basis.

It’s unfortunate, but there are good reasons, such as protecting the integrity of the review process. So now as I’m in that awkward transition phase, somewhere in between reader and author from one minute to another, I’m trying to find the most effective way to connect and share with readers without overstepping my boundaries. This is all part of deciding whether to share with you, the readers, what is going on in my life. I’m going through a fairly big change, and it’s a tumultuous time (in a good way), but I’m not sure just how much is appropriate to share. Still mulling over that question, but would like to get some feedback. How much is too much? How do you maintain that line, or do you maintain it at all?

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. As long as you don’t share where we live, I’m cool. 🙂

  2. I’ve always tried to keep a neutral, professional tone as much as possible (although I’m not above a humorous tweak now and again). I allow snippets of personal info, and the occasional personal photo, to appear but I’ve kept my private life, including family, friends, and relationships, pretty much to myself. As far as writing, if a reader has critique to offer, that’s fine as long as it’s delivered in a civil manner. I understand that not every reader will love my work, or think highly of it; I also realize that there are many ways that I can improve, grow, and expand as a writer. I guess part of “putting yourself out there” is the realization that you are also going to draw fire once in a while. Just like enjoying the outdoors; sometimes you get a dose of poison ivy or a bird poops on your head.

  3. one can be disarmed by an old friend who knew you when – and suddenly you’re telling real events as a means of sharing, of catching up … I did this recently to disastrous effect. The more I shared the more i was interrogated, even scolded, and then the brutal truth: “I’m married and I have to end this.” Candor got me banished. I’m still reeling. If it had been a stranger I might have had those reserves and boundaries.

  4. Here’s what I tell my kids: Anything you (or your friends) put on the internet is there forever.

    I’ve put some silly stuff on my blog. I even posted a rather unflattering picture of myself. (I mean, more unflattering than usual.) Each time I put something like that online, I think, “Will I be comfortable with that if someone brings it up 5 years from now? How about if it shows up on the cover of a tabloid?”

    Granted, the latter isn’t likely to happen. But if it did, how would I feel?

    What would a prospective employer think?

    What would my readers think?

  5. It’s an interesting line, one to be carefully tread. I am sharing about things related to my writing and my platform. Pretty much everything else stays behind the curtain–my moods, other pressures from other sources. I’ve never named my husband online and he prefers it that way…remaining the Husband Unit.

    As to readers, unless they contact me, I wouldn’t engage. I feel once the work goes out and people start reading, it becomes their domain. It’s interesting to see what people read into the work.

    Bad reviews are going to happen. Even masterpieces get them. So, we’re in good company.

  6. Very topical post for me. You’ll see why when I put up this week’s post at my blog. I’ve hedged on this one, but I consider the majority of the people who comment on my blog to be also at least acquaintances, so at this point, I’m okay with sharing some of my personal life with them, even if it doesn’t necessarily relate to my “writing career” (I have to chuckle a little at that).

    As to a negative review, I don’t think I would necessarily acknowledge one publicly at my blog, let alone go on the offensive (although I might feel offended). This is the problem with this new technology/social world. It’s much easier (but not necessarily better) for artists and critics to communicate with one another. Used to be you had to write a letter, and no one would see a review unless you were a professional reviewer. Times have changed.

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

  7. I’ve been thinking about all of this myself–wondering about putting too much of myself on my blogs, admitting things that don’t need to be shared because they have nothing to do with the writing. Another writer told me to put myself out there as competent and in control but since I rarely feel that way I didn’t want to make up a blog persona–better to show my vulnerable side, I thought. I try to keep my blogs simple and about my process but personal stuff creeps in despite my best attempts–I think we tend to forget that we don’t know most people commenting on our blogs and so we make assumptions that may or may not be true–it’s a fine line to tread…thank you for the post!

  8. I think about this, too. There’s plenty of gray area, and I’ve generally stayed well on the side of being private. I’m a very private person; that’s my comfort zone. Yet some of who we are has to shine through, or we risk coming off as insincere or fake. So while I don’t share my personal drama, I also understand that my writing journey and my personal journey often overlap. I am still searching for that line. As far as reviewers, I say always be gracious. Writing is still a profession, and rules of professional decorum apply. The nice thing about the internet is that we can click an x, close a window, and walk away.

  9. I’d be curious as to what people fear regarding sharing with others. Not the obvious maliciousness or crackpots, but what in your heart creates this question?

  10. I am a naturally reserved person. I (half)-joke that because I’m a Cancer, I’m very difficult to get to know; it may be two years before you know there’s anything beyond that shell. Yes, I smile and I joke around and I always try to act from a place of compassion, but I am very, very difficult to get to really know. In conversations, I tend to steer people to talk about themselves (easy to do!). To be honest, most people don’t notice that they learn nothing about me, even after years of talking.

    Of course, I’m probably far more transparent than I think.

    So, I’ve managed not to say anything helpful! I like Marie’s suggestion to consider that whatever you write or post will be around until forever. In addition, I decide how much to share based on if I would want the people at work to run across what I’ve said. I also try to decide if what I am writing will needlessly hurt someone.

  11. I think you do need to maintain a line, because there are some strange stalker type people. They don’t need to know all of your personal information. When I finish my book, I think I’ll avoid the ones that are under 4-stars, too. Seems like a great practice.

  12. I think the minute we get on the computer and start connecting, our lives are out there.
    I was searching for ankle high boots a couple of months ago and then every site or blog I went on there was an ad for ankle high boots, it didn’t matter if I was searching or reading about new books or toothbrushes, etc. There was an ad on the sidebar for boots! As for sharing addresses, there is a site called people finder and guess what? you are probably on there. Sometimes the internet can be scary!

Leave a Reply