Revealing intimate details about your life may bring you media attention, a Facebook post or an appearance on reality TV, but beware: Thanks to technology, your revelations may be available forever.

As a memoir teacher, I encourage clients to write drafts without censoring themselves. There is so much more juice when we tell the truth without worrying about how we’ll be perceived or whether we’ll hurt the feelings of others. If we pull back too far and sanitize what we have written, we can squeeze the life from our material, making it as dry and uninteresting as a dull day memorialized in the Congressional Record.

So write it all down on paper or on your computer. This gets it out of your head, helps you sort things out, and is often healing. Later, if you choose to put it out into the world, you can consider what to do with the material.

Because then another set of issues arises: your comfort level comes into play. How much do you want to tell?

It’s a personal matter. I write my draft and then I may pull back, edit it into a version that I’m comfortable exposing. I ask myself whether what I publish will hurt someone I love or embarrass me in years to come.

Strike the right balance between self-exposure and discretion. Few will be interested in reading about your life if it is boring. On the other hand, salacious details for the sake of shock value may prevent you from writing pieces that engage your reader on a deep emotional level. You may miss the opportunity to connect with readers and move them to laughter or tears or get them to nod with an understanding of our common human condition. In the end, you want to feel comfortable with and proud of the pieces you put out into the world.

Writing exercise: Review a piece you’d like to share with others. Have you struck a balance with which you feel comfortable between self-exposure and discretion?

Copyright © 2013 by Laura Deutsch

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