“Listen, no one cares about you. . . . They only care about how much you care for them.”
Come on. Nobody cares about your opinions? Your politics? Your career?
I don’t buy it.
Sure, readers care most about what you can do for them. But if they’re going to keep reading your blog, and certainly if they’re going to hire you, they first have to like and trust you.
Which means they have to know who you are.
A-List bloggers cover the spectrum in how personal they choose to be.
Copyblogger’s Brian Clark describes himself as “a recovering lawyer” but doesn’t offer much more about himself.
Personal finance blogger Lynn Truong’s profile is just as brief: “Looked up the corporate ladder and decided to get to the top another way.”
Brazen Careerist’s Penelope Trunk, on the other hand, puts everything out there, from her Asperger’s disorder to her sex life with “the farmer.”
In between those extremes are Michael Martine of Remarkablogger, who has written about his divorce; Jon Morrow, who has written about his physical disability; and Blue Penguin Development’s Michael Katz, who writes in every post about his kids and his happily boss-less life.
None of those topics are the focus of their blogs, they’re just part of their personas: the things they choose to share about themselves.
The truth is, good writing is always personal, whatever its genre.
Fiction succeeds when its characters do, and characters succeed only when we know and care about them.
Speeches work only when the speaker shares his own views. (Believe me on this one. I was a corporate speechwriter for 15 years and spent lots of hours convincing execs to do it.)
Even the bloodless corporate press release works only when it includes real quotes and benefits. Otherwise, editors toss them into the waste basket.
So how do you decide how personal to get?
First, understand that “personal” doesn’t necessarily mean sharing the most intimate details of your life, no matter how well it works for Penelope. It means having a distinctive, individual voice. The voice that makes you you.
Know why you’re writing
Second, be clear about the purpose of your blog, or speech, or article.
If it’s purely to convey information, you probably won’t share much about your life, but you should make your own views clear. No “on the one hand, on the other hand.”
Food blogs like Macheesmo and Smitten Kitchen aren’t usually personal, but they’re completely individual. Nobody writes like Nick Evans of Macheesmo or Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, which is what makes them such fun to read. And why they have so many readers.
How personal should your writing be?
Like everything else about it, it’s entirely up to you, your personality, and your purpose. Share whatever you’re comfortable with and whatever will help your readers or listeners know you, trust you, and believe in your expertise.
A little humor goes a long way too. (See how well it works for Michael Katz.)
What do you think? Should all our writing be personal? Comment below!
Feel free to Tweet too.