I have written honestly about my life through blogging over the last three years. And after experimenting with a number of blogs, I made Moonboat Cafe my omnibus. This little virtual cafe is specific enough to offer a particular experience -- that of taking a break from the world, dreaming of possibilities, and reflecting on life in order to live well. But it is also broad enough to include a wide range of topics. As my life evolved, the topics shifted around it. I have written about moving, gardening, hiking, traveling, writing, books, holidays, love, time-management, faith, and family.
Then came seminary. Now, days and evenings are so packed that I find it hard to write for a blog. Although I write in a daily journal, I don't want to just dump excerpts from my journal onto the pages here. It leaves me feeling over-exposed, and it may make you uncomfortable.
I've realized that uncomfortable feelings after sharing very private things reveal healthy boundaries. There should be aspects of my life which are private, not because I can't share them, but because I need a quiet place where I rest and where inspiration is born. And you need to feel that you could meet me in person without blushing.
Of course, blogs were designed for personal, experiential writing, for the purpose of telling about one's life and oneself. And we've done a lot more with blogs over the last decade, using them for a wide variety of purposes -- sharing information and ideas, chatting with others, staging public forums, promoting products or businesses, creating marketing platforms. Recently, I have noticed a new trend. Quite a few of the blogs I have read lately have become extremely intimate, sharing details which would feel very inappropriate in a face-to-face conversation. If the written words were said aloud in a normal setting, all the people in the room would be uncomfortable. This seems to be the latest extension of blogging -- pushing the boundaries of normal privacy. People are even doing this in religious blogs.
When writers break conventional boundaries to share intimate details about their lives, readers are naturally surprised, maybe even stunned, and that creates a sort of adrenaline rush which mimics the feelings of genuine, life-changing impact. Although it is not a catalyst for genuine growth and it does not truly educate, writer-disclosure has become the leading edge in writing, especially in blogging. Some call it "courageous" or "powerful" or "ground-breaking." In reality, the ground which is being broken is the space around a soul which had previously been marked "private," for very good reasons.
By its very nature, intimacy is limited. I need intimacy in order to be whole, but it eludes me if I am sharing my intimate self with thousands of strangers. I have no mystery left and no food for another soul which has not already been picked over and left overnight on the table. Even Jesus, who came to save everyone, did not entrust himself to all people. Even he had intimate events which were only shared by a few friends. But if I follow modern writing trends, I will have none.
Relating something which is honest and true is not the same as shocking readers by writing things which would be inappropriate in the context of most relationships. As a reader, I search for great writing. But that does not mean I need to know what a writer does behind closed doors. In fact, too much disclosure pushes me away. It reminds me of Hollywood actresses who show too much flesh in order to get everyone's attention. We all look, but then we look away.
But how much is too much? Where do we draw the line between winsome self-disclosure and a boundary violation?
Where do you stand on the issue of disclosure? How much is too much? Where do you draw the line -- as a reader and as a writer? How much privacy do you need to create and to live a healthy life?
Painting by Edward Hopper, New York Restaurant, c. 1922, courtesy of Dover Publications.