Today’s post is brought to you by a writer who wrote with me in college for The Stony Brook Press. Today, Tom Senkus focuses his creative efforts not only on writing, but also on composing and performing music. He is currently in Europe where you may have seen him playing his guitar on a street corner while dressed as a robot. (It’s true, follow his band as they busk the world.)
Although blogging for fun is fun, Tom’s post explores the negative possibilities that may surface for bloggers, and he uses his real-life experiences to show you how to avoid the same.
The Pitfalls of Personal Blogging
by Tom Senkus
“I blogged every chance I could, every day. It caused irreparable harm in my daily life and led to the loss of my home, my car, my wif—”
Not exactly. While people encourage nascent writers to blog to sow their talent, I wish someone had told me the DANGERS of personal blogging! Exposing yourself to the public might not make you the next Marina Abramovic of writing, but here are a few pointers I wish I had known before I meticulously updated.
Not Suitable For Work
Search engines are wonderful ways to find out about anything – including you. Most people make a distinction between work and home, but these gaps have been narrowed since employers realize that trade secrets, corporate reputation, and other security compromises can be made with a seemingly-innocuous post to Twitter or Facebook.
I remember a job interview where I was repeatedly asked whether I had used “the Facebook, Myspace, or other online stuff.” The interviewer smugly turned her monitor around. There was my personal blog, in all its libertine glory. What felt like an intrusion into my private life was summed up by her contemptuous reply: “Mr. Senkus, your writing is, um, interesting.”
One English blogger, writing about her experiences working and raising children in Paris, lost her job even though she took precautions to protect her identity. However, her story has a lemon-to-lemonade twist, with her receiving compensation and media approval.
TIP: If you’re going to write about yourself, use a pseudonym.
What works for David Sedaris might not work for you. Sedaris is renowned for his off-beat anecdotes about his colorful life and odd-ball family. However, not everyone will appreciate your self-deprecating anecdotes and personal anguish as literature. Your family could describe your personal blog as a “cry for help”—even if you simply describe a bad day. One writer I know had an intervention staged because of their blog content!
One of my friends was upset with me for posting a blog about her living situation that was “less-than-adequate.” When she found out, I was forever introduced at parties as “the writer who publishes his memoirs online about everyone.” Needless to say, people kept their distance.
TIP: Release your material well in the future to give a disconnect between the past and present. Change the names of characters. Acquire media insurance for writers.
Write About What You Know?
Danger may await if you’re seeking to find your inner Raskolnikov. Perhaps my logic was flawed, but thought that in order to write about the underbelly of Portland, Oregon, that I would have to spend time among criminals, late-night theaters, and squats. The problem with this was finding what’s “reasonable research” rather than, Wow, this would make an incredible blog!
For me, I ended up mugged twice, robbed thrice, and nearly followed by gangs for a missing drug stash. Another acquaintance was arrested by undercover federal agents in a local bar. Had “blog research” gone too far?
Content posted on the Internet CAN be used as evidence in court. Blog content, location of events, even the time you posted! So…
TIP: …go with your gut; one doesn’t have to be a butcher to know what a rump roast is!
Tom Senkus was a Portland, Oregon-based writer from 2004 – 2009. Since then, he’s taken on busking around the US, UK and Europe in search of bridging the gap between “work and hobby” with his band, The East Cackalacky Ascetic Marching Death Band. His latest book is The Guide to Busking.