Family vs. Blog: When Do We Overshare?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

LuAnn with her muses: her family. "Yes, I'm oversharing. Again."

I wrote and sold the first story about daughter #3 when she was six years old. The piece relayed a humorous story involving Holy Communion, the bread dipped in grape juice, and the subsequent laughter when she forcefully proclaimed to our Pastor, “I am not eating or drinking blood.”

The anecdote was cute and it required only a quick write-up before I sent it off to a publisher.

When daughter #2 was not selected for a part in a local children’s theater production, I scribbled a poem on a receipt I dug out of my purse, watching her reaction when her name was not announced. The piece sold to a month later and I received $50 for 14 lines capturing a single moment of her life.

Now, I have four grandchildren and the story possibilities continue to grow.

Here’s where it gets awkward.

I’m a writer. I write. And, like many writers, the spotlight shines (sometimes) too brightly on my family and their experiences. After all, writers are told to “write what we know” and what or who do I know better than my family.

But as my brood grows older, they do not necessarily like their 15 minutes of fame in one of mom’s articles or poems or columns.

What’s a writer mama or grandma to do? How do you find balance between sharing a life lesson or a hearty laugh from one you love and oversharing, risking their embarrassment? Is it an invasion of their privacy?

A few months ago, I wrote an essay about a current and newsworthy item in my home state and mentioned daughter #1, who works in business development.

“Gee, Mom,” the conversation started. “Thanks for talking about me in your newspaper column. My phone has been ringing non-stop and so have the e-mail comments.”

Great, I thought. I’m getting through to people.

But had I overstepped the imaginary line in the sand where personal eclipses into professional? Should I not share her successes, not offer examples for others to learn from?

Yeah, yeah, so I’m writing about one of my children. Again.

The argument extends beyond words on a page. Do we overshare about our children on Facebook or Twitter? It’s not like I’m posting on my Facebook page, “Oh, so proud of grandchild #2. He went on the big boy potty today!”

Sure, I post some pictures of the grandkids on my Facebook wall so far-away family and friends can watch them grow up. Should I?

Will my words or photos one day make them uncomfortable?

It’s especially tough when you’re a mommy blogger or a grandmommy blogger because these pulled snapshots of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives generate ideas and hopefully, give valuable information (or a chuckle) to others in similar situations.

Until they demand I stop penning their stories, I will continue to use my family as my creative muse. They are the best sampling of life as I know it and write it.

And the story must go on.

by LuAnn Schindler. You may find more examples of my oversharing tendencies at my website


Linda O'Connell said...

Erma did it, and you can too! I've been published in 16 Chicken Soup books, and more than half involve stories about family members. Write on! Stop by and visit

Margo Dill said...

LuAnn: I agree with Linda! What else are we supposed to be inspired by? Parents have been embarrassing their children for centuries. So, just because the whole world can read it now, why should we stop? :) LOL!

Mikki said...

I think it depends upon what your own feelings are about your family, and who reads about them. Personally, I don't read blogs and/or Facebook etc. about family events, and so on. When I don't know someone as a personal friend, I'm really not interested in what their kids and grandkids do. I have kids and grandkids, and I love them dearly and am very proud of them, but I don't write publically about them. My family is private, and I am going to keep them that way. I don't think writing about one's personal life, including family, is something that should be done where the whole world can read about you and them. The Internet is not a safe place, and there are 1000s of people who can attest to that from a personal standpoint. Of course there are also 1000s more who do this every day of their lives and nothing happens as a result of the Internet. I'm just not one who sees the point of exposing my children and grandchildren to the view of the entire world. JMHO, however.

LuAnn Schindler said...

Margo, I don't write to embarrass my kids. I hope their stories have universal appeal - parents from all walks can relate.
My biggest concern, as they've grown and now, a couple have children, is where does their right to privacy begin?

Unknown said...

LuAnn, as a writer with two grown children, I lean towards protecting the privacy of these individuals. It is a line to cross that takes a lot of consideration, seems to me.

Margo Dill said...

I know you don't write to embarrass your children or grandchildren. You are very loving. What I should have said was that it is EASY as a parent to embarrass our children, even when we don't mean to. I used to be embarrassed when my mom wore these one polyester slacks to the mall to take me shopping. As a parent, I now know that she was comfortable in them AND she was not buying herself new things, so she could buy them for me.

On this entire topic, I honestly and seriously think it depends on the family and person AND what you are revealing. If you are revealing a cute story about your child in a restaurant--that's one thing. Other parents can relate and smile, too. If you are revealing intimate details about your teenage daughter's drug abuse, that's a whole other ballgame. Again, I am not saying that you shouldn't write about it--it depends on the family and the audience.

In my opinion, we are often given joys and struggles to learn from them and to share with others who will learn from them. That's why we were given the gift of writing.

Finally, I don't believe a writer should ever use their words to hurt someone. If you are hurting your child/grandchildren by writing about them, of course, I don't think you should.

My two cents. :)

Linda Austin said...

And then there's memoir writing! I say as long as you're not revealing intimate moments of what people do in the bathroom or bedroom, or something else you know will be horrifyingly embarrassing, and it's in the good-natured spirit of universal bonding, it's a go.

T.K. Marnell said...

I think writing about your friends and family is fine as long as (a) you're not divulging anything that could damage their reputations, (b) you're representing them truthfully, and (c) you stop if they say they don't like it. Too many older relatives believe that they have the "right" to do and say whatever they want, as if their kids/grandkids/nieces and nephews aren't independent human beings who deserve to have a say in how they're represented to the world. A friend of mine, for example, cut off contact with a certain family member several years ago, but she still posts old photos of him on her Facebook profile calling him "my Johnny," sometimes accompanying them with lies. He has told her in no uncertain terms that their relationship is over, but she continues to do it. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if she's doing it on purpose, just to prove that she can and he's powerless to stop it.

But as long as you're sensitive to the opinions of the people you're talking about, it should be fine. I may be a little hypersensitive, actually, because there was an incident over the first novel I wrote in high school. I wrote about a troubled girl with a borderline abusive mother, and my own mother showed it to her book club with pride. But they declined to read it because "they knew the people in it" and said it made them uncomfortable. The mother in the book was not based on my mother, but they thought she was and might have made damaging assumptions about her because of it. So now I'm very careful to make sure that my characters are not traceable to people in real life, accept to people who know me very, very well.

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