Warning: Self-Regulation Kills Creativity

by Craig McBreen · 36 comments · Creativity, Social media


Let me toss you a hot word-grenade …

Authenticity. Oh no, not “that” word!

Is the social web You the real You?

Do you think you’re an online phony? A rebel without a cause?

Maybe you reveal too much? Or you’re a mouse with your filter set on high?

Ponder that for a moment.

Is the online You – your writing, those cheerful tweets, that smiling avatar, the genuine article? … (You, alone with your thoughts, weeping while no one is looking, cooking hot enchiladas and singing “Gangnam Style” at the top of your lungs?)

Of course not. God knows, we should only reveal so much online, right?

Right?

I often tout about letting your Swag fly free for all the world to see. It’s not a very serious thing to say, because I’m having fun with the language, BUT I am damn serious about the message.

And part of that message is about freeing yourself.

The other is letting all of us see at least 28.7% of the real you.

Whether online or off, you’re never going to bare all. That is unless you’ve just swallowed a goblet of Sodium Pentothal, couldn’t stop at three pints, or was born into the Kardashian family.

But guess what? That’s okay. (Not revealing everything, that is).

There are certain things we don’t want to know, but letting your readers peek into your world, just a wee bit, isn’t the most terrible thing ever, really.

We’re never 100% authentic online. No shit, Sherlock.

We’re never 100% authentic in real life either.

Maybe we are only One-Hundred-Percent real when we’re alone by ourselves. Heck, I don’t know, but I do believe you shouldn’t hold back so much when you write. That’s all.

You don’t need to become a dirty, old potty mouth or try to play the role of Wizard-Guru who suddenly knows all things social media. No, of course not. Don’t pretend, just have a little bit of fun with it.

Many writers who bring me back to their writing, time and time again, possess something akin to blog goo.

Their blogs are super-sticky, in a good way.

People that weave a great tale; bring forth brilliant business advice; give you that morning get-up-and-go; but also insert just enough of their quirky selves into the content to make it engaging.

That’s the goo and you’ve got it, in spades.

We’re not cyborgs (at least not yet).

And that is all today’s post is about:

Not being a self-regulating robot when it comes to your daily practice of writing.

The next time you sit down to craft your next post, why not dial down the internal filters, just a little?

That’s really my message in a nutshell: Let more than a flyspeck of that inner-You out.

Got that?

What’s the worst (insert blog tragedy) that could happen?

The best? Your creativity could explode and writing might soon be fun again. A writing, pulse grenade of euphoria.

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to know.

 

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Brent Kelly December 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Great advice. My blog discusses some serious financial information, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. I want to provide sound information while also using MY voice. I think fear of being different often holds us make, but that is what makes us unique. Thanks for the post.
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Craig McBreen December 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Hi Brent,

First of all thanks for the visit!

And, YES! We have too much cookie cutter in this world, and that boiler plate don’t sell. Why does finance have to be boring. Heck, look at what Ramit Sethi does. Glad you are using your voice.

Fear of being different does hold many back, but glad to see it’s not you. Thanks, Sir!

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Kaarina Dillabough December 5, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Craig, my sole purpose when I started my blog was to eliminate the self-editor in me. Mission accomplished, so I have no problem saying what I mean and meaning what I say. What you see is what you get:) I’m at a new juncture now, and I will continue to write in my true “authentic” style and voice (don’t you wish you had a nickel for every time that word’s used?), but the focus will be on building the biz aspect. Something that took a back seat to writing and building a community first. Cheers! Kaarina P.S. I’m dancing gangnam style right now ;)
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Craig McBreen December 5, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Hey Kaarina,

Blogging is great for that, isn’t it? Glad your mission was accomplished!

Sounds like a very exciting time for you and that is great to hear. I went through a very similar evolution myself, focusing more on the biz, that is.

Dance away and have a great day!

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Rob Skidmore December 5, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Great post!

I never know if I am being 100% authentic because I really don’t know who the real me is. I feel like every day I discover a new layer of the strange creature that is myself.

But I have spent enough time with that strange creature to recognize his voice and I can tell when it’s coming through in my writing.

WOW, this is a really strange comment and I’ve used the word strange a lot.

I guess I’m just practicing my authenticity. :-)

Anyway, like you, I really enjoy writers who are real. An authentic personality makes reading anything so much more interesting and fun .

I heard somewhere that a good actor can read the phone book and keep peoples attention. A writer with a vibrant voice can transform even the dullest topic into an interesting read. I read a great post on Plantar Fasciitis just this morning. It was informative and entertaining because of the writers authenticity.

Thanks for your thoughts Craig. Always appreciate them.

Here is the link if you care about Plantar Fasciitis – http://www.irunfar.com/2012/12/plantar-fasciitis.html :-)
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Craig McBreen December 6, 2012 at 3:55 am

Hi Rob,

Thanks and I obviously feel the same way. I’ve used the term authenticity on more than a few post (maybe a bit too much). It is a term that gets bandied about and I’m not sure if we’re ever 100% authentic, whatever that truly means.

And as you’ve written here, it’s about voice and not being afraid to let ‘er rip, strange creature or not. So, if blogging is part of your routine, please let that voice out so we can all experience it.

Plantar Fasciitis, huh? I was watching a football game the other day and the commentators started talking about it. But guess what? They drove it into the ground ;) Bad topic for them.

But thanks for the link, my wife will definitely appreciate it!

Thanks for the great comments, Sir!

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Sue Neal December 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm

My internal editor’s a killer – I feel I should pin this post on the wall as a constant reminder to loosen up a bit.

We’re naturally afraid of exposing ourselves – and as we spend our lives learning how to play a part, or more likely many different parts, it can be difficult to set aside the script and start jamming in our own voice.

I’ve heard actors say they act because it’s easier than being themselves – maybe that’s true for writers, too?

Sue
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Craig McBreen December 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Hi Sue,

I figure, hey, it’s blogging … so, what do we have to lose? It’s not like we’re writing for the Washington Post, right? Loosening up a bit is good for you and your readers.

“start jamming in our own voice.” – I love that! And this medium is setup for it, heck it’s better than liquid courage. Write with that filter off, or at least have it set on low ;)

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Josh December 5, 2012 at 7:06 pm

You are speaking my language here, but you already knew that.
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Craig McBreen December 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Oh, yes! :)

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Mary Stephenson December 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Hi Craig

Absolutely right on this one. How many boring blogs do we go to? Besides when you insert your personality into what you write it becomes very easy to see who you are, your sense of humor or if you really even are someone I would be interested in getting to know.

Honesty even with ourselves seems to be an issue. If we really took a tally on how we stack up with the rest of the world, would we really give ourselves a “10″. You are right I don’t think we want to know everything about someone, even someone we are extremely close to. We never act on all our thoughts, so we should never be an open book for the world to see.

It is cool to be vulnerable, compassionate and firm on our opinions even if they don’t follow the majority of the people. It is what makes us interesting and unique.

We can’t please everyone…and if they just want facts, they can go to the reference books.

Mary
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Craig McBreen December 6, 2012 at 12:02 am

Hi Mary,

Glad you liked this. That’s the thing. Experiencing a blog is a subjective experience of course, so one boring blog might be amazing to the next person who reads it. But that blog goo I speak of? It’s the result of … well you summed it up so well … “It is cool to be vulnerable, compassionate and firm on our opinions even if they don’t follow the majority of the people.”

Thanks!

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Akos Fintor December 5, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Hey Craig,

No question, humans are “role players”. We speak differently to a homeless, to a CEO of a big corporation, to a 6-month old baby or to a dog (Yes, I have an obsession with talking to dogs.)
I think we just fear of being ourselves on and/or offline. Who wants to be judged? Nobody. But some people just don’t care about it.
Bottom line:
“What people think of me is none of my business.”

best
Akos
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Craig McBreen December 6, 2012 at 3:59 am

Hey Akos,

You are certainly correct, but some are afraid to reveal anything. And guess what? That was me for a very long time. Speaking, writing, expressing myself in anyway … the filter was on high. No problem talking to dogs though, right? They won’t answer back (unless a bark counts) and will love you no mater what you say.

“What people think of me is none of my business.”
– Yep. Perfecto.

Thanks for the visit, Sir!

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Liz McDonald December 6, 2012 at 2:14 am

This post is so timely for me. I write a humor blog and struggle mightily with how much to reveal and how far to go. On Monday I wrote a post and got some static for having characterized the Blessed Virgin Mary as “bovine” and Joseph as brain dead. I had my reasons.

In general, my small but loyal base of regular readers think I’m great.

I am hopelessly conflicted–I want to say what I want to say, and I want to write great jokes, yet I am terrified of offending people. Each week is a tension convention for me as I agonize over whether I have gone too far. After I post, I obsessively check and recheck my words.

I caved under the pressure of that one comment on Monday’s post and immediately pulled it from two places I publish, I then wrote a stirring manifesto about creativity and courage. There are no easy answers, but in general I do think it is best to rock your own voice and go as deep as you dare without being libelous gratuitously cruel–terrifying as it is.

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Craig McBreen December 6, 2012 at 4:20 am

Hi Liz,

Hey, it’s your house, right?

I could lie and say write whatever the hell you want, but we all hold back to some extent, some just way more than others. I want to reach that group. But if you’re writing a humor blog, revealing more than the average bear is probably a good thing. Look what it did for someone like Jenny Lawson. I’m just not sure if she’s beyond crazy or that’s her. Regardless, crazy works in her world.

I do care what people think, but I’ve just learned to deal with it and not care so damn much, basically realizing it all stemmed from fear, playing the observer and realizing how soul crushing it was.

Anyway like George Carlin said:
“People who say they don’t care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don’t care what people think.”

I think it would be good practice to maybe sleep on a post if you think you’ve gone too far (there is such a thing of course). But like you’ve stated here, there are no easy answers.

“in general I do think it is best to rock your own voice and go as deep as you dare without being libelous gratuitously cruel–terrifying as it is.”
–Cheers to that!

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Sheila Bergquist December 6, 2012 at 9:03 am

Such a great post! When I started writing, I wrote about very emotional topics and really opened up. It was very therapeutic for me and now I’m glad I did it. I received great responses and people mentioned how much they loved the fact that I had shared my own experiences and life. I think you hit on a very important part of success. Great advice.
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Craig McBreen December 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Hi Sheila,

Thank you! Blogging is like the long, fun slog that never stops … one iteration after the other. And part of experimentation and getting things right is developing your unique online voice. Opening up helps! I’m glad you did it too and have experienced what happens when you do.

Thanks again!

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Tim Bonner December 6, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Hi Craig

You’re a man after my own heart. One of my posts was recently in a similar vein.

I couldn’t agree with you more. I struggle to keep going back and reading blogs that just have no personality and their writer’s don’t share anything about themselves. You do have to draw a line somewhere but that’s no way to keep your visitor’s happy.

I’ve been giving at least 28.7% of the real me for some time now! At the end of the day, people either like you or they don’t and if they like you they’ll stick around. I hope there’s more of the sticking around though :-).
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Craig McBreen December 7, 2012 at 3:33 am

Hi Tim,

Good to know, Sir.

I’d say you’re well above that 28.7% ;)

At the end of the day, people either like you or they don’t. Yep and I say there is something to this whole unpopular thing, really. That’s where you gain traction, when you hit it with a certain crowd and stop trying to please everybody every time.

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Geoff Livingston December 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I enjoy the challenge of writing a good blog post without acting like an asshole. If that’s self regulation and inauthentic, then I’m all for it. LOL!
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Craig McBreen December 7, 2012 at 3:39 am

Hi Geoff,

Okay, I’ll admit to being self-regulating in that department too. Also thanks for reminding me of “The No Asshole Rule,” a book I’ve been meaning to purchase for the longest time ;)

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Ralph December 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm

You don’t want to know what happens when I hit 28.8% Yikes.

“I often tout about letting your Swag fly free for all the world to see. ”

That better be some pretty nice swag if you’re just going to let it flop about like that. ;-)

Great point of view and like Geoff the best I can do is ensure I am not being a jerk while trying to be funny and interesting and honest and real. It’s a fine line, I suppose. Last night’s dinner is just so uninspiring. So, is the problem I am having with my…….
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Craig McBreen December 8, 2012 at 12:00 am

Hi Ralph,

Yes, that’s a danger zone and no one will be able to recover ;) All that flopping about and stuff.

Yes, by no means am I suggesting someone go out and be a jerk, but you knew that. It is a fine line though. I just think people need to let it hang out a bit, that is all. Um, without revealing too much or acting like an A-hole

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Brian D. Meeks (@ExtremelyAvg) December 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I like writers who mix snark and wisdom. If one can do that, then they’ve got me hooked. There is a mommy blog in the U.K., that I love. I am a middle-aged, single, no kids, reader, so I’m not her target demographic, but the writing is fantastic and that is all that matters.
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Craig McBreen December 8, 2012 at 12:03 am

Hi Brian,

That’s a gooey mix for sure, snark and wisdom, that is. Yes, I’ll admit to having read some of those mommy blogs and there’s some quality material out there for sure. The frustrations of parenthood can drive creativity.

Thanks for stopping in, Sir!

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Brian D. Meeks (@ExtremelyAvg) December 8, 2012 at 2:17 pm

The blog is called Slummy Single Mummy and I can’t recommend it enough. You will chortle.
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Craig McBreen December 10, 2012 at 3:16 am

Cool. Just the name Slummy Single Mummy makes me want to click.

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Adam December 7, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Craig,

This post is so on target! Yet, it is a dynamic I have wrestled with. I tend to be fairly conservative with what I say online. Part of that is my industry, part of that is my offline position, and the other part is simply that it is rare that someone has ruined themselves with what they DIDN’T say online.

That being said, I’m trying to move a little more toward that 28.7%. Because in the end, people connect with the person behind the content, not the content itself.

Love what you’ve been doing here lately! You must be at least up to 34.76% by now. :)
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Craig McBreen December 8, 2012 at 12:07 am

Hey Adam,

Glad you enjoyed. I really loved your latest as well!

You make some very good points and sure, sometimes you have to practice a little restraint, but I do think some go overboard, and this kind of practice can suck the creativity right out of you.

“Because in the end, people connect with the person behind the content, not the content itself.”
– Yep. I think that sums it up rather nicely.

I appreciate the kind words. I was trying to bust 30%, so I’m glad you approve!

Thanks!

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jessica December 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm

For me, finding the appropriate balance between wisdom + wit is a creative process. I find that I can either a) reveal my quirky thought processes (as a human being/writer) or b) share info that’s helpful to others – without coming across as boring or c) Merge a and b which is ideal = gooey.
To *not* come across as boring we must share our personal experiences and apply them to the business world. This brings value. And it gets easier over time. Because our experiences multiply and our writing style strengthens. At least that’s what I’ve found. But I’ve only been blogging for a year, so what do I know?! :)
great post, Craig!

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Craig McBreen December 10, 2012 at 3:25 am

Hi Jessica,

Yes, the merging of a and b is what is usually considered gooey.

“To *not* come across as boring we must share our personal experiences and apply them to the business world. ”
– This is a very good way to put it. I think some people have misunderstood what I was writing. It’s simply about revealing just enough of yourself to make things interesting, and this applies to all … from accounting bloggers to those mommy bloggers out there.

You’re right. It does bring (sticky) value and only gets better as we progress and become more creative. I’d say you know quite a bit and at just over one year, just like me, I’d say we are veterans in this space ;)

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dimaks | The Urban Walker December 13, 2012 at 9:20 am

Sometimes authenticity is a vague term too. It can be played to appear in different masks, online. For me, I am trying to make my posts mix of personal opinions with blends of what I do professionally and bits of spices from the ideas of experts on and offline. Great blog here!
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Craig McBreen December 14, 2012 at 2:36 am

Indeed it is! And most people do want the real you, I believe.

Thanks for stopping by!

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