Greyscale pic of whitewashed stairs against a wall, two figures dressed in black sitting morosely. Photo by Elisabetta Foco on Unsplash

How to Avoid T. M. I. in Your Book

T. M. I.

If it has more than three f-bombs and makes me feel panicky, my piece doesn’t get published.

Because it’s probably Too Much Information.

Too soon to write about whatever was making me feel my feelings.

It’s in danger of being emotional vomit (and nobody likes vomit of any kind).

I do a lot of different types of writing, but I divide it all broadly into two categories:

  1. Private writing, for my eyes only.
  2. Public writing, for anyone who cares to read it.

Most of my first drafts are private, for a bunch of reasons:

  • They’re shitty, and wonderful in their shittiness, and therefore not for anyone else.
  • I’m figuring out what I think about something and don’t want to present half-formed soundbites.
  • I’m hammering out thoughts as they spill out of my brain before I forget them and nobody needs to see that.
  • They’re nobody else’s business.
  • And because for me, writing can be therapy.

If I am super angry, or afraid, or sad, I write about it. I get those feelings out of my head and onto paper, where they can’t hurt me anymore or destroy my day from the inside.

These drafts are often irrational. Sometimes they’re mean-spirited or outright mean.

They’re always biased (I mean we’re all always biased but these are spectacularly biased with no attempt to be impartial or reasonable).

Occasionally they’re untrue.

Invariably they’re embarrassing.

These emotional car-wrecks are definitely not for public consumption because it’s not the best of me and it could hurt someone else.

Later, though, when I can think my way through things, it might become a piece I share in public; when it’s less raw, when I’m over the initial intense feelings, and when I know what I really think.

It’s not fair or classy to emotionally vomit on my audience. They’re not my therapists and I have no right to burden them with my angst.

When I have a little distance and perspective, I can share my feelings and experiences with a little more thoughtfulness about who might be reading, what they might get out of it, and why it’s important to me to publish it.

If you’re writing something very personal and wondering, “Should I publish this? Is it too much? Will I sound bitter?”

I find these three questions help:

  1. Am I still raging/hurting/in shock? If so, I keep it private.
  2. Is it a diatribe aimed at someone else? If so, nobody else gets to see it.
  3. Why am I writing this? If it’s as a cathartic release or so I don’t scream at someone, it remains for my eyes only.

And a bonus if you’re wondering whether to include a particular passage in a book or an essay:

What’s the point of this story? Does it help move the narrative along? Or is it getting in the way?

This is one of the aspects of writing I help my MicroBook authors with — it’s just one of the writing skills for life they take away with them after our four weeks together.

Write your MicroBook this month — grab your place here before we start this afternoon. It’s not too late to sign up!