The Professional, Personal, and Private Lives of a Creator

18 April 2019 | 12 Comments

I read every comment on this blog and my personal blog, including comments on really old posts. Recently someone commented on a post from 2011 about how they’ve begun to integrate photos and anecdotes from their personal life into their professional social media presence, and it was causing them some anxiety.

Specifically, they were worried about their “sphere of sharing.” Like, if you post a selfie, no problem–that’s your choice. But if you post a photo of you and your spouse or a story about the two of you, how does that impact your spouse? Are they okay with you sharing that information?

I don’t have a significant other, but I can relate to what the person was saying, as I still have lots of different relationships with people around the world. Some are professional and others are personal, and the level of privacy depends on various interactions.

This is where I refer to the sage advice of Neil Patrick Harris, who I quoted in the 2011 blog post:

I feel like it’s important to have three lives. Your professional life, your personal life, and your private life.

As someone in the entertainment industry, you need to be as forthcoming about your personal life as you can be, because if people are intrigued by you, then they’ll want to know more about you. If you suddenly clam up and say “No comment” on who you’re dating, you’re just a bad guest on Letterman.

I’m in the Howard Stern camp of full disclosure. He doesn’t talk about how he had sex with his wife that night, but he talks about having sex with his wife. I think that’s where the distinction lies. You want to be able to have some transparency with people who are watching you tell stories.

I hadn’t ever thought about it quite that way. There’s a distinction between the specific details of our private interactions (both professionally and personally) and our public interactions.

Granted, NPH has a much elevated celebrity status compared to you and me. But as creators, we are visible in the public eye through social media, the content we create and participate in, and the platforms on which we sell (e.g., Kickstarter). Many people connect with you better if you’re willing to talk to them as a person, not as a cold, distant corporation.

I think about this every week before my Wednesday morning Facebook Live chat. What topics can I share and which cross the line? Yesterday, for example, among the topics I discussed were games I want to play at Geekway, route-building games, a meeting with my manufacturer, Game of Thrones, a soccer game I attended, the books I just finished reading (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom), what Biddy was like as a kitten, and a question about Chinese food. I shared my experiences and perspectives without delving into the intimate details involving other people.

How have you learned to navigate the differences between public sharing of your professional, personal, and private lives?

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12 Comments on “The Professional, Personal, and Private Lives of a Creator

  1. My wife and I met you at GENCON last year. We are huge fans of your products and enjoy your activity on social media. It was exciting to meet you and a highlight of our con experience. So to us, you are a celebrity and thus your hair is always perfect and you never use the bathroom…or at least that is our perception of you. Meeting you at GENCON reminded us that you are a regular everyday person.

    As for what I do concerning privacy and separating my personal and work life, I don’t post pictures of my son (he is only four) on social media where he can be seen by non-family/friends. I do post lots of game pictures and enjoy sharing those games with others. I also don’t mix my work and family much. No games at work. Though in full disclosure, my stepson works for me now and that is an interesting situation. I often end up being much harder on him than my other employees. It sucks, but necessary to prevent the perception of favoritism. Fortunately he is very patient and understanding about the situation.

    I agree with NPH and his idea of three lives. Though I am no celebrity, I do keep my work life separate from my personal (with the exception listed above), and I also have a private life that I don’t share much beyond my wife and immediate family. though I will discuss my love of comic books to anyone who will listen…

    1. Thanks Jeremiah! It’s nice to know that a face-to-face chat can have that type of effect. :)

      I like your description of how you not only delineate what you share, but also what you actually do.

  2. I think you can get a lot out of cultivating raw personality without sharing a lot of personal information.
    I don’t know how to do this exactly, but there is exactly one videogame streamer I like called Day9. I’ve been following him (not super closely but I watch a few streams a month and follow his twitter) for about 4 year, and I only recently learned he had a partner. So without ever making this presumably very major part of his life particularly public, he manages to keep an audience engaged. Doubly interesting because he gives a lot of relationship advice on his streams.

  3. I appreciate this article, and will say for me I find it very hard.

    I do have all 3 of these lives, but since I own my own business, work from home, and have a wife and several children (who ‘live from home’), my 3 lives are very hard to separate and the one resource I need in order to enable that separation is in short supply: Time.

    So something has to give. For me, it’s my social media presence. That’s a huge “no no” in business, (I don’t even have an instagram account), but when I have to choose between “Color with Little John on Holy Thursday” or “Take photos to edit and post”, I gotta put this family first, and pray the rest works out well enough.

    So far that’s worked out. : )

    Anyone looking to be a part time, but fully committed, social media manager for a medium sized game and dice company? ; )

  4. I get this question every day. It is what I do for a living, working with senior level executives for tech companies in Silicon Valley helping them figure out how to develop those three lives. Helping them understand what to share, when to share, and why to share.

    The advice I provide is for them to shift their thinking. To help them realize, that in today’s world, knowing someone doesn’t mean being in the same geographical space at the same geographical time. And that leaders today lead through influence that extends far beyond their physical presence.

    Thus, when sharing something, people are more interested in “Why” you shared it rather than “What” you shared.

    And this isn’t just your opinion they are looking for. Fans and followers are looking for inspiration, for acceptance, for guidance, for something to aspire to. And the mundane is often the most fascinating because it is the part that connects us all.

    1. Richard: “people are more interested in “Why” you shared it rather than “What” you shared.” I really like that, as well as what you said about inspiration, acceptance, and guidance. Thank you!

  5. I’m an extremely extroverted person, it’s just who I am; my partner, the complete opposite. When we got engaged, she wasn’t ready to share – and I was okay with that, naturally caring about her I asked if it was okay if I did; she didn’t have a problem with it. I’ve made stuff-ups in the past by putting a picture she didn’t like up or something like that, but as we grew together we learnt. She’s come to grips with me wanting to share things things, but I’m also very mindful of her feelings.

    I get that there are different versions of us all, I live by the strong belief that you treat others how you expect to be treated.

    I recently ended my Kickstarter and in the last update, wanted to share full transparency, even sharing my personal Twitter or Instagram handles in addition to my company FB page and website. That there was more of me including them in my journey in developing this game, and I feel them backing it sort of gave the a little bit of a right to be included along the way, I’ll be sharing not just the development of the game but new projects and stuff they’ll help me accomplish along the way.

    -Michael

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with this, Michael. I’m glad you’ve found a good balance while being mindful of your wife’s feelings. I like that you shared those personal social media connections near the end of your campaign–that’s really neat.

  6. This topic resonates with me as a very public person and a Public Servant. I’m exceptionally transparent, so my private life is rather narrow compared to my professional and personal life and the intersection of where those worlds meet.

    As both a member of the FBI and an Air Force officer, I’m open about my affiliation. While I can’t talk about what I do, I’m always vocal about the merits of these two great organizations and I’m, in essence, always a recruiter.

    In my personal life, I share quite a bit via FB, but at the same time I’m sensitive to others’ wishes and always receive their assent to post pictures. Now, unlike many of my friends and colleagues, you will never see me post, react via emoji, or comment on anything political, as whomever is sitting in the White House is both the head of the Executive Branch and the Cimmander in Chief.

    So, for me, my professional life serves as an advocate for public service and my personal life centers on my family, girlfriend, games, and food.

  7. I think that I’d hire someone to control my social media and blogs, everything should point back to the company mission statement.

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