This blog is by now comfortable with itself, in fact knows where it’s going, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s running by now on a combination of whimsy and fellowship, so it is with whimsy and fellowship that I post this ditty so late on a Friday night it’s early Saturday morning, officially The Time When Nobody Ever Really Looks At Your Blog. I’ve always loved thinking about this whole blogging enterprise as a series of (pause, while I tuck away and count) 1,190 messages in as many bottles. With this post, 1,191. Posting as erratically as I do, at the lowest possible traffickey moments, ensures that the bottles can pick up a nice distressed patina before any of y’all are drawn to the glint of light down there near your feet, as the bottle for a moment catches a bit of the sun.
Over the past seven itchy years, 5,904 times did someone or another pause–not just pause, but vault over and shimmy under the various WordPress hurdles I’ve placed in your way–to say, “Hey. I thought that, too.” Or maybe, “Who knew I wasn’t the only one who thought that? But did you think of this…” Or sometimes, “Really? Really?”
Seven-plus years into this whole bare as much of my soul as I feel comfortable baring out of a stubborn belief that it will help more than just myself thing, this whole chit-chat with strangers and friends about intimate things in a public forum thing, I find that many of the observations I made within the first year or so remain true:
- We’re not alone in any of our pains. Not a one of them. And yes: that knowledge does make a difference.
- You get better in your writing when you have people to write for, regularly.
- You write more often when someone’s somewhere drumming her/ his fingers waiting for the words to appear. Those of you who were trying to write, pre-internet: remember that tough love adage, “No one is beating down your door, begging to see your writing”? Well. This is as close as many of us get to that, and it’s quite helpful.
- You pretty much have to leave self-consciousness at the door to do honest writing of any sort, and that’s a good thing, though challenging. What helps me is to think that I am really not projecting myself as an individual (with foibles aplenty), but standing in for others, many others.
- By the same token, unless you don’t care to continue relationships with the people you write about, there’s a whole boatload of emotional honesty that will go unexpressed in any personal narrative blog. The challenge is finding a path with sufficient fealty to self and other. A worthy challenge.
- Same can pertain even when you no longer have a relationship with people you write about.
- You may never really know what sort of an impact your blog writing will have on anyone, good or bad, and only do know anything when they tell you. Otherwise you’re singing to yourself in the shower. Which of course many of us enjoy.
- By the same token: people you never expected to read your stuff will read your stuff. And the tendrils of mutual understand you extend toward each other, in spite of your differences, will totally validate the risks you take with your writing.
- Never underestimate your reader’s intelligence. You’ll just make yourself and your reader unhappy.
- Good editing usually entails ending up with fewer words than you began with. Good luck.
Other things I’ve gathered over time:
- When a kid is pre-literate and the social sphere defined by your guardianship of them is limited, writing about them is easier.
- Writing about your kid gets progressively more challenging when your kid becomes able (and eventually, liable) to read what you write about them, or when people in their life are likely to do so.
- I have always envisioned my kids at age twelve or so, reading the whole archive of this thing with a friend looking over their shoulder. I haven’t envisioned an enemy reading any of this, and might not have been able to have written so much, had I done so. Corollary: the best reason I ever heard from a blogger about why she’d never publish her kid’s name in her blog is that the internet never forgets a name, and she wanted her kids’ names to lead to digital identities of their own making, audible over the din of her words about them.
- Eventually, the stories about my kids will feel more theirs than mine, and not mine to tell. I’ve been stepping back further and further over the past years, and it’s a worthy undertaking to try to separate out from the tightly woven family braid that strand that is mine alone, and still mine to describe.
- My desire to protect my family’s privacy has, over time, led me to shield from view the hardest moments we have together. I worry that the lacunae distort the portrait, a problem primarily if it leads anyone to compare themselves or their family against ours, and come up feeling in any way lesser. It is in sharing pain and imperfection that our stories help each other the most, yet in this regard mine here are incomplete.
- Back in the olden days, when there were fewer blogs and no social media like Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram or Tumbler or [ ________ space reserved for next new thing], the relationships we developed via blogs were fewer but deeper. Now I “know” a great many more people, but I think I know less about them. Not a’tall sure what they know about me, nor whether this is more problem than not. The world is a busy place, busier daily, is the thing. And the internet in general and social media in particular tends to intensify, rather than filter that business. That does feel like a problem.
- The metrics which computers produce so effortlessly for us (# readers, # posts, # site visits, # followers, # you name it) aren’t making us better writers or listeners, and I reckon the time we spend thinking about (or even chasing) those things is time we’re not thinking about how to be better writers or listeners.
- The fact that one could make scratch offa one’s blog (whether latté money or more) doesn’t mean one should. Which is not to say that one shouldn’t be paid for one’s writing. But one mustn’t be paid for this writing for it to have merit, something that may be lost on bloggers who got into this game after ads and ad networks appeared. And a blog’s being “monetized” ought not to change our perception of the value of the words or our experience producing them (in spite of the fact that in many cases it does).
- Culture may feel like a guide, sometimes even a pen (as in sheep’s pen, not mightier than the sword pen), but it’s way more pliant than any of us would have guessed. We are in the act of remaking it every day when we express and exchange this way, more or less unfettered. True fax.
- Finding a way to write here about what matters the most to me has become an invaluable (though usually underused) means of making sense of my life. I never expected that. After years of wanting to be a writer, I finally began to experience (thanks to blogging for years and years) the act of writing as critical to my internal evolution, and therein, I became a writer. In the process of soaking my experiences in lye, as it were, to cleanse them of the meaningless particulars while still clothing them in the meaningful ones, I bring myself somewhere usually better, clearer than I was before. I don’t want to waste your time; I want to have made the journey of value, and so to do that I need to mine carefully, ending up, I hope every time, with something worth it for us both. That is a priceless gift. So. Thank you, you out there, for giving it to me these seven years. Hoping for many such more.