Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All That the Blog Leaves Out

Does this ever happen to you as a blogger? You learn of a new reader and suddenly you look at yourself and your blog through this person's eyes? You re-read your most recent posts with this new lens and a furrowed brow. And then you become frozen in a coma of hyper-focused self-doubt?

Yes? {Crickets chirping.} No?

Upon request, I gave my blog address to a new friend. I was sincerely excited and flattered that she wanted to read. However, as I handed over the slip of paper with the URL written, I became ill with self-doubt and felt compelled to say, "I swear I'm not nearly as self-absorbed as I seem on my blog." It was a statement, but it sounded more like a plea. "Or as shallow!" I wanted to shout, but that seemed a little self-absorbed. And shallow. I also resisted the urge to crawl under the table.

I'm as fickle as a pickle; thrilled to share what I've written in one moment and churning in embarrassment the next. (I wonder, is this what makes me a writer?)

When this happens, I usually spend some quiet moments in the worn-out wingback chair deep in the mahogany library of my brain, holding an unlit pipe to my lips and asking myself, "Is my blog a good representation of who I really am? What does the blog leave out?"

As I ponder the answer, I usually develop a headache because pondering is very hard work for my mind. Besides that, the lighting is bad in my brain library, and that kind of gives me a headache too. After the pondering, I start pleading my case for and against myself. To myself. And then I let myself be the judge.

I usually settle down and embrace the fact that blogging is my wonderfully self-indulgent hobby that fulfills a need to express myself and my parade of passing thoughts. Narcissistic? Sure. Completely subjective? Of course. Worthwhile? Absolutely. It cancels the desire I might otherwise have to hush everybody and shout, "I'm telling the story!"

But, of course, there are parts left out, and the dangerously delightful thing is that I get to choose exactly what is left on the cutting room floor. And though I try to write this blog for myself, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that everything I post here is written with an audience in mind, an audience made up of people I love and respect as well as people who are completely anonymous to me. And I like all of them, I really do.

So what gets left out?

This blog is not a diary for me and, therefore, will never be the place where I splatter my uncensored opinions, never caring who gets smacked in the face with one of my flying notions. I save my flying notions for my real diary. (Actually, I don't have a real diary. My flying notions are saved for my conversations with Ryan; he loves my uncensored, flying opinions.) The point is that I try to be careful and thoughtful because I'd like this to be a friendly place for one and all. You know, like Disneyland but with free churros. Some blogs are all about opinion and debate, but that's not my goal. My goal is Disneyland. With free churros.

Next place for edit? The family. While I aim to portray a realistic view of my family (because this is a record of my life), I don't share everything about my husband and kids and our relationships. The longer I blog, the more sensitive I feel about finding the fine line between being authentic in my storytelling and being exploitive, especially regarding my kids. I didn't have my kids just so that I would have plenty of fodder for my blog. I had them for manual labor, so I've got to keep them healthy and happy. A good worker is a happy worker.

In the same way that I strive to be respectful of those reading this, I try to be respectful of anybody I write about. If I write about someone who doesn't know about my blog, I change their name. Or, I  let them know and ask for their permission. When it comes to my family, I don't write anything about them that they would be unhappy or embarrassed to read. If I'm not sure, I ask them. And, occasionally, I think the precious, funny moments I share with them ought to stay just between us, so I don't write about them at all. I never want my first thought when something is said or done to be, "I can't wait to blog this!" I want to live my life first and blog about it later.

What else? Hmmm, let's see.... I don't write about fights or feuds with anybody. I don't see how this would ever be a good idea, and I could never pretend that this story I'm telling is anything but one-sided. On the other hand, little arguments are fine to write about, especially if I say something clever, and especially if I am right.

OK, that's it. That's everything that gets left out. Well, except for my current body weight--that's totally off limits. Unless I ever manage to weigh 103 pounds. In that case, I will start every blog post with, "HEY EVERYBODY, I WEIGH 103 POUNDS! In other news..." I don't see it ever happening, but I'd like to have a plan in place.

{Crickets chirping.}

Wow! Would you look at the time?

I'm think I'm finished now contemplating with my unlit pipe in my dark mahogany library. I'm glad I've taken a moment to ask myself a few questions about all that is said and unsaid, and I'm comfortable with my answers. It's an incomplete portrait, for sure, but if you squint your eyes and tilt your head, you can tell it's of me and my family. That's the way I want it, I suppose.

And now I'd like to ask you: What are your thoughts? What do you leave out of your blog and why? And also, would you like a churro? They're free!


Soul-Fusion said...

Amen. I try to make my blog true to who I really am but there are definitely limits. Some stories are not mine to share and there are boundries - mine is a wall around my professional life.

Emily said...

I absolutely agree. There are certain things I just won't talk about on my blog. (Like the time... whoops!) I'm totally going to steal this blog idea, by the way, I think it's a great topic.

Kami said...

It is such a great topic. I will never be a diaress (sp?). For now, I just talk about what ever the heck I feel like: food, junk I bought for cheap and then spray painted, fun finds, and going places and doing things. My mom tells me that my aunts want to hear about my kids more, but I don't want it to only be about my kids. I view blogging as our generations coffee club like my grandma had or quilting club like my mom had.

ps. "A good worker is a happy worker"...tee hee.

hannah :: sherbet blossom said...

loved this post! ha! i read the manual labor paragraph aloud to my husband.

i keep an actual journal where i share my more intimate feelings and trials. it is for me alone to read.

i often hear people talk about how annoyed they are that people censor their lives on their blogs; that they only tell the good things that are happening. personally, that is what i like to read, so that is what i share. i would never talk bad about my husband or tell about a fight i had with my sister. for the most part, i blog about things i wouldn't mind a stranger knowing. people read my blog that i don't know. while i want them to get to know me, i don't thing every stranger needs to hear the intimate details of my life.

Tiffany said...

I write my blog for me, and my family in Texas, mostly. I love that my friends read it too. I definitely leave out all the drama. The not perfect part of my marriage, the devil that married my brother-in-law- these are things that would make incredibly interesting reading, but are not appropriate to share with the world. I also try to avoid hot debates or potentially offensive material, just like you.

I honestly just enjoy writing my blog, and I really don't care who reads it....except my mom. She needs to read it so she doesn't complain that she doesn't hear the stories about my kids.

Leslie said...

I post what's on my mind ... which explains why my blog has been so quiet lately. :)

courtney said...

oh, wow, lots to think about there.

i'm kind of partial to what kami said up there, about bloggin being like the coffee club or quilting club for our generation .. but with certain limitations. i know that my boss reads my blog - not to be nosey, but just because he's well connected and likes to engage with people on various levels -

(that sounds creepy but it's not, i swear!)

- so in writing posts, i need to be conscious of that fact. it's not like i'd complain about work on my blog anyhow, but i'm sure you get the point. i'm very cautious and conscious of my work/blog division.

as for personal content, yeah - i try to share stuff that i'd share with some of my coworkers, but nothing overly personal and never anything that'd embarrass anyone else.

Jenny said...

Unfortunately I am a lousy writer. I am not witty or creative. Thank goodness there are blogs (like yours) that make me chuckle, think, smile and make me feel like going to Disneyland for a churro.
I have the foggiest memory known to man. In fact my husband just had my blog printed from my first year and I had forgotten about half of the things that were there. I blog for my kids. I can’t have them depending on my crummy memory to recount old baby stories when they bring their dates home. I can just hand them a book. I get a little self conscious about who reads my blog. I know that my blog is oozing with kid stories and pictures but that is who I am doing it for. No one is forcing them to look at it or read it.
My selfish indulgence is reading other blogs. I am your captive audience and get a little giddy when I see that you have updated.

Becky said...

Great post Tiff! I know your friend is going to love reading your blog as much as the rest of the world does! As for what I do or do not post? I try to write about the pretty, funny or entertaining things in my life. The ghastly, awful, painful, disgusting, and private things go in my journal. Now which one would you rather read? Oh the things my poor family will read when I'm dead and gone.

Mindi said...

my name is mindi and i am officially a tiffany addict. with pipe in hand.


i remember the first time my mom told me that she thought my blogging was a big narssistic.(sp?)

i was so offended! i remember saying, "well, HELL! i'm not putting a gun to anybody's head and forcing them to read!"

but you know i've come to the conclusion that yes, virginina, it IS self-absorbed. and sometimes shallow.

but that's what makes it so FUN.

rock on, my little blond buddy.

Jodi said...

Funny, but I'm quite the opposite. I blog my thoughts as a sort of therapy, forgetting that there is a silent audience.

Not so smart.

I just said exactly what I was thinking . . . forgetting that you'd be reading it.

See what I mean?!

buddens said...

Mmm, churros. And I'd even pay $1, like I do at Costco. Because $1 is INCREDIBLY reasonable, but free is even better, which is why your offer for free churros is so winning.

I'm too tired to really answer your questions regarding blogging, but I myself lately have thought that (besides the fact that my blog is all but dead currently) I should start keeping a real journal again to document the more real stuff in my life. The blog is good for some stuff, but I agree with most of your sentiments. Except never ranting. Sometimes, I enjoy a good rant, but just not the super controversial kind. The kind, say about maybe the $8 churros at Disneyland and everything else overpriced there.

MiaKatia said...

We have a few off limits topics, one being my husband's job (he is intensely private which is why he has a nick-name as well). If I ever post about a fight we had it is because we both think the fight was funny. I try to stay away from anything controversial, those conversations are best had in person and only with people who actually care enough about you to care why you feel a certain way. I am much more concerned with my childrens' privacy than I was when I first started blogging and consider wiping the blog and starting over with nick names for them too. Who knows if I will ever do it or not. I am getting more private in general as I go. I second guess every thing I write too.

Suzie said...

I find myself a little inconsistent with the reasons & subjects for blogging.
Sometimes I spew out frustrations when I can't get my girlfriends to return my phone calls or my husband is too tired to listen.
So, see. It's all their fault when I go all postal on my blog.

great post!
(manual labor-AHHHHhhHAHHAHAHA!)

Ginnie said...

So will you write all my blog posts for me? I'll pay you, but not with real money. Your payment will come in the form of praise and stroking of the ego... that's even better then money.
Kind of.
Not really.
But we can pretend.
Whatchya say?!

Ali said...

Eek, when real life meets blog.

I censor the boring stuff (as much as possible). And anything I don't want to think about. But I get uncomfortable if I feel blog life is straying too far from real life.

Annie said...

In blog life, as in real life, I tend to avoid talking/ranting about how I really feel about things, particularly frustrating or sad things. I'm very aware of my readers, so I aim for Disneyland status as well. So FYI, if you're judging me by my blog, I'm a lot more frustrated in real life than I seem. GRRRRR!!!!!

Annie said...

p.s. I would like a churro.

alex dumas said...

Love your writing.
And yes, a churro would be lovely. Thanks.

Travelin'Oma said...

I love the way you write! Thanks for being in my ghoulie parade.

Angie said...

I'd love a churro, thanks.

I agree that it gets weird when you realize that there are more than 3 people reading. I've tried to be more careful, and I've tried to be less whiney. I appreciate that your posts are positive and fun. It's good reading.

Tamara said...

Just for the record, I only know you through your blog and I've never thought you were shallow. Quite the contrary.

And I'd LOVE a free churro...or ten.

Jesse C said...

The only reason I read a new post on your blog is to see if you mentioned me. (kidding)

I've never thought of doing something creative as narcissistic, but I suppose it is in a way. Now your making me feel guilty about a lot of things I love to do.

Can you imagine if that line of thinking had kept Van Gogh from painting, Beethoven from playing piano, or Tim the Toolman Taylor from creating Tool Time? The world would be much worse off without their contributions.

Bringing something creative and interesting into this world is a good thing, and who cares if you love it or obsess a little over it? It came from you and is a part of you and you care how other people react to it.

Write on, Sister, write on.

Jesse C said...

p.s. Do you ever feel like you are stepping up to the microphone at a spelling bee when you start typing a tricky word like "narcissistic" in the comments section of somebody's blog? I do.

bside_ink said...

HA! The first part of this blog reminds me of when you asked to be added onto my blog list. haha.

This post was really interesting...I never thought of blogging like that :)

You Are My Fave said...

Oh my gosh, I get so embarrassed when people ask me about my blog or I know they look at it. I get super self conscious and wonder if they just think I'm a big dork.

Miranda said...

holy crap I love this post. I also love churros so, yes please. Everything to you said resonated with me. As of late, I have been going through an identity/blog crisis. Why am I even writing his blog? Who is this person? Why am I not more like that blogger? Do I really say 'crap' that often? Anyway...I appreciate your insight.

Omgirl said...

If your churros are anything like the Costco ones, I'll have seven!

myrtle budge said...

I just found your blog (are you freaking out yet?) and I totally agree with the "who is my audience" thing. Then I remember that my audience is me and everyone else can take it or leave it. Except then my family thinks I'm having problems when really I'm just blogging. It's a fine line for me. I just want to blog about things that are hard sometimes without the stress of people being worried about me. So not Disneyland, more like a tour of Alcatraz.

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