Blogging and a Question of Valor

canstockphoto3083807Last week, I launched a fiction writing blog. It’s off to a slow start, but I’m looking forward to working out the kinks and having it come together. For a long time, I considered having a professional blog under my full name, since at some point, I hope to be published with my offline work. I was concerned, though. Writing is challenging enough for an amateur without worrying if I’m revealing information about the people in my life that they would not want publicized or if I’m opening myself or my family up to any security issues.

When thinking it through, I read a lot of articles that all pretty much said the same thing about social media. There was the don’t do it crowd (weirdly enough, mostly family issue organizations) and the delusional if I don’t use my name but give every other detail about my life, I’ll be safe crowd. There were very few moderate approaches about safety and blogging which is frustrating for someone who seeks moderation.

Much like the trolls I’ve referenced in prior posts, who have the freedom to write whatever awful things pop into their heads, there is an aspect to anonymous blogging that is freeing. I have written about personal and family issues to some extent, trying to be discrete with details. I’m no fool. If somebody wants to find you or figure out who you are, it’s not that difficult. I take comfort in the fact that there are so many of us and I am, for the most part, an average person in a sea of averages.

“All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Gabriel García Márquez: a Life

My family of origin is not particularly interested in my writing, except to express concern that I might be writing about them. My mother is deeply concerned about this aspect, fearing that I’m headed towards Mommie Dearest territory. I comfort her by saying “well, at least you never hit me with a hanger.” I can be pretty mean when disappointed. I have chosen not to talk about a few of my strained familial relationships, because it’s painful and they’re still in play. And someday, one of them might actually get a computer and learn how to look at a website. Statistically speaking, it’s more likely I’ll catch a stalker hiding outside in our juniper bushes.

I did an interview with another writer (coming soon) where I was asked about why I’ve chosen not to have a narrow focus for this blog. I don’t have an axe to grind. I’m not an expert at anything. I’m not a good photographer or poet or housewife with great domestic tips. I’m a mother, but I was a lot of other things before that happened. I have an interest and curiosity about almost everything except fashion and celebrities (I’m beginning to like that I can’t recognize most of them anymore). To write about one subject does not suit my restless mind. So I’m trying to gain interest from readers through my specific voice. A voice I would not have found in my writing unless I, you guessed it, actually wrote.

This blog is more of a personal essay blog. I have written about a lot of my life, just not all aspects of it. I don’t think anyone who knows me and reads this blog is particularly surprised by anything I’ve written. I try to remain as authentic and real and honest as I possibly can, without invading the privacy of the people in my lives. If I reference my husband or daughter in a post, I talk it over with them before publishing it. I discuss safety issues with my husband, who is a techie and who is much more circumspect about online information.

My point is that the choice to be discreet, to not out the difficult relationships in my life, to think about topics from all angles, to not shoot off angry missives, is a very deliberate choice suited to my needs, my point in life and where I am at in terms of developing a writing career (getting the writing bit down). I continue to read a wide range of blogs that fall many places along that spectrum, some of them very brave or foolish, depending on your perspective. I continue to review this issue prior to each post and am interested in what other bloggers have experienced.

What is your approach to safety and blogging?

Have you had on or offline issues related to what you have revealed in your blog?

 

48 Comments on “Blogging and a Question of Valor

  1. I do “have the freedom to write whatever awful things pop” into my head, but hopefully it’s not too troll-like! haha Well at least not the majority of the time 🙂 I would love to be able to participate in your fiction blog. I did look at it but have a “learning disability” with serialized fiction, I admit it. I don’t retain it. I think I read too much and don’t have the attention span to wait to read the next part (like I forget what I read). I’ve tried before so apologize but want you to understand.

    It’s probably why I write short short fiction and not novels!

    Anyway you’re creatively entitled to have this Green Study “memoir” style blog and a second one solely focused on fiction, why not? And using discretion in what you post and want to share is of course necessary. I’ve almost crossed the line myself in my more personal writing and certainly pushed the envelope in some areas. It’s a matter of choice of who you want to be as a writer. Some reveal more and that’s how they identify themselves. And others don’t see themselves that way, right? To each his own for sure.

    The “writer identity” is an ongoing and developing part of the whole craft of it. It’s something I’m challenged by every day and bang my head against the wall and it’s always changing. It bodes well for you that you’re thoughtful about it I think.

    As long as you’re always stretching and breaking new ground your writing will always be vital.

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    • No worries on the fiction blog. I’m not sure I even would be able to follow it! More practice for “putting it out there” and making it a habit.
      I don’t find your blog to have a troll-like aspect to it, especially since you fully own up to your own work!

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      • Oh good thanks. I didn’t think you did and I know the kind of trolls you mean. And didn’t address your take on the universe of blogs out there you read. I relate to what your saying. Lots of uh “variety” for sure haha Important to stay focused on the creative side. Where we want to go next. With the writing. That’s where the integrity is. I sound like a broken record I know but that’s where I’m at. 🙂

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        • Sometimes I have to stop reading other blogs, just to get back to that integrity of writing. I start hearing a critic in my head and all my insecurities start up, especially when I see braveness or talent or just great humor. Good to hear from someone who’s learning how to walk the writer’s walk!

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  2. I’ve never published anything that I knew would intentionally hurt or betray the trust of a family member. If there was potential for embarrassment, I’ve asked permission, and usually it’s been granted. In fact, I’m writing something that references a family member coming out of the closet, which is no secret, but I’m about to send it to him to make sure it’s okay to print. I try to listen to the tiny voice of conscience in my head.

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    • I walk a fine line with family issues. My childhood informed a lot of my experiences as an adult, so I have written openly about domestic violence and alcoholism. However, I’m not really interested in writing my own memoir, nor castigating my parents. I tend to use the personal as an example for the universal in the hopes that it will resonate. I’ll be looking forward to your post.

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  3. I generally only write about myself, the landscape and public events in a positive way. I know very few “locals” and most don’t know that I write. My audience is at least two hours away (at a minimum)

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    • I don’t necessarily write positively to prevent the locals from showing up at my door with torches, but I do try to take a balanced approach to topics. Except for the mall. My point of view is so middle-of-the-road, that readers would be hard pressed to come up with enough hostility to discourage me. I have friends locally that read my blogs, but my in-laws haven’t, which I’m okay with!

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  4. Really great topic! I have been thinking about the same things, especially over at Isabelle Avenue. I have siblings and we had experiences – we all have completely different takes on those experiences, and those takes can be pretty complex. I was at a very different place with my father when we lost him and that has enabled me to look through a pretty forgiving lens. I want to be truthful and authentic without dismissing or exaggerating their experiences. It’s all a two edged sword – you want to put yourself out there but protect yourself at the same time. Perhaps naively, I feel freer to express my views her on WP, especially in the comments, that I ever would on most social media like Facebook.

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    • You are absolutely right about siblings’ different perspectives. I think you do a great job of writing about the difficult characters in your family without demonizing or mocking them or making them appear as saints. There is a vested interest for most readers on blogging platforms – people tend not to want to alienate other bloggers, since they’d like their own traffic. It provides a bit of a social safety net, I think.

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      • Thanks – my brother started following recently and that has made me measure things carefully, hopefully not too carefully 🙂 You are right – there is an inherent civility and thoughtfulness in the blogosphere – you want to create discussion and conversation – it’s not in your best interest to be a troll. I find this interesting that on a platform like Facebook where you are who you are and your friends are there – there is a lot of political posturing and not thoughtful discussion. I find it much more difficult to have a conversation there on a divisive topic.

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        • I think, too, on Facebook, it’s really hard to gauge, after a point, who’s connected to whom and where posts are originating from and where your information is going. Privacy controls are only as good as one’s diligence and patience. Here, I think there is no real benefit to being a troll. Most blogs have readers who would likely go commando on personal attacks.
          That would be tough to write about family when one of your readers is a family member, but I would imagine it might lead to conversations you might never have had otherwise. There’s my optimistic spin…

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  5. Michelle, this is exactly why I write under a pseudonym and when I write about family or co-workers, I never identify them. My blog and my pseudonym are a pretty closely guarded secret in my personal life. Why? Because we all self-censor. I avoid expressing my contentious views to my loved ones who I know do not share them, because I don’t want to fight with them. I also do not want to be randomly accosted over what I write. On a blog, opposing views can come accost me at their leisure, and I can read, consider, and answer them at my leisure. No ugly surprises in my personal life.

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    • It sounds a bit midwestern of me, but I really try not to write things about people that I wouldn’t have the balls to say to their face. That, too, prevents ugly surprises offline. You are much more fierce and strident in your arguments/opinions, which I admire and sometimes envy, so I can see where privacy and safety would be of importance to you.

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  6. I always think of how a post could be detrimental to me or someone I may be writing about and try to keep it mind that what I write in there wouldn’t bother me if someone I knew came across it. That’s it for me. Please, if you think I say something crazy let me know (lol). 🙂

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    • I think it’s clearly a personal choice in what a blogger chooses to let his or her readers know. I had hoped to emphasize that for me, at this point in my life, this is what works. I think there are perfectly valid arguments for being more open or more private. My curiosity and reason for this post, is about what other bloggers have thought about or experienced in terms of their blog and revelation. If you say something crazy, I’m afraid I might just have to top you. I have a weird competitive streak.

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  7. ok, this is a topic I’ve thought quite a bit about, on WordPress and with other on line communities I’ve been involved in.

    I’m in favor of stepping out from behind the curtain. I believe in order to have an authentic voice, you need to take off the mask of anonymity. If you’re concerned about maintaining a facade, disguising yourself, that’s going to come through in your writing.

    Having said that, there is a long history of writers using pseudonyms, and that’s a valid option, too. If one is worried about personal or professional repercussions, then a pseudonym is the way to go.

    Last thoughts: If you feel that you are going to censor yourself if you go out there with your real name, then I vote no, don’t do it. Write freely under a pseudonym. But the goal should be to have (eventually!) the courage to write what you think under your own name.

    I’m sort of straddling the two worlds. I’m pretty much out there on my blog, and anyone who knows me in real life would be able to identify me from reading a few of the posts. I don’t try to disguise who I am and I had my personal email address posted on the blog for a long time (and would do it again, if I could figure how to do it with the new theme). Still, I’m not going to add my blog url to my LinkedIn profile any time soon.

    I meant to check out your fiction blog–glad I caught the link in this post.

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    • I’m comfortable with what I write online and I don’t think that necessarily impacts my willingness to be open (I’m vague at times). I haven’t decided about offline. If it were just me in the mix, I’d probably be a little less concerned, but I also have a child at home and that has to have an impact on how transparent I can be about my personal identity and information. I also have a husband in a professional position – without which, I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time writing.
      Like I said, I think so much of it depends on your personal circumstances at the time. I’m sure, as I gain experience and make some headway offline, that things will be up for re-evaluation.
      I appreciate your input and perspective – this is exactly what I was looking for in writing this post!

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    • Karen,
      I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve asked other writers, particularly those I know who write about personal experiences, and their advice time and time again is to just do it. Come out in the open and talk about your personal experience. I’ve been trying to do that. Ironically, I entered a local writing contest and was smart (?) enough to change the names of the characters, although in retrospect I should have used a pseudonym. I’m like you in the sense that I have a blog where I don’t hide my identity, but I don’t post my blog to all of my social media networks. If someone wants to find me, they will, and they’ll have to deal with the consequences. But I’m semi-cautious about posting in environments where family members and I share friends.

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      • If I were at a stage in my writing career where publishing were imminent or I was going to do some sort of tell-all memoir anyway, I could see that it would be pointless to mask identity. However, I’m not sure I’m willing to sacrifice anonymity for free at this point, especially since, as I’ve said, I live with people about whom I need to be mindful. I don’t think it’s an either-or scenario. I’m not trying to be super-secretive, just thoughtful about how I establish myself as a writer. As you mentioned, some things might be reconsidered retrospectively. I’m just moving forward VERY slowly. Thanks for your comment and adding to the conversation!

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  8. I used to have an online journal where I never even tried to hide who I was. I used real names and locations, and had certain members of my family actually read it, I probably would have started world war 3. The ironic thing was, I told them all I was writing it – and not one of them actually bothered to look it up.

    I’m a little less naive now, and I told no one I started my new blog to keep it out of my usual social circle’s eye. If they find it, that’s not a problem, but I like the anonymity that I have for now, at least until I’ve gotten a foothold in what I want the blog to be. I’m being a lot more careful with photos, and never naming anyone if at all possible.

    I do end up writing about other people, usually negatively, but there are certain stories that I know I have no right to post without permission from other people, even if I withheld names, so I keep them private.

    Personally, I think having two blogs is the better idea. One for your personal life, and one for the more professional aspects – nobody needs to know you have more than one, and its not necessarily going to be easy to put the two together. It also gives you the best of both worlds, you keep your personal anonymous account, and have a professional one to show what you’re comfortable having in your name. I hope that helps.

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    • The more I respond to these comments, the more I wonder if I’m just being overly cautious. I have to admit to being a bit paranoid as a parent. And perhaps less than optimistic for the timeline of getting published for pay. I guess I’m just not going to be in a hurry to divest myself of anonymity, whether or not it is needed.Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

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  9. Good question. I started blogging anonymously so that I could post with absolute freedom. However, the more I’ve posted, the more I realise I don’t need certain ‘freedoms’ I thought I did. I’m still quite new at this so still thinking about a lot of things!

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    • That’s exactly what I’ve found. First, I had to find my voice and then I had to focus on the writing. Anonymity helps with both of those processes. I probably won’t change it until I have a good enough reason.

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  10. I haven’t really thought about these kinds of things; although there are things I won’t write about having to do with my ex since both my sons are out here in the ether somewhere. I suppose I could not Tweet that particular blog, but then nobody would know it was there. (I blast out all my postings on Twitter so every one of my 10 followers gets a heads up; and 4 of those are my sons and their wives!)

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    • I would imagine most people have a list, at least mentally, of subjects that they won’t write about. I don’t write much about my marriage or my husband. He’s a pretty private person, so I want to respect that. I imagine as my daughter gets older, that will be another subject I won’t write about as much. It’s bad enough getting through puberty without your mother blabbing about you online!

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  11. I’m so glad you put this out there – not just for the content itself, but for all the great dialogue around it. I have a few analogies swimming around my head about it, and unfortunately, I don’t have any good advice you could trust. I’ve called it Street Smarts on the Internet in the past (one of my earlier posts, from 2009).

    I have a rather “non-linear comment” in the form of a post I’ll put up tomorrow, so if you think of it, check it out. More questions, less answers. I’m grateful to you for this though, and glad we stumbled upon each other in the woods, here. I always carry extra food and water. – Bill

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    • I read your post and had to laugh. Not sure if it was a lament or not, but even in our household, where we’re all pretty technically savvy, we keep maps and guidebooks, etc.
      The posts that I have written that are my favorite, tend not to be the most coherent or well-written, but they spark a conversation. That usually ends up being a lot better than what I initially wrote!

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      • I hear you – that’s good advice for me. I don’t put a ton of thought into reworking what I post; if I can make it interesting, genuine, and elicit some response in people, that’s good enough. Thanks for going back and reading that old post, now you know what my grandmother looks like :)!

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        • I have days were I can spend hours on a single post and get little interaction or half an hour and that piques interest and conversation. It’s always interesting to me to see what resonates with readers.

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  13. I’m a bit on the fence with this one, Michelle. We definitely have to think about protecting others when we post to the whole world, but I have been trying to reveal more of myself lately. Writing for me is a form of therapy, and if we don’t deal with the deep issues, the therapy doesn’t work. I do have my wife read many of my posts before I publish, and she always brings up good revisions. I tend to error on the brave/foolish/stupid side, so your post helps me be a bit more cautious. Thank you.

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    • Again, I would say it’s a personal choice. Perhaps, too, I feel the need to be more cautious because I’m a woman. That’s another aspect that I didn’t really address. We’re taught to be so incredibly cautious offline, with ourselves and with our children that online seems like just another arena in which we have to tread carefully.

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      • Great point, which is probably why my wife makes a good editor/censor. Men are often like bulls in a snail nursery, and now with the internet the damage we can do is far reaching.

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  14. I’ve chosen to be authentic with my blog, hence the reason why I use my real name with comments and throughout the entire blog. It’s my intention to be honest with myself, and in turn share that honesty with my audience. But I also know dispensing too much information can alienate your readers. Not that I’m simply brain dumping everything I think onto page, but I’m also careful not to reveal too much about myself – i,e., where I work, other aspects of my personal life involving my wife and children, etc. – that I feel shouldn’t be so quickly shared.

    What I write in my blog is about myself, my thoughts, and my creative process. It doesn’t involve bringing in other people wherein there’s a risk that feelings will be hurt. I make sure of that. If I think someone I know will read something I’ve written and be offended by it, I simply won’t post it. Period.

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    • I’m a little concerned about the amount of navel-gazing I do when I write my blog. After I’ve reviewed several of my posts, I think, “shut up already!” And now that I’ve established a voice, things are really starting to sound repetitive to me. That’s authentic for you – sounding repetitious like any human you get to know over a period of time. I need to pick it up a notch, though. I don’t worry so much about whether or not I write something offensive, but I do try to balance it out with a look at the other side.

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      • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with navel gazing, to tell you the truth. The way it see it, it’s your blog, so blog about whatever the hell you want.

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  15. A few years ago, I read that it is often helpful to have some one dimensional characters in your book/novel/whatever. I use that theory in my blog and don’t ever really flesh out live folks very much; sometimes it’s as if I am the only live one in the piece. But I do self-censor in that I don’t write about folks who really drive me crazy because they read my blog. And some stories just have to wait to be told.

    I also keep security by not having my last name appear, by having no recent pictures, by being somewhat vague about where exactly I am and the like. I write too much about the politics that tick me off — my husband worries that some crazy guy with a gun is going to shoot me for writing in favor of gun control!

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    • I always feel like I’m not in a position to really tell someone else’s story, so I try to ensure that it’s told from my point of view, without projecting what I’m thinking onto them. Good grief, I could be a politician with that last sentence. I’ve been “outing” myself bit by bit, but I don’t really write too much about politics or screaming issues. It might be wimpy of me, but it’s just not really my schtick. I love reading your blog posts, by the way, and often send out a mental “hell yeah!” when I finish.

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      • Thanks, Michelle. It isn’t necessary for everybody to blog on politics — I don’t always blog on politics (I think I hear a rousing thank you from my adoring fans!). But I just write about what I’m thinking when I have the time and inclination. Sometimes it works.

        You are anything but wimpy!

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        • That’s pretty much how I write – whatever is on deck at the moment. Lately the deck has been cleared for a good swabbing – nothing happening. I need winter to wrap up its show, since the drabness and cold are getting to me!

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        • Maybe that’s what’s happening with me. I’ve also been sick for the last month with something that keeps on dragging me down. I find it difficult to get excited enough to write! This too shall pass.

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        • I think that’s happening to everybody here in Minnesota – we’ve barely recovered from one thing before getting knocked down by another. You’re right, it will pass!

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  16. No issues (so far?), but I am fairly careful to try to preserve some degree of basic anonymity. Once I retire, I may chose to be less circumspect.

    I’ve had to edit some comments on my blog from bloggers who know my name and aren’t fully aware that they should be using my handle. Unlike you, I try to avoid even my name getting out there just yet. (My error was in using my personal email account when I set up WP. I really should change that.)

    I’m also very circumspect about birthdates, any numeric data really, and names of cities and companies. I’ve even done a bit of misdirection at times. WWW may stand for World Wide Web, but in my mind it stands for Wild, Wild West, and I act accordingly.

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