Ages ago, I had a blog called Kimbaland. I’ve long since switched it off, but sometimes, just for fun, I pull up an old post just to see where my head was at on some random day in the fall of 2008 or so. What always strikes me is how freely I wrote then, and how much I sound just like myself.
At about that same time, I read several rather scathing opinions about the “scourge” of personal blogs. There were too many, these critics said, and many of them were being written by women (gasp!) or, worse yet, mothers. Mothers who were chronicling their experiences, expressing their opinions, seeking community, and doing it in public. This couldn’t be endured without comment, of course, so along came the backlash. Terms like navel gazing, mommy blogger, narcissism and oversharing began circulating, along with advice about how unseemly it is to refer to your feelings, your opinions, or even yourself in your writing. I even read guidelines about how often one should use “I” or “me” in a piece of written work. A woman with a personal blog became a cliché, and additionally, since we all know anything associated with mothers is automatically massively uncool—see mom jeans, and Coldplay—having a personal blog while being female meant having to put up with the sneering and condescension of people with “real” blogs.
The fact that I’m not a mother didn’t mean that I didn’t take the notion that someone shouldn’t do exactly as they pleased, with the online space they had staked out, personally. But on I forged, having and expressing opinions, using “I” and “me” whenever I damn well pleased. Until I stopped. And though I hate to admit it, I stopped because eventually, I let the critics change my mind. I stopped writing every day, and I stopped thinking about myself as an acceptable, even interesting source of material.
So when I read back over those angry, spirited, intensely political posts at my Kimbaland archives, I hear a voice I’ve since silenced. Without knowing that it had happened, I allowed other people, people who had never read any of my work, to tell me that my personal blog wasn’t interesting. I internalized their criticism, so that it became “I need to develop into a more nuanced writer”, or, “I need a non-rant-based writing style”—things I imposed on myself—rather than “you have a lame personal blog and no one cares what you think.” And another thing? Those posts were often really good, and featured a strong, confident voice and a snappy, often funny delivery. Why didn’t I continue to develop these things?
I thought a lot about this as Jamie and I made our way through the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA a couple of weeks ago. I looked at example after example of the startling, sometimes beautiful, sometimes disturbing, often insightful work people had produced simply in order to shriek “Look at me! This is how I feel! This is what I see! This is what’s in my soul, isn’t it gorgeous/confusing/horrifying/inspirational/awful?!?!” As I looked at a huge canvas that, from what I can tell, was painted the same color red, all over, I thought to myself, “Look, if this sort of self-indulgence can be in a museum, why is writing about my life online somehow a problem?”
Now that the personal blog has given way, somewhat, to faster ways of sharing bits of yourself, right down to helpful buttons to click to show the world how you’re feeling, and check-in options that reveal your precise location, long form blogging entire essays seems almost archaic. It’s almost like blogs have graduated from being the over-sharer’s weapon of choice to a forum for thoughtful posts that require time and attention to read and comment upon. It’s slower, it requires a longer attention span—something I could use some practice with these days—and it allows for the sort of nuanced communication of entire thoughts that is so lacking when using blogging’s faster cousins.
I want the blog back. I think it’s time I stop viewing personal blogging through the perspective of an outdated critic who has a beef with the word “me” and get back to sharing more of myself than what I’m eating or what pissed me off 10 minutes ago.
I’m not arguing that there aren’t many good examples of poorly written, self-absorbed, voyeuristic blog content out there. Of course, there are; we’ve all written something that falls into at least one of those categories. Everyone is capable of writing poorly, some of us more frequently and reliably than others. But there is no life, no history, that is without some aspect that is worth writing about. A writer takes the mundane and makes it remarkable simply by writing well. Good writing should be shared. So, have you, like nearly everyone, got a blog you haven’t updated in a while? Are you neglecting essay writing in favor of a sentence or two on Facebook? I’ll bet you still have something to say, and I’ll also bet that it’s worth taking the time to write it all out and share it with others. And let’s face it, it’s probably more interesting than your lunch.