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blogging

The Scariest Thing About Blogging

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(It’s been a week since my post about hugs was published on Scary Mommy. As of a few days ago, it had almost 30,000 hits on Facebook alone, and the number was still climbing. The day after it was published, when it started to pick up steam, I wrote a post about my initial reaction to the attention it was getting. You can read that post here.)

I write this blog because it’s the place where I capture what I see. I don’t write it to pretend like I am an expert. I don’t write it because I feel like my perspective is more valid than anyone else’s. I write it because it helps me engage with my own life experiences on a deeper level. It helps me reflect and appreciate. Some people take photos because it helps them see the beauty in the world. Some people create art. Some people write songs. I write this blog because, when I do, I slow down and I pay attention.

I write this blog for me, about things that matter to me. An added perk of doing so in a public space is that sometimes my posts start conversations. I think it’s great for people to talk about teaching kids about feelings, teaching kids about personal space, teaching kids to be authentic. I love being a part of these conversations.

But participating in big conversations like that via a digital platform is scary. Once you put something on the Internet, it is out there. Think of a blog post like a photograph of yourself. But rather than a photograph of your outside, it is a photograph of what’s going on inside your brain at that moment.

It’s no secret that our appearance changes. We age, we make babies, we go on health kicks. No one expects you to always look the same. Photos become outdated.

However, once you put a snapshot of your brain on the Internet, it feels permanent. Almost like people attach that snapshot of your way of thinking to their understanding of who you are as a person.

That is terrifying for a few reasons.

First, writing is hard. It’s hard enough to speak in a clear, articulate way. But to do so in a limited space is even more complex. I try to keep my blog posts short enough that they are readable. Fitting my entire perspective of a complicated issue into one clearly written blog post is almost impossible. I have to simplify. And that sometimes means leaving out pieces. In other words, it’s almost always an incomplete picture.

Second, feedback changes a writer’s perspective. As soon as people start commenting, I start reading my work through different eyes. And I almost always see things I could have done differently or better. As the conversation continues, my way of thinking about the topic expands. That’s the beautiful thing about conversations. They open you up to new ways of thinking.

However, no one can see that my perspective is growing. All they see is the single snapshot of my thinking at one moment in time.

Third, what all of this boils down to, is a fear of being judged. As a reader, you can probably relate to this. I wonder sometimes how many people read my posts and then worry that I am judging them if their perspective or parenting approach is different than mine.

I promise you. I’m not. The joy for me in sharing my parenting experience in a public blog is in the collective experience of a variety of perspectives. There is no joy or personal gain for me in judging someone else’s way of doing things.

In fact, you’d be surprised to know that I’m probably too busy worrying that you’re judging me based on something I wrote. (Especially if I feel like it is an incomplete or outdated snapshot of me.) It’s hard to resist the urge to keep “editing” myself or trying to clarify “what I meant to say”. This week I’ve seriously contemplated making a t-shirt that says “Hugs are not bad!! I only meant that they are a great opportunity for a learning conversation! They are a safe playground for kids to learn and make mistakes and talk about issues in a safe place before they grow up and go out into big scary spaces!”

Okay. So that probably would be a terrible t-shirt.

My point is, I want to be a part of conversations that matter. I want to offer my perspective in case it will expand someone’s thinking. And I want to hear other perspectives and let them grow my own way of thinking.

And to do so, I have to put myself in the middle of a conversation that I have no control over. I have to do a lot of letting go of ideas and opinions and fears. Sometimes, that’s really hard to do.

But that’s okay. Because in the bigger picture, my opinion in these conversations is irrelevant. What matters is the conversation as a whole. And the fact that we, as a parenting generation, are taking the time to have it.

Stuff I Feel Like Saying Out Loud To No One In Particular

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Today was an interesting day inside my brain.

Here is a random collection of stuff I feel like saying out loud to no one in particular:

  • My third post to be accepted by Scary Mommy was published today. It was definitely the most controversial of the three, so I knew it would get some interesting feedback. And it did. At last count, it had nearly 10k “likes” on Facebook and over 2k shares. Which is pretty bonkers to think that that many people are reading something I wrote.
  • Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve picked up on the hype about getting your work “out there”. The more views the better. And I can understand this to a point. It’s really cool to see other people relate to what I write and it’s so humbling to have people take the time to read. But there’s also a part of me that doesn’t totally understand. My post on Scary Mommy today has gotten the most traffic of anything I’ve written. And while it is a cool experience to have, I’m kind of like… “Now what?”
  • It’s a really interesting experience to have a bunch of people comment on a post I wrote. A huge number of responses were so incredibly encouraging… people who had kids who needed to have their personal space respected and yet struggled with feeling “rude” if they asked for it. People who were grateful to be having the conversation about personal space and respect and physical affection and consent because they agreed that it is an important conversation. And then there were people who called me ridiculous for suggesting their kid couldn’t hug someone…
  • … which, for the record, is a little out of context. In fact, a lot of the negative comments seemed like they somehow twisted my words or went a few steps beyond when it came to interpreting. And that is fine. I would NOT be putting my opinion out there for people to weigh in on if I felt like I needed to control their opinions. That would be exhausting. I totally get that people will interpret what they read through their own experiences and respond accordingly. It was just surprising to see how differently people interpreted the same piece of writing.
  • … And even though I understand that it’s common for people to interpret a written blog post differently than what my intention might have been, it’s really hard to resist the urge to “defend” or “clarify” what I meant. But getting in to debates about interpretations seems like a silly use of time.
  • … Also, I’m totally fine with people disagreeing with my opinion, for the record. I’m perfectly comfortable with everyone having their own opinion. I’m not out to change people’s beliefs. I’m just sharing mine, and trying to do so in a way that starts a productive conversation about a topic that I think is important. It’s never my intention to offend someone else, or imply that my opinion is the only valid opinion. Which brings me to my next point…
  • …No where in this blog or in any of my writing do I mean to imply that I am the “expert”. To be clear, I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I AM DOING. I do my best to be thoughtful about my parenting. So if I’m doing things a certain way or if I have a certain belief, I can explain to you why I’m doing it that way because I have thought about it a lot. Sometimes, this comes across as confidence, possibly even overconfidence. I am definitely trying to do the best I can. But that doesn’t mean that I think my way is the best way for anyone else, or that I think my way is better than someone else’s way.
  • Lastly, while I felt like I was ready to embrace the controversy that comes with having a post with a bigger audience, this is really not my comfort zone. At all. Even though I believe in what I wrote and I think it is an important conversation, a part of me wants to crawl in a hole and only write happy foofy feel-good posts from here on out. There’s enough drama in the world and on the Internet already. Is this really something I want to be in on? I’d rather spread happiness and rainbows and glitter, you know? But then I read the quote, “If you don’t have enemies, you’re doing something wrong.” And I thought that maybe it’s ok to sometimes be in the thick of it. I guess that means I’m in on a conversation that matters.

Why I Blog

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What good does blogging do in the world? Does the world really need one more mommy blogger? These days the Internet machine is full of people sharing their opinions and experiences on blogs. It can be overwhelming to try to read and keep up with it all. Do I really want to join an already crowded parade where my words are just a drop in an ocean?

Plus, I’m no expert. I mostly blog about things I DON’T know about (which in the ever-shifting land of parenting feels like most things). So why should anyone read my stuff? And am I even ready to put myself out there like that? In case you haven’t notice, the Internet can be a little harsh sometimes. Why set myself up to get rejected by bigger sites and picked on by trolls?

Honestly, sometimes I’m not sure. All the arguments against blogging that I just listed feel like really compelling arguments to me.

But here I am anyway.

Because the truth is, I love to write.

I write because it challenges me to think and to grow. It challenges me to keep learning, about everything from new websites to how hosting/domain names work. It helps me to look at the world more carefully, to appreciate experiences more intensely. It exposes me to other perspectives and opinions.

I love writing because it helps me know myself. I love staying at home with my kids, but anyone who’s ever done it knows it can be isolating. I love my mama friends and our playdates, but it can be hard to make meaningful connections when the kids are asking for snacks and the toddler is waking up from nap. In my writing, I get to share my own authentic uninterrupted self.

I write because I suck at scrapbooking and journaling. I love the idea of leaving a piece of myself and of my family for my children to see–a real authentic piece that is honest about who I am both as a mother and in addition to being a mother. I love the idea that they can one day look back on our family memories from my point of view and maybe know who their mom is on a deeper level.

I write because I care, damnit. I care about the world I live in and I care about the world my children will grow up in. I want it to be a better place, a more loving place. I want it to be a place where we appreciate people for who they are rather than trying to turn them into something else. I want it to be a place where we cultivate healthy relationships with feelings, with boundaries, with relationship and friendships from an early age. I want it to be a place where education inspires curiosity and authenticity and growth rather than simply being a place to sit still and memorize because that’s what we’ve always done. So I write about these things. My voice may be small but I speak up because I care.

I write because it means I connect. When others read my work and agree, we connect. When others read my work and disagree, we still connect. The more I write, the more people I find that I connect with. I see other writers who encourage and support each other. I see people writing about the same stuff as I do. I see people writing different opinions and it makes me stop and think. I write because it’s my gateway to this amazing community of people who are writing because they care and so they speak up. They share recipes because they care about nourishment, nutrition, health, family. They share stories because they care about legacy and love and spreading hope. They share beliefs because they care about people, about the world.

I write because it reminds me I’m human. Not everything I write is going to be great or even good. Some posts turn out to be massive failures. Sometimes I look back on what I wrote a year ago and I wonder what the heck I was thinking. I don’t write with the intention of creating a masterpiece. I write with the intention of always growing and getting better. I got a lot of silent rejections when I first started sending out my work to be published. But instead of letting it defeat me, I tried to let it make me stronger.

I write because it reminds me to let go. Once I put something out into the world, it’s not really mine anymore. People will take it and do with it what they will. People might love my work and share it or they might hate it and bash it. They might read the first line and form their opinion without ever even reading it all. And that’s ok. It’s a hard reality but at its core, there is a valuable lesson about love.

I write because right now, it’s what I have to offer. There will always be reasons not to do something creative, something scary, something new, something that feels meaningful or something that you fear is meaningless.

But at the end of the day, those reasons start to sound a little hollow.

This week a young man who played football for the Huskers died in a car accident. A fellow writer responded with an article titled, “We Don’t Get to Decide When We Play Our Last Game”. And my first thought was, at least he had the courage to play the game in the first place.

We change the world by having the courage to do what we feel called to do, even if there are a million reasons not to. I don’t want it to be fear that keeps me out of the game.

5 Things I Want My Social Media Friends to Know About My Blogging

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Hey Friends! Last week I had my first article run on Huffington Post. It was a pretty fun moment for me. And you all were so amazing. You read the article. You commented, you celebrated, you encouraged, you shared. You all are one seriously amazing community of people and I’m so deeply grateful to be a part of it.

As I was sitting in awe of your badassness over the weekend, I thought of a few things I want you to know…

1.I want you to know why I do this. I write because it keeps me sane. I write because it’s like a scrapbook for my family. I write because I love to write. And I wanted you to know that it isn’t always easy. It is still scary to put myself out there. Every time I write a post I have to build up the courage to share it all over again.

2. I want you to know that we can still be friends, even if you disagree with what I write. I don’t write to try to change your opinion. I don’t write because I think I know something better than someone else (in fact, I’m certain that I don’t). I write to share my perspective, to share what I see, to open up an opportunity for us to connect, either by how we are the same or by how we can grow from our differences. I still like you even if we see things differently. 🙂 AND…

3. I want you to know that I’m totally open to any comments and conversation, as long as we can be nice to each other. I love it when people share their opinions back, even if it’s an opposing opinion. If we are friends on social media, I trust you to be respectful if you’re commenting on my “space”. I am almost always curious about different opinions and would love to hear another side of things. If you’re also curious and open to hearing new perspectives, we could have a great conversation.

4. I want you to know that I really do try not to bombard your news feed with my stuff. Here’s the truth: I get paid for some of my work. As a stay at home mama that’s a really cool thing for me. I don’t write for the money at this point, but it is a nice perk. When I get paid, it is based on how many views my article gets. That means, the more views, the more I get paid. And it’s really hard to find the balance between over sharing and under sharing. Sometimes when I share something, a lot of people miss it. So you might see me sharing something more than once. But I promise I think very carefully about how much I share so I’m not hogging your news feed. One of the hardest parts about blogging is promoting your own work, but I’m trying to move out of my comfort zone on this because, as a writer, it’s how you build your resume. If I didn’t plug my own work, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to be published on Scary Mommy and Huff Post.

5. Maybe most importantly of all, I want you to know that it really means a lot to me when you read, like and share my work. It’s not something I take lightly at all. There is a LOT of stuff on the Internet these days, so the fact that you took the time to read something I wrote is a big deal to me. I can’t tell you how humbling it is to have people comment on something I put my heart into.  Sharing your work for other people to critique and opening yourself up to the possibility of negative feedback is hard, but you all are always so incredibly supportive and I could ramble for days about how deeply grateful I am for every single one of you but I won’t. Just know it’s true.