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Blogging is a lot like being on a merry-go-round: It's fun, but you feel a litle dizzy sometimes.

Blogging is a lot like being on a merry-go-round: It's fun, but you feel a litle dizzy sometimes.

This is my 42nd blog post. (I had planned on writing about this topic as my 40th post, but I misread the WordPress dashboard. Sigh.) Those who have followed my musings from the beginning have read about my klutzy mistakes, my abusive ex, my friend issues. I’ve shared stories about my urinary incontinence, how I feel about playdates, and how I feel about the environment. With these disclosures, I’ve joined the ranks of fellow bloggers who talk about dealing with their own cancer, their mother’s cancer, their failed marriages, their use of sex toys. In retrospect, I can’t think of a single topic that hasn’t been covered in the blogosphere. We bloggers seem to have little or no filter when it comes to normally off-topic topics.

You, as a reader, may enjoy the voyeurism, but it’s a little weird for us on the writing end. It’s very strange, as a writer, to put these types of things out there. Things that most people reserve for close friends. At least it is for me. Sure, I’ve written a story for Redbook about growing up with a mother who yelled. A story I wrote for Parents — in excruciating detail, I might add — about my miscarriage was one of the most commented stories I’ve ever had the privilege to work on. But only a handful of the people in my real life ever cracked open those magazines. I could hide behind the relative anonymity of the newsstand.

On the flip side, as a blogger, it’s also weird knowing that my friends, family, and acquaintances are right here reading every word. Words that I might not say out loud to people I care about. And while I love that they are reading my stuff — please, please keep reading, everyone — it often has an impact on the way we interact offline.

Take my husband. Last night he commented that he loved my blog, but he thought I wrote a lot like a single mother. “There’s not a lot in there about me,” he complained. Another example: On Sunday night I had dinner with two girlfriends. Amy was in my Friday Favorites about friends; Lori, who is one of my oldest and dearest of friends, was not. She joked around about it, but I think inside the jokes was a little bit of truth. It hurt her feelings that she was omitted.

Other friends have reacted to blog posts, too. On Monday I had a playdate. Precisely ten minutes before Keira’s naptime everyone picked up and rushed out of here. They had all read my post about Playdate Dos and Don’ts, I’m convinced, and they didn’t want to hang around past what they thought was my limit. They didn’t want to be pegged “unsupportive.” That’s not the first time I felt uncomfortable because of my playdate post. A few weeks ago we were having a playdate with a new friend. While the girls were standing next to each other her daughter tapped my daughter’s chest ever so lightly. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. And yet the woman picked up her child like she had stabbed Keira with a Mr. Potato Head arm, hustling her onto a time-out before I could say a word. I actually felt ashamed. Here, this nice woman was afraid of offending me because of something I had written.

Of course, there’s nothing I can do about how people react to what I write. I can’t edit or censor myself. One of the cardinal rules of blogging is that you have to put your heart and soul on the screen or your readers are going to smell fakery and fear and leave. But not before they flame you for your insincerity. So I guess I’m going to keep putting it all out there. And my friends? I hope they will understand that, as my friends, they shouldn’t take my blog so literally. Still, just in case: Have I mentioned how much I love my husband, Chris and my friend Lori?!?

Do you blog? If so, what’s been the most difficult part for you? As a blog reader, how do you feel about reading such personal commentary? Does it ever change the way you feel about what goes on in your own life? Please share your thoughts below.

10 Responses to “Like Looking at a One-Way Mirror”

  1. I spill my heart, soul, and guts out onto the keyboard. I love that you do the same. It’s true… no one likes to “smell fakery”. However, I live in a blissful world, where I pretend no one I know actually reads my blog. Strangers I can pour my heart out to… Friends and family, I like to keep at a safe distance…

  2. Christina says:

    I love this post, Karen–and I totally relate. I struggle with how much to spill on my blog, especially because my girls are 13 yo and 8 yo and I write about stuff I don’t want them reading. So they don’t know yet that I have a blog, which means I often have to warn friends and family not to casually mention it when my kids are around. I’m getting more comfortable with putting stuff out there and with knowing that it’s inevitable that my kids will find it. I try to strike a balance between TMI and NEI (Not Enough Information?).

    You’re doing a great job–keep it up! I just hit 41 posts and I started my blog back in May–but then you are a powerhouse!

  3. Jen Singer says:

    I think you can make blogging whatever you want it to be, that you can reveal or not reveal what you want if you’re careful about how you do it. People think that I revealed all when I blogged about having cancer, but there’s so much I didn’t say. The question is what’s more important to you: telling all or telling all you deem necessary to tell.

    I always run things by my family if I feel I’ve stepped over the line in writing about them. So far, only one family member vetoed my work. It was his story to tell, not mine, so I found something else to write. That’s the fine line that bloggers, writers, memorists walk every day. So far, it seems you’re doing a fine job with it, doesn’t it?

  4. It is a permanent confessional, isn’t it? I’m actually fine with sharing my stuff, but what I have to be careful about is sharing other people’s stuff. One example from my blog is where I wrote about my conflicted feelings about not having any more children (http://www.confessionsofameanmommy.com/baby-lust-and-how-it-clashes-with-mean-mommyhood/). And I talked about my cousin, who just had her fourth, her “oops” baby at age 42 (and her big blessing: her son after three daughters!). I know that she felt less than thrilled and is not exactly in newborn bliss with her son. But after I wrote and published the post, I did feel a pang: Should I have said so without her permission? Turns out she was fine with it, but it’s something to think about.

  5. I totally understand all of these issues with blogging – it can be a balancing act. It’s tough to make everyone happy, but in the end it’s an outlet for you, and it needs to be what *you* want it to be. I find that it’s easier when I don’t mention people in my life, but then again I blog about food, so they don’t often come up in my posts.

  6. Kristen says:

    I was thinking about this very topic today when crafting a post about a comment a friend made – a friend who might recognize her words if she read them, a friend who would not be thrilled with my interpretation of them.

    In general, though, I don’t censor myself. My blog is quite new and I haven’t yet publicized its existence to most of my friends and family – and that gives me a little bit of leeway in tackling some pretty personal topics. Nevertheless, I did have an awkward moment with my husband the other day when he read something in a post that he claimed I had never told him before. Oops.

    Thanks for this post, Karen. I’ve enjoyed my visit to your blog.

  7. Ulrike says:

    Somehow it is different writing about your life rather than talking about it. Yes, people read it – you hope – but they’re not there right in front of you when they do. Blogs are impersonal whilst being highly personal. If they weren’t personal nobody would be interested, after all, we can get factual information from a variety of other sources.
    The idea is to read about someone else’s life and relate. And as for husbands not getting the mentions they deserve, well, the blog is about the writer, and usually we are trying to protect our nearest and dearest from scrutiny even from anonymous readers. We mean well, really.

  8. My husband made the mistake of giving his parents my blog address when we first started dating, not thinking that avowed socialist atheists (but tolerant!) might not like a Catholic conservative.

    The first time we met, they barely looked at me, much less spoke to me. And it’s been all downhill ever since.

    Two weeks before our wedding, I posted something about how I was a little worried about how to seat three vocal atheists (one of them being my brother) with our pastor and the priest at the wedding supper. (Only immediate family for the wedding.) His parents read this and got mad, called my husband and told him not only were they not coming to the wedding (which I did not want to have — I wanted to elope and had even convinced my mom, but that’s another story) but he shouldn’t marry me.

    Ah. Outlaws.

    They do not have my current blog address.

  9. Bodie P says:

    You raise a good question, and one that writers have been grappling with forever, although not on this daily, immediate basis. Every person who has ever written a memoir–or a novel in which elements of fact were included–has had to consider how their Nearest and Dearest were going to react to the words going onto the page.

    Some censor themselves. Some use pen names, and change enough details to make absolute identification difficult. It helps if you’re an orphaned, childless widow who was an only child. Some (like you) simply take their heart in their hands, lay it on the page, and trust that if it’s misunderstood, it will be forgiven in the end.

    The huge difference between writing a book and writing a blog about your life, though, is the one you point out–the anonymity of the news stand. I write books. They go out into the world for sale. My face is not on them. I use a pen name. Now, I’m not an international spy or anything; any reasonably adept reader with access to Google will have little difficulty puzzling out my identity. But it serves the purpose. It give me–and my family–plausible deniability.

    But when we blog about our lives, we also blog about those who share those lives. Though we have chosen to live in a glass house, is it fair to demand that our families and friends do the same? And if not, how can we protect them?

    I wish I had a good answer–I have a teenaged son, and when I write I am having to be increasingly careful not to expose him to his schoolmates in ways he might find painful. This makes me sad, because I have a lovely collection of pieces I want to craft into a memoir about being a single mother. And I will. But I’ve decided to hold off for a while.

    I guess you’ve figured out by now that I really don’t have a good answer for your dilemma–just the comfort of knowing that it’s one that many of us face. Maybe the fact that you’re aware of it is the true solution. You write. You write truly. And you write understanding that expressing your truth carefully and accurately in writing is even more important than doing so in spoken conversation–the written word hangs around. Good luck.

  10. kb says:

    You are such a beautiful writer! I loved reading your response and thank you for it.

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