I'm An Open Book To You; Why Confessional Blogging?

There seems to be something about the way brains are organized that puts the handy mental thesaurus on the same shelf as the box of self-doubt you reach for when you have to top the bowl of "why did I think writing for a living was a good idea?" that you're having for dinner.

Mar 30, 2012 at 3:00pm | Leave a comment

Sometimes it is really weird to live in public. I was going to say it was hard - but that's not quite right because it's surprisingly easy to do it most of the time.

I don't mean at the level celebrities do it - though I think that's probably a really shittastic pressure cooker in a whole lot of unique ways.

No, I mean in the way that writers often do, especially writers who specialize in anything resembling confessional blogging.

This isn't a pity party or me complaining about how hard it is to write for y'all, so please do stick with me. This meta process stuff is really interesting to me.


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I've been blogging for over a decade. I started out on Diaryland, then ported everything over to Livejournal because a friend of mine told me to, basically. I liked the threaded commenting system, so I stayed. LJ was good to me - my journal was primarily public for the majority of my tenure there (and I'm still there, just not as dedicated) and I had very little trouble even when I talked about intensely personal things.

That was LJ's strength back then - it felt like a place you could put personal stuff, but leave it open so that people could find it, find you, and somehow make a connection. 

It's that connection that kept me at it - and that still keeps me at it today. I think the more we talk about things, the less alone we all feel. The more we talk about things, the more we discover that we are not, in fact, unknowable, unloveable freaks living in the caves of our own psyches. The more we talk about things, the more we discover that there are people who are incredibly different from us - and people who are incredibly the same. 

That's intensely powerful to me.

But sometimes that connection can also be misleading - I get to know people through comments and I wind up writing for them, to them. I wind up writing directly to YOU. And then I forget that, no, not everyone who reads something I write knows me, because it's more than just the people I "know" who are reading something. It's a much larger number of peopel than the list I have in my head, and a lot of those people know things about me I would have a hard time telling Harriet the Therapist.

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This is how living in public via social media and confessional blogging works these days. (At least for me - I'm sure there are other people who do things from an entirely different place.) I actually think it's really awesome. Yeah, it can be hard to keep content churning - especially for people who are doing lots of other writing (or day jobs) as well. But - and maybe it's because I'm an extrovert - the energy I put into this is returned to me tenfold when we all have conversations in comments, when we debate stuff, when we trade links and excitement and stories.

At least, that's what usually happens. But other times (sometimes it's just a bad brain chemistry day, sometimes it's my period with my hormones all over the place, sometimes it's just a no good, very bad day), I put words in front of you and I have no idea why you read them. And I keep talking to you anyway.

This is when it's hard to talk to you. This is when it feels like I've just gone out for a normal walk and then suddenly I've fallen into the disguised but uncovered well at the back of my mental property. The one that's full of insecurity. And also spiders.

Just about every writer I know has been faced with the kind of insecurity about their writing that makes them wonder why they try to put words in any certain order at all. There seems to be something about the way brains are organized that puts the handy mental thesaurus on the same shelf as the box of self-doubt you reach for when you have to top the bowl of "why did I think writing for a living was a good idea?" that you're having for dinner.

Self-doubt when you're a writer can hijack your entire process. Self-doubt is why I have most of an alt-history Florida zombie novel written - but no ending. It's also why I've never pursued a career as a freelancer; confidence in my abilities is never going to keep the electricity on because, honestly, that confidence ebbs and damn well flows. My electricity just needs to flow (much like the Spice).

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When you’re a confessional blogger, there’s an extra layer to all of this. Your stories are personal – and the more personal they are, the bigger a risk you take when you lay them out in front of people, all your words in what you hope are the proper order. When people reject that, they’re not only rejecting the work you put into writing, but a slice of your history and identity.

It’s pretty scary stuff. So sometimes, maybe, you try to hold stuff back. I know I have a few lines - they're pretty far out there and, honestly, the name of my game here seems to be Writing About Embarrassing Moments and Nail Polish so it isn't like we're running up against many of my boundaries. But there are a few things I still regard as utterly private. I think I'm not the only one who has those private things. And then it gets even more scary - because you have to negotiate sharing the personal so you can get that connection (which is the most addicting payoff ever) without alienating people.

It's definitely a tightrope walk; it feels dangerous when you don't have your mental balance.

I’m not complaining when I talk about this stuff. Because, holy shit, you guys, as scary as it can be when it’s hard, writing for you is such a rush.

That's part of the payoff of confessional blogging, for me. The idea that we can reach through our screens to each other is life changing.