Sometimes the only thing I need to hear in order to drop the fear and get to sleep at night is one other voice out there that says, ‘Me too.’
I blog. This is almost an embarrassing admission. Like drinking skinny triple lattes in the 90s or getting an AIDS test in the 80s. It’s so expected. I resisted, just as I resisted cell phones and continue to resist texting. But if there’s a chance to write involved, chances are I’ll break down. And break down, I did.
I now have three blogs. This one (which I think of more as a prelim to a book), a small-circle blog, and, weirdest of all, a blog with an audience of one. Obviously, a big readership isn’t always the allure of a blog. Knowing others are out there is a great feeling, but sometimes just seeing my writing instantly up in a public space is sufficiently exhilarating and reassuring. After I hit “publish,” I always have the feeling that “Yes, I do exist!” It’s like the little kid’s voice at the end of every episode of thirtysomething: “I made that.”
It’s too easy during a day spent with laundry and soccer practice to forget that your art matters one little fart, so the Brights Lights, Big Computer aspect of blogging can’t be underestimated. Of course, a lot of writers would nod vigorously and say, no, that’s not writing; that’s a shortcut to instant satisfaction. (Yup!) “Good” writing is supposed to be hard and long and filled with edit after edit. But even the most neurotic blogger would consider five to be a high number of drafts for a post, and 1.5 is probably more like it. If you’re getting ideas down and possibly even sharing some dialogue with readers, is half-baked such a bad thing?
The fastest growing blogging segment are women; and among the more than 200,000 parenting blogs, I think it’s a safe guess that most are by women. There are some great dad blogs around, but they’re like the great dads on the playground: enticing in their rarity. The wild popularity of blogs among women makes total sense. Part of it is that whole women’s web of communication thing, ala Carol Gilligan. Blogs mimic the multi-thread nature of women’s conversations. We pursue several conversations at once, often with the same person—weaving in between what to make for dinner, our kids’ teacher, our mother’s stroke, work woes, and the Vice Presidential debate.
Women communicate this way in part because it’s all we have time for. The men I know (and I seem to know fewer and fewer, so correct me if I’m wrong) are good at doing one thing at a time. They do it well. They do it thoroughly. That one thing. As Catherine White, a ceramicist whose husband is also an artist told me, “I work in the teaspoon mode: a teaspoon of gardening, a teaspoon in the studio, a teaspoon with my daughter, whereas he does the dump truck mode: one thing, full on.”
Is it how we’re wired or the cultural demands and presumptions placed on us? Either way, it makes the blog nearly ideal for women, especially the mother whose life is already super fragmented. Rebecca Woolf, author of the blog Girl’s Gone Child and the recently published book Rockabye: From Wild to Child, which was adapted from the blog, wrote me to say that parenthood has made her more driven and creative than before: “It has given me everything I was warned it would take away. I want Archer [her son – Rebecca actually just had a baby girl on October 3rd – welcome Fable Luella!] to grow up in a household where his parents are really following their respective bliss.” And blogs have allowed Woolf to follow that bliss in a way that the time-honored but all consuming process of sending essays out to magazines and literary journals would not.
Most people who turn to the web are writers essentially, whether by calling or habit. Though it’s not an MFA-style workshop, blogging imparts important literary lessons. Namely, voice. Think about any blogs you read. If there’s no voice, you probably aren’t going to stick around. One of my all-time favorite blogs is Chocolate & Zucchini because Clotilde Dussolier, the Parisian pixie who writes it, has such an endearing presence. Woolf says that writing her blog helped her to find her voice as a writer and as a woman. As a relatively young, single mama who was trying to figure herself out, form a career, and learn how to take care of a baby at the same time, that’s no small lesson.
Sheri Reed, who did take the MFA route, still gets schooled in the finer parts of writing via her blogs. She started with a blog about trying to conceive after miscarriage. Once her pregnancy took off and her son was born, she continued the blog for two years before stirring it into her present project, happinest. A self-taught photographer, she also maintains a photo blog, today is pretty. “I use my blogs to work on the craft of writing and telling stories,” says Reed. Given their relative brevity, a blog entry forces a writer to think about the nuts and bolts. Do enough of it and you’ll become not only a better blogger but a better writer.
Of course, one of the primary appeals of the blogosphere (I wince just typing that word. Where are the Oompa Loompas? I’m certain they live in the Blogosphere.), is the possibility of an audience. Most writers jones for readers. As Reed puts it, “Sharing is half the glory of writing.” And what could be better for a parent, especially one of small children than adult company, even electronic, far-away adult company?
Sadly, I did my baby days pre-blogging. I think I would have felt a lot more connected to like-minded parents if I were reading some of the current slew of smart, irreverent blogs. As it was, my main emotional lifeline during my kids’ infancy was email to good friends who weren’t local. How wonderful to exponentially enlarge that group to their friends and their friends’ friends and a few veritable but kindly strangers who echo your experience.
“Sometimes the only thing I need to hear in order to drop the fear and get to sleep at night,” says Reed, “is one other voice out there that says, ‘Me too.’”
The social interaction, that lifeline in the middle of the crazy night, is a major appeal of blogs. Crystal McKee, who has written her from-the-gut blog Boobs, Injuries and Dr. Pepper for nearly four years, says that, “Blogs appeal to me because there are so many of us who are socially amputated when we become mothers, and the connection with other parents is invaluable. I started the blog because I had so much in my head, and I needed somewhere to put it.”
Illustrator Aimee Dolich (whose lovely work appears here) also started her blog, Artsyville, as a place to play with the excess creative baggage that was stirred up after becoming a mother. She was surprised, she recalls, by how isolated she felt and needed to connect with other parts of herself, particularly her burgeoning desire to make art on a daily basis. Her blog and those she reads, says Dolich, are about motherhood only tangentially. “I am so consumed by parenting that I need to think about other things; I need to feed other parts of myself.”
For each of these women, the art comes first. McKee rails at being lumped in with the so-called “Mommy Blogs,” and Reed says, “I fight the big fight to remain a whole person who happens to be a mother, especially in my writing.”
The editor/creator of the social network The Motherhood, Emily McKahnn says that in reading literally hundreds of women’s blogs, she thinks it’s the rare one that wants to focus only on kids. “Motherhood is another part of life. It’s a rich part, and one that in inextricably linked to politics and where we live, what we eat and our work. But we want to talk about all of it.”