Sunday, 13 March 2011

Sunday

So, I wrote a tiny Observer piece in a bigger, and slightly doom-laden piece, about confessional blogging. Firstly, if you can find it online without using that link, give yourself a medal. I think a grand total of 8 people have come to the blog from it. It's a good thing I'm not some kind of attention hungry trollop, cravenly intent on building traffic by any means poss.. oh. Sssh.

Anyway. I had a terrible job writing so little: there was so much more I could have said, wanted to say. I'd have struggled with 3000 words, probably, because for the last year or so I have thought about these questions around online identity pretty much constantly, and without any satisfactory resolution.

The thing I found myself thinking mainly, once the deadline passed, and I had turned in something that was incomplete, partial, though true, was this: I think, really, I'm constitutionally unsuited to confessional blogging. If you want to write very candidly on line, you need to have a very robust sense of self, and of your own boundaries. You need, if not a thick skin, at least a slightly reinforced one. You have to know when to take criticism on board, and when to laugh it off as the frothing of lunatics. I have none of those things: I sway in the slightest breeze of disapproval, become completely uprooted by anything stronger. I'm weak and uncertain, I lack perspective and I want everyone to like me. Objectively speaking, I have no place on the internet; it's like I wandered off one day and found myself somewhere I wasn't really equipped for.

I didn't even know to be wary when I started ; there was no calculation, no cost benefit analysis when I wrote. It was a bit stupid, definitely naive. It wasn't like I was in the vanguard of blogging like some of the people mentioned in the Observer piece; I'm a pathetically late adopter and I could very well have known better, but I simply never thought in those terms. I did it for myself, I enjoyed the feedback, so I did it more. It was pretty raw, occasionally mean, entirely honest. Some of those entries make very uncomfortable reading for me, some got me into a heap of trouble. Even so, I haven't taken many down.

And I still write. I don't write quite as unguardedly as I used to: you never quite get over your HR manager quoting sections of your blog back to you, I think (mmmm happy days). But I write, and I have no intention of giving up and the reason (it's going to get a bit sappy here, you are warned)? I have been exceptionally, extraordinarily lucky with what this blog has brought me. I don't think that article as a whole gives a good sense of how very much blogging can confirm or restore your faith in human nature, and how that can be a driver to keep doing it. To the extent the piece sees an upside to blogging, it's as an adjunct to some kind of commercial venture, a brand building exercise or conceivably as a forum for intellectual synergies. That's not why most people write personal blogs, and the benefits they derive are not commercial or even necessarily intellectual; they are about belonging, exchanging, giving and getting comfort. I don't argue with the author's assertion, which is quite elegantly put, that:

"Our digital lives are interwoven at every point with the rest of our lives. When we pretend otherwise, we risk making appalling, life-wrecking mistakes".

Of course that's true. I've written about this, talked about it with experts in order to write about it, and felt and learnt the truth of it personally in all manner of ways. But if I had been as reticent as perhaps I should have been two, three years ago, I would have missed out on some extraordinary exchanges and experiences. I have, as I say, been lucky: every time I have said something revealing, or painful over the last three years, people responded with enormous compassion and kindness. That's not everyone's experience of personal blogging. I'm very conscious of my good fortune, of how lucky I have been to have the readers I have. It has given me hope, and optimism, and an extraordinary set of relationships: intimate friends I can barely imagine how I lived without, acquaintances, people I can occasionally get drunk with, correspondents, sharers of one off meetings, or fellow lovers of capybaras. This is a bit schmaltzy, I know, but when I have a dark night of the soul about the direction my life has taken in recent years, I think of M, of Mrs Trefusis, of B, of Trish, of Beatrice, Katy, Tom, L, F, and lots of others, I think of testing a magnetic penis ring on a goat with Antonia, or Fountain Pen Sue sending me a massive box of Pokémon cards and some knee vitamins, and I can't regret it, I just can't.

I was staying with an internet friend this weekend and we talked about this kind of thing. She mentioned this post - and this gives me a very clear sense of how things have evolved; I looked at it and winced, and wondered about not including the link. But dammit, that's how she came into my life, and I certainly wouldn't want to have not known her. I might not quite be able to publish and be damned any more, but remembering that, and all the other moments like that, reminds me of the value of still trying to publish and be brave, occasionally.

19 comments:

Jojo said...

It was a beautiful, and brave (and funny) post, and the reason your confessional blog never rankled - apart from with humourless HR executives - was because, most importantly, it was beautifully written.

And I love that so many of your imaginary friends- myself included - have become real ones.

Anonymous said...

I love you. X

neuroticnotes said...

I loved the Observer article and can also relate to the fear over recently starting a blog and not knowing where to draw the anonymous/wanting attention line.

But, you're a total inspiration to me. I think your blog is amazing. Personally, I loved the stories which were more raw/honest, because I could relate to them so much. I wish wish wish I had come up with the brain posts. They are my absolute favourites.

I don't know why I started blogging. In many ways, it's the worst time to start, as I am about to embark on a legal career and I am at an age where I should really know better than do anything to potentially jeopardise it.

But, I enjoy it, and for now, that is enough.

Waffle Bébé said...

This is terribly good you know - sappy but eloquent.

Through your (still hilarious) blog I got to meet the adoptive belgian based mother I never knew I had - a woman who doesn't judge me, even when I reveal far-fetched theories about the birthplace of Marvin Gaye or a passion for Pope Benedict souvenirs.

She is obviously crazy, but I love her dearly.

Onwards Wafflemere x

Anonymous said...

and now i'm weeping. like the weepette. and my WV is boman, WHICH MUST MEAN SOMETHING.


snorfle.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading your piece in today's Observer, which I thought was fantastically written. I so do look up to people like you with such warm, enchanting intelligence spiced up with a quirky sense of humour.

I do not read any blogs other than some trendy ones although these do have more images as content than writing. Also I suppose, I've accustomed to treat my FB friends' postings as the prime source for all things new and interesting. I've in fact become very addicted to posting new exciting material on my own wall on a daily basis, and I totally recognise myself from your description of how hooked you get to receive positive remarks on your notions - and how dreadful you feel when the great link or a thought you yourself find fascinating does not receive that instant notification.

This is why I banned FB from myself for a week (started last Thursday) in the name of seeing how bad my addiction is and I have now been successfully without it for four days, although yesterday I went to a favourite tiny-hidden gem-bar in London, to which Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller turned up. That sort of thing in my otherwise flat life definitely would have deserved a status update. But as you can see, I couldn't help myself- even writing a positive feedback to you- this event needed its audience whether on my wall or your commentary. fairly pathetic. and apologies for not deleting this paragraph..

Anyhow, I am so happy that I found your blog. Reading all this must be the virtual, stimulating, entertaining pastime at its best. I am looking forward seeing what's going on in that pretty, bald, witty head of yours :)

hairyfarmerfamily said...

Superb post. I winced at the reciting HR manager; that must have been shuddersomely bad.

Playing fast and loose with my own doings online has never caused me a problem, but my nearest and voiceless dearest dislikes it. I used to resent his dislike, but I'm a little wiser now. Publish and be damned I can handle entirely: I'm a little more wary of Publish and be divorced. But even if I comply with plaintive spousals requests to change the blog's name, adopt an unlikely pseudonym, remove all the photos, edit every mention of our son, or even just fold my online tent altogether, bin the laptop and steal away into the luddite night - then I will still be the richer by a number of very close friends indeed.

But I'm greedy, and so I want to keep making those wonderful friends, and I want to keep enjoying my blog and the conversations it brings me - and yet I don't want my son teased at school. I can't dismiss my family's privacy concerns either.

Ehh, well. Blogging has many pains, but not blogging has no pleasures. Or something.

Z said...

Blogging has made me open up far more in real life. And I now talk as I blog. I have no idea whether this is good or not; on the one hand I'm warmer but on the other I have a tendency to over-share. However, I have made good and genuine friends, some of whom I've met.

Bagladyclaire said...

I love your blog, with all your beautiful writing and truth and humour and vulnerabilities. I think you are amazing. How could you not be when you come up with lines like "the frothing of lunatics?!"

Dara said...

Brava, dear Waffle, brava.

Miss Underscore said...

I love your blog. I think you have such a clear, true, witty and charming voice. Your writing is always beautiful. There is also a real warmth and modesty to your posts.

I think blogs give people get a rare glimpse into the real lives of others (their joys, sorrows, eccentricities and their frailties). It is so leveling. No matter how alienated I feel I can read a blog (like yours) and think 'Fuck yes.' Or, I can tell a personal story on my blog and have people say 'I know exactly what that's like.' It's such a comfort.

There are whole casts of characters in my favourite blogs that I love catching up with. I think a well-written blog is a truly beautiful thing.

I don't know why I write my blog. I enjoy doing it, I (as you say in your Observer article) do often write about things I would never really talk about, even to close friends. Some people may find that rather strange. I find it oddly healing.

Nimble said...

Fuck branding. As Miss U says, the joy of blog reading is getting a vivid glimpse of another life. Whether the entries are careful reflections, train wrecky outpourings or snarky complaint fests they bring me thoughts and minds I would never have encountered otherwise.

Anonymous said...

..I agree with all above and although have never left a comment on anything before wanted to say thank you for the wonderful, sharp, funny, generous chronicle of belgium and it's deep weirdness you have created.

On your decision to start the blog -what luck! who knew? as they say. I am very happy for you that you are getting to breathe a little more of the air you need and have been following your brave progress to reconnect with where you should be. chapeau. you also write beautifully about motherhood, spontaneous not slavish - beautiful.

Waffle said...

Thank you all for such lovely, kind, wonderful comments. I am a bit choked up. Just shows exactly what I was saying. xxxxx

asta said...

I've admired your writing for quite some time and have been in awe of your candor and deft touch.

And you make me laugh on days when only my coffee is darker than my mood.

I bow to your talent and thank you for it.

linda@adventuresinexpatland.com said...

Great article (his and yours). I think blogs, over time, do tend to highlight the mindset of the person blogging, but they certainly do not show the entire person.

Seems a fair trade-off to me, and I think you handle it far better than you give yourself credit for. I'd rather have you blogging as you are than not have you blogging at all.

Nat said...

I've been readng your blog for abot 18months now and I never ever comment but I love it, I think your amazing and brave and beautiful. I've laughed and cried countless times at your writing, you are a brilliant writer. I've been through some dark times as well and your wee blog has always kept me going at times, I understand the hoplessness and despair and wanting to stay in bed all day. At times you say all the things I think but can't say, thats why it's so nice to know that even though I don't know you, there is some comfort in reading you.
Anyway you are ace, keep writing.

Betty M said...

Can't believe it took me a week to read this. So glad that HR people, outing by newspaper and other traumas notwithstanding you still keep writing here. Crafts, Belgian politics, endives - none are funny without you. Honest.

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