Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Public Face Private Face

Two weeks ago at our ward's playgroup I got to talking with a fantastic sister whom I'm calling Erma until she actually decides to begin a blog and come up with a more descriptive blognym. Erma has four sons, is in her mid-late thirties, owns a dog, homeschools, dabbles in a bit of writing . . . oh, and she is the oldest of 21 children.

21 children.

No twins. Same mother. Same father. Really.

The writing that she mostly does is personal essay, though she enjoys performing--doing monologues and such. Erma even had a spot on a local radio show back east a few years ago. Anyway, we were talking about a big writer's conference she attended in Portland just a few weeks ago. She and hubby left the four kidlets with her in-laws and off they went. Ostensibly together, though she admitted that she spent much of her time attending workshops as well as talking to editors and publishers; she received some very positive feedback.

All of the publishing houses were asking their writers if they had a "presence on the web." Erma and I then began talking at length about blogging. Why people do it, if the writing is really all that great, what its role is in the life of somebody who really hopes to write professionally, etc. It seems that the publishers are mainly interested in finding out if you already have an audience for whatever you are doing: a ready-made fan base willing to pony up the cash for something you've written.

It was an interesting conversation. We also talked at length about whether a person's blog persona, particularly if they are working to stay anonymous, is really true to their actual self. It is interesting how you will say things on a blog that you might not actually say in person. For example, some of you here are just casual or occasional observers, yet you might end up knowing way more than you wanted to. I said to Erma that blogging, particularly with strangers, no matter how interesting or wonderful they seem or how many commonalities exist, is a bit, well, voyeuristic. How long can we be entertained with the daily minutiae of other people's lives? When will actual conversation be re-enthroned as a way to become acquainted with people? With everyone able to publish, it seems that people have ceased to edit entirely what they say or write. The reigning attitude seems to be that if a thought occurs to you, then you should absolutely say it! Stream-of-consciousness has reached a whole new level of annoying thanks to the magic of the Internet.

And then I think of the fantastic women I have met doing this (or at least have become better acquainted with). Here is a sampling of you, who never seem to be false, and show in your every post your real thoughts and personalities:

* BelCantoMom and her never-wavering faith
* Caitlin's treatment of life-altering trials as part of every day existence and not complaining a whit about them
* Calm Rapids and her cheery way of approaching a life busier than any I've every imagined
* Christie and her oh-so-clever writing and dogged determinism to whatever attribute needs improvement
* Desmama and her succinct way of sharing exactly what is on her mind, editing herself as carefully as she edits everyone else
* Dickey whose amazing pictures share stories that she doesn't have the words for
* Doreen and her commitment to the things she feels the strongest about
* Foxy J and her quiet reflections that force a mirror in front of my face, causing me to think twice before I make my own judgments about things
* GirlyMomma for the girl-power and kid-love that is a plastered boldly into every post
* Janssen and the way she gleans meaning out of everyday experiences
* KimBlue's quiet dignity, moderate opinions, and carefully reasoned posts
* Miss Nemesis and the snarkiness that has made more than one rainy day turn out hilarious
* Slim and her commitment to her kids and their hobbies as well as her own
* Elastic Waist Band Lady and the laughs she always brings to the table and her highly unusual way of viewing normalish things
*LaJuana and her mellow demeanor about the many trials chasing her down
* Yankee Girl and her love of the best things in life (free or otherwise)

Again, just a sampling. I've learned a lot here in the last two years. (My blog turned 2 on the 15th of this month.) For every five or ten posts, I think I write ONE really good one: a post that makes me think, "Yes! This is EXACTLY what I wanted to say!" This forum has helped to moderate and refine my thinking. It has helped me to take a hard look inside when I am wrong. It has taken some of the frustration out of not publishing. This writing format is easier most days than committing to my novel writing. Mostly, I'm continually amazed at the talents and trials I learn about among those women I count as friends. I'm blessed to share a part of your success and to feel a sense of solidarity with your failures.

Thanks for being a part of my journey.


Janssen said...

What a lovely post. Thanks for sharing with us too. I'll have to go check out more of the blogs on that list.

And thank you for your kind words. That's one of the nicest compliments I've ever received.

(Also, 21 children? I have no words).

FoxyJ said...

Thanks for the compliment as well :) I do ponder what people think about me when they read my blog--reading through some old posts the other day I realized that I sound more serious than I am in person. Really.

Doreen said...

My blog is turning 3 next month. I've absolutely loved blogging. I used to try and journal, but I realized that I do much better writing when I have an audience. Not that I'm that great of a writer, but it's fun to be able to share my random ramblings, and occasionally deep thoughts, with friends. And it's amazing how much better I've gotten to know some of my friends who also blog. It's a great way to stay in touch, and to stay up-to-date on what everyone's up to. I also love the good discussions that sometimes ensue from a post. Anyway, yeah, I love my blog, and I'm glad so many of my friends keep one. :o)

Doreen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doreen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doreen said...

I deleted the other two comments. :p I also wanted to say that I knew and Elder back when I lived in Germany who came from a family of 21 kids. There can't be too many of those!

Caitlin said...

I was a little shocked (in a good way) to see my name there. I really value your opinion because you are a fantastic writer who is dedicated to her art. I used to be an OK writer, but I lacked the courage to pursue it. Now time and dormancy have left my small talent in a sad state. I find your willingness to share with everyone, both lovers and critics, yourself laid bare. I find your honesty as a mother, a wife, and a woman, refreshing. Good writers have a knack for observing the everyday things and looking at them in a new way. Removing themselves from situations and helping us to see things in a new light. It's even better when done with humor. I still go back and read your complaints about delivering papers. It is hilarious. My other favorite post was the one written about your father. What a gift to your children and grandchildren. OK- gone on long enough. I am glad to have found your blog. I enjoy reading it. Don't stop writing.

Z. Marie said...

Wow, 21 children make my parents' 11 seem like a much smaller herd.
Great post. I have up trying to make my blog interesting awhile back, but I'm hoping to improve it soon.

Dickey said...

You amaze me...I have to share this because every time I read your post I think to myself "How can she do that?" (referring to writing your posts) This past year I was "Teacher of the Year" for my school. Okay, a nice $100 gift card for teachers supplies would have been great but instead my principal gives me a big packet ... I have to write a 10 page paper on the subject during my spring break. HUGE ANXIETY!!!!!!! I would have rather work for free for the rest of the year than to have written that paper. Needless to say I managed but did not get to enjoy my break and was a horrible mom to kids. Also ended getting very sick probably due to all my anxiety. So know that I greatly admire you and your talent and thanks for letting us peek into your journey

Christie said...

I sure enjoyed this post! Not only do I enjoy your entries, but I alwasys read and ponder all the comments too. Wish I knew your readers better. I'll work on that.

Slyck and Slim said...

I love reading your blog because I enjoy the thoughts you share -- your blog is my philosophy/deep thinking for the day since I usually don't get any mental stimulation beyond "Mary Had a Little Lamb." You have a gift for expressing your thoughts with words. Keep on writing!!!


I saw my name!!!!! And it wasn't related to anything snipey that would send me into fits of despair! Yay!!!

I have a confession. I had another blog (you commented there once) called Arugulas In Love because I felt like I couldn't express some of the things I was thinking on my regular easily author-identifiable blog. It was asked at a blog party how many of us have/had secrety blogs. Every hand in the room went up!

I work a lot and can't make it to many churchy activities. I thought I would always be the convert misfit who gives into the sin of light-mindedness more often than I should. But then I started blogging and met other LDS ladies similar to me. They've inspired me to try harder in life through their words of encouragement and acts of love. Seriously, I've gone through some rough times that I try not to discuss on my blog. Somehow these ladies sensed it and phone calls and gifts made their way to our house. I'm not emotional or sentimental but I can't help but sob big fat tears of joy when I realize that often they've been the answer to a prayer and they didn't even know it.


Blogging is a time sucker, to be sure, but I wouldn't say that it's a time-waster. You're keeping your mind and your writing talents fresh with every post you crank out.

In order to have a "fan base" that would require a lot of time and dedication. Not many casual bloggers make it to the Land Of Blog Exaltation. There's plenty of unknowns out there that I prefer to the big names. The only difference is that they didn't expend energy marketing themselves to the hilt. For a brief amount of time I signed up with a bunch of blog traffic sites. But then I hated the pressure of trying to write funny stuff just because I joined a humor-blog directory. So I quit. I just don't want to have to think that hard about something I'm not getting paid for.

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I opened your blog to do a quick search for the salad dressing you like, and before I knew it I'd spent an hour here. You (and your other readers) always give me plenty to think about.

Thanks for sharing my journey, too.

Sunnie said...

thanks for the little shout-out on the blog. makes me feel good:) blogging is a funny thing but i have really enjoyed it over the last 2+ years. it is the best journal/scrapbook/photo album i have ever kept. one day i'll be so grateful i spent the time doing this. and i love love love to see what other people are doing or thinking in their own blogs. i'm such a people person and at home life leaves you kind of lonely at time. it's so great to see that there is a world and people outside my four walls. i do enjoy your writing and feel like you have one of the smartest, most well written blogs i read.

CaLM RAPIDS said...

I love reading about the every day doings of other people. It reminds me of a garage sale. When I do have time and there is something big to draw me in, I stop and browse. Then I look at all of the little stuff. All of the stuff that lived with these people for years, on display, up for sale, mostly junk. If not valuable to buy, then the value is in looking and seeing these people--strangers through their objects.

chicagosapps said...

Thanks, STM. I haven't felt very mellow the last few weeks, but I'm getting there. Of course "not very mellow" to me is like "practically dead" to my high strung sister.

I love reading your blog, it always gives me something to think about. And I've peeked at some of your friends too. Yes, I'm a blog voyeur.