In Defense of the Personal Blog

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I started blogging in 2004, when I was a twenty-something living in Calgary in a dilapidated house with a hot rugby boyfriend.  My life was nothing like it is now, the Internet was a totally different animal.  I was working for a radio company, selling the emerging tendrils of digital space, and I secretly blogged in the wee hours, taking a crazy amount of thrill in each incoming comment on my free blogger.com site.  Nolan did not exist, I had no idea what Motherhood meant, my priorities were corporate ladder climbing and resisting my 30th birthday for as long as possible.  I took a lot of pictures of the trails outside my house and whispered in words about dating, doubt, early adulthood.

If I had a problem, the Internet answered.  If I had a fight with my boyfriend, my readers usually declared him wrong.  It felt like a secret club, writing for a semi-anonymous personal blog, and the space was the Wild West: the topics I wrote about were alarmingly raw and bloody.  But there was little risk, and I felt safe throwing out tidbits of my personal life.  Trainwrecks.com didn’t exist, the blogging space was obscure enough that the mean girls hadn’t yet infiltrated to kick at wounds and mount public shaming wars. I never used my real name and so the space was like a comforting elixir:  I could write what I couldn’t articulate in small talk and anonymous IP addresses would answer back: “Yes, we get you.  No, you’re not insane.  Please, keep writing because you help us know we’re normal.”

But things changed.  Anonymity became necessary, especially in the face of breakups and impending babies.  The Internet became nasty, and blogging became a business.  Words on the screen morphed from a platform for sharing our humanity into dollar signs: potential for schwag and relationships with Fortune 500 businesses.

I wanted no part of that, so  I ducked and hid for a while, sticking to  benign posts about the weather, childhood reading exercises, excellent taco recipes on for-pay sites where the anonymous bullies were swiftly deleted.

Here’s the thing though:  I missed those raw posts.

I had used the unfiltered blogs of other personal bloggers to better understand myself and my place in the world.   I devoured posts by powerful writers about cheating and animosity, self doubt and healing.

And I know that the very best posts I ever wrote were the dark ones where the emotional risk was enormous and the feedback was 100% “Holy shit, I’ve been there. Thank you for writing about being there, too.

It’s almost impossible to authentically relay ragged, true life moments online anymore, and I am positive I’m not the only one who thinks that’s a total crying shame.

***

Earlier this week, my friend Holly wrote a post about the jagged edges of emotion that transpire in the weeks following the birth of a new human being.  She gathered up the searing pain and the brilliant awe and she made an indescribable experience completely crystal clear.

The post soared in itsutter relatabilty: every single mother in the Universe could understand the bleeding emotion that Holly described.  It’s not the kind of emotion you can read about in your local newspaper or monthly fashion magazine.

In that post, Holly wrote about the fact that she didn’t feel it necessary to share the details of her son’s life.  And though I have enormous respect for her right to feel that way, I was taken aback by some of the commenters who wrote yes, thank you Holly for saying that.  In fact, they said, they had to stop reading other blogs written by Mothers who relayed stories about their children. Because children deserved privacy.

The inference was clear: Moms who write about their children online are unwise, and unfair.  Those children don’t have a  choice in their Mother’s words, and so those words don’t have right to be written.

Bullshit, is what I say.

After almost ten years in the blogging space, I believe wholeheartedly in the transformative power of the personal blog. – for the better.

We are all dots in time, and the  years fly by in a blur, and entire childhoods are forgotten because we have mortgages and the economy sucks and our parents are getting older and now is so much more pressing.  I think that my stories about my boys are a permalink  testament to my love for them, and I hope one day they will read them and realize moments they never would have known about otherwise.  I hope they will understand who I was as a person, outside of being their Mother.  I would be thrilled for them to know that their life stories matter to people even outside our direct family unit.

Many of us are Gen-X Moms.  We slid around in the back of our parents T-birds, no carseats, cigarette smoke infiltrating the back seats. We rode banana seat bikes with no helmets and ate bologna sandwiches with mustard and chemical bread and created fun by passing each other out in muddy school yards.

Any stories we have about our quirky milk grins and our first teetering steps and about the way our Mothers loved us exist mostly  in grainy Polaroids and folded-up Raggedy Ann costumes.  We don’t know who we were outside of  anecdotal, spoken evidence, which may or may not have been tempered and skewed over the last 30 years.

I don’t know about you, but I would love to read about my Mom’s feelings for me in 1979.  I would love to know her perspective on the world,  the way things were back then.  I’d love to read about her dreams, the way she saw me and our family, and her beliefs and deepest wishes for my brother and me.  I can think of no greater gift than a written diary of her fears and aspirations and yes, even her best recipe for 1980’s creamy tomato soup.

Tech blogs have their very firm place in the world, and business blogs are very important.  Food blogs have changed the way we set our tables, and fashion blogs have stabbed away at the jogging pant as a style statement.

Personal blogs, littered with our authentic stories and the lives of our children, are no less important.  I would argue that they are the most important type of record, because they can forge bonds and remove shame and provide a living testament to who we are.

Writing about the tribulations of parenting is nothing to be ashamed if, and I think it should be encouraged rather than scorned.

I’m going to write about Nolan, and Jude, and the bumpy pathway of Motherhood, and I’m going to be unapologetic about it.

I hope you will be, too.

54 thoughts on “In Defense of the Personal Blog

  1. I’m right there with you. When you strip away everything that blogging is and has become, it’s the stories about my kids that are the most important, the most precious.

  2. Kristin, I have been reading your writing since Nolan’s baby days and I was so sad when you stopped writing your blog. You don’t know me at all and I don’t have a blog. As with so many of your readers, I’d guess. I’m just commenting to say please, never, never stop. You are an amazing writer and a voice of true comfort in a crazy world.

  3. word.

    i’m nodding my head here to the point where it could almost fall off i am *so* in agreement with this post. i thought it was just me. the internet totally got weird – blogs included. i think i was late to realizing it and got slammed by a bunch of trolls years ago for my ‘sharing’. i didn’t see it coming (and had a hard time hacking it), so i went private for a while and left facebook. but when i stepped back and realized i’d let others define what the internet is for me it seemed so effed up. so i went public again and got back on fb. though i still succumb to worrying about how people will perceive how i use the internet sometimes, i figure if i’m following my heart and leaving even the tiniest shred of my family’s story in my not-so-nearly-as-eloquent-writing as most for my kids, that’s all that matters.

  4. Yes. This sums up exactly how I feel. I have been quietly (for the internet) blogging for 10 years. My daughter was seven and my son five when I started. Now, both kids look back at past posts and comment on things they had forgotten or never knew. They appreciate the fact that I have documented the way that I feel about them, about raising them. They understand the less pretty bits because those bits were an honest description of our lives. And, I take comfort in knowing that the feelings I have for my family will not be unknown to them. It’s the reason I write. So, thank you, for being able to more accurately describe my motives than even I could.

    • Chelle, I love hearing that your kids appreciate your words. In a world full of arguments and chemical warfare and abuse and ugly words — a Mom’s willingness to share her story with a small piece of the world is a gift. Honesty is always a gift.

  5. Yes, and thank you. I have been reading your blogs since 2004 (my god!) and your raw honesty is always searing. The Internet needs voices like yours. (And Holly’s.) And I would love my children to read my chronicle of me as a person and a mother some day, but even if they don’t want to, it stands as a record of what one person’s life was, and I’m happy to stand over it.

  6. I have followed your blog for a very long time and was very sad when you took a hiatus. The thing I love about your writing is that it is raw and powerful and true and so very real. I feel like I know you via the internet(not meant to be creepy) and getting glimpses into your life feels like such a privilege. Please continue to share openly. I am wowed by your writing and insights!

    • Lisa, I will never, ever forget your kindness for the Internet baby shower for Nolan – and the thoughtful awesomeness of your gift. Broad from Abroad still rates in my All Time Fave Top 10 list.

  7. I’ll be there. Thank you for this. 🙂 My 20 y/o daughter loves to read in my decade old blog (well, some of it got lost in space when “Spaces” become defunct) about what was happening in her world through my eyes. She says it gives her a whole different perspective – and allows an avenue for her to share with me her OWN perspective of what life looked like then.

  8. I agree 100%. I have some letters my mom wrote to her mom about me when I was 3 and I have devoured those letters. I’ll continue writing about me and my kids also. And so glad you are too.

  9. AMENNNN, I’m not sure if I’m biased because I know you personally and love you. I’ve also been reading your blogs since your 20s and your words, your writting always reaches a place within me like no other. Never stop writing about the things you are so passionate about because you have a gift and so many of us want to read your words. Muah

  10. My original comment seems to have been eaten by the Internet, but I felt compelled to come back and say YES YES YES because personal blogging is IMPORTANT. I’m so glad I have ten(!) years of memories written down, but I’m just as grateful to have access to the life experiences of so many other people–both the experiences that are similar to my own and the ones that are quite different. (Holly’s experience with motherhood so far is nothing like my own, and if no one ever wrote about that stuff in public, I’d have no idea people could feel that way and would probably be the ass talking about how fun and easy the newborn days are.) I love that there’s no one right way to write a personal blog (as opposed to all the checklists that will tell you how to write a successful business one), and I hope the genre never, ever, ever goes away.

  11. Yes! I totally agree. There’s nothing more I would love to read than what my mother was thinking back in the 70s and what I was like. There is a shortage of stories, for sure and while I’ve occasionally blogged about my children, I’ve also kept a written record of stories for them – so old-fashioned, I know and sometimes I wonder if they will ever care. The stories are so much about me. But after reading this, I know they will read them one day and that I will be proud to have taken the time. Love your writing!

  12. Thank you for this. First of all I’m glad you are blogging again – and secondly, as someone who has been blogging in one form or another for over a decade I’ve been burnt out on my own words for a while. They are still there, buried inside me but I’ve been wondering if it was even worth sharing them. But everything you said – about how you wish you knew what your mother was thinking way back when makes me think that maybe my girls would like to know that too – the good and the bad. Thank you Kristin.

  13. I’m….just so glad you’re back. I read along from the early days, nodding my head most days because it was like you were writing out some of the things in my head, until one day you were gone. I think the blogging world is a better place with you in it. Thank you for letting us back in. ❤

  14. (Forgive me if this posts twice, me and comment forms… UGH) I was just thinking about why I like blogging so much better than journaling privately on paper, and I think the main reason is I self sensor just enough on the blog that while I still cringe at some of my old entries, I literally cannot read my old paper journals. I’m so glad Moses and the new baby will have the glimpses of their childhood I’m sharing and I think they’ll understand if I haven’t always painted a glowing picture of motherhood or myself and them. I’m very sad my mom didn’t have this kind of outlet when she was my age because now that she’s gone, I would have loved to have gone back to my childhood entries and read what she was going through.

    • Holy SHIT bounce — you were like, the very first. I hope you’re well. We need to have wine and catch up on a decade at some point before we hit the senior citizen years.

  15. Yes, yes, yes! I love this. My mom wrote a poem about me back in 1976, when I was five years old, and I read it so many times that I still have it memorized to this day. My daughter was eight when I started blogging and now she is a freshman in high school. In four years, she’ll be off to college. Her childhood has slipped by in an instant, but my stories – OUR family stories – will be with her and with me, long after she’s moved away.

  16. I love this, and also I love that most of your commenters here are some of my most favourite old-school bloggers, the ones I idolized in the early days. 🙂 I got a little jaded by the blogging/online world when I went to my first big blogging conference. I saw a lot of fakeness and self-promotion and it just left a bad taste in my mouth. Since then, I have definitely pulled back on my personal blog, also due to starting a new, demanding career and letting life get in the way, but I too miss the pull to write honest, real and true posts that really connected with readers. Searching for a balance, I am. I just feel a little lost at sea when it comes to the innernets today. 🙂

  17. You know how much I like and admire you and your writing, even though you are kind of a pain in the ass about changing your blog name and URL all the time (ok, three times? Four? It seems like a lot!). I’m glad to see you back and fighting the good fight to tell the beautiful true stories of everyday.

    • Suebob, you’re awesome even when you’re slightly cranky. I reserve the right to change my blog url and title at least seven more times. 🙂 You’ve always been one of my tip top favourites, from way back when you were stapling everyone.

  18. Great post which I found when shared on facebook. I am you in your early days, without the youth! I have a relatively new personal blog which I began not knowing anyone would read it. At times I posted very raw emotions and experiences. Now people have found me and I do wonder. I wonder can I still be as free as I was?

    • Hi Tric,

      I think there’s a fine line — write like you think your Mom might be reading. That will help you keep it tight but still give you leeway to be authentic. In my experience, the only definite no-nos are writing anything in detail about ex husbands or boyfriends. Or too much about the details of your career. Almost anything else, in my book, is fair game…as long as it’s positioned thoughtfully.

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  20. You know that I’m right there with you. I don’t plan to quit telling stories, ever. Now that Graham is in middle school (!) and the other two are only a few years behind him, I am more careful of what I write about them. But, they read my posts and love to go back and read old ones about them. And about me.

    Glad you’re back, K. I probably won’t be down at the Coast until next year, but if you guys want to come stay at our cabin at Apex and ski/board, we’d love to have you. xo

    • Angella, you’ve been one of my favourites for so many years. I can’t believe Graham is in middle school.

      Man, we’d love to come ride at Apex. I’ll be in touch for sure, but either way we should make plans for some dock time. xo

  21. I did not read your very first blog, but I did read the second – when you had Nolan and lived in BC. Before you met Corey. Before your life now. it was a joy to journey with you, the good and the bad and the ugly and the beautiful. I am so glad you are writing again. I cannot – for many reasons – and I miss my honest, raw, real writing. xoxo

  22. Oh, Kristin, thank you. I love this and am so grateful that you wrote it. I’ve been writing about my kids since 2006 and as they get older I find I’m more guarded, but I still do it sometimes, and I vacillate between guilt that I’m doing something wrong and gratitude that I have this curated set of memories. xox

  23. 4 weeks into motherhood, I already wish I was writing more down – on my blog, in a hand-scrawled journal, wherever. It’s all going by so fast already and I know I will miss it in a rush of sleeplessness if I’m not careful. So, thank you for the reminder and the impetus. And, it is so good to read your words again! Hope things continue to go very well for you.

  24. “We slid around in the back of our parents T-birds, no carseats, cigarette smoke infiltrating the back seats”….totally. Our kids live in a totally different world.

    I too cut off the raw edges of my blogging at some point…partly because I was trying to be a teacher, partly because I was pulling back from HOW raw it can get when you have babies and then small kids. I miss the raw too, for these reasons. Thank you.

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  26. My Mom has dementia. All the childhood stories she never told me are now gone forever. All my “not yet thought to ask” questions can now never be answered. Please, write them all down now while they are happening. Even the ones you aren’t sure you want to post can sit in your drafts folder for someday. What I would give for my Mom to have written a personal blog.

  27. Hi Kristin!

    I read you for years and really resonated with your writing and was quite sad when you stopped blogging. On a whim yesterday I thought about you and did a quick google and was thrilled to see you had taken it up again! I am Calgarian and living in Portugal about to start a family of my own and I’ve really enjoyed reading your words again! I personally would have loved it if my mom had written a personal blog or even a personal journal as I’m the 9th of 10 children so understandably her memory of the details of our individual childhoods is meagre at best! All the best with your new pregnancy!

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