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September 19, 2013 - Betsy Bethel
I don't always feel inspired to blog. In my job, writing feature stories for the newspaper and magazine, my inspiration comes, thankfully, from my subject matter. I write because there is a story to tell. Someone else's story. If it's not a good story, I (usually) don't write about it. "Good" is a relative term, of course. It could mean heartwarming, bizarre, fascinating, enlightening ... but it always means compelling. A good story is one that readers want to read. Not because of how it's written, but because of what it is.
Blogging, however, is a different story.
It's not that there aren't good stories I could tell on my blog. But usually, those stories already have been blogged, YouTubed and talk-showed to death, so what's my voice really going to add to it? When you're standing in the middle of Grand Central Station, your voice is lost in the scrum.
So what I tend to do is write about what's going on in my life. This can be problematic for many reasons. First, it's not always exciting. If there's nothing going on, finding inspiration is like, to use the Grand Central Station analogy again, telling someone to meet you at Grand Central but giving no further direction (what train you're riding, where you'll be waiting, etc.). You have about a million to one chance that you'll find each other. (Don't quote me on that. I'm a typical writer, meaning I'm terrible at math.)
On the contrary, if there's too much going on, or if life is particularly full and rich and exciting right then, who has time to write!? Plus, it's hard to focus during those times. I think about writing, and think and think and think about it. But I put it off — just like when the house is a disaster and I think about cleaning but I don't know where to start, so I do nothing (or watch Netflix, which is basically the same thing).
And then there's the issue of vulnerability. I want to "be real" with readers, but it's a risk. After all, I write about being a mom and other mothering topics. Who is being scrutinized in the public eye these days more than mothers? OK, Obama may have us beat. But everywhere you turn (or click), mothers are being blamed, questioned, lampooned, emasculated, harassed. Mothers can't do anything right. They're either not "leaning in" far enough; or they're hovering too much; or they're fierce, unfeeling tigers; or over-compensating doormats. And don't even think about admitting to what kind of toothpaste you let your kids use or where you buy their clothes. Don't you know that fluoride is poison and child laborers make those jeans?
It's pretty hostile here in the parenting world. I'm not saying that anything I write would garner enough attention that I would be subject to public drubbing. But in this day and age of social media, you never know when or where the public will pounce.
So why have a blog? you ask. Good question. I just asked myself the very thing.
Well, call me crazy, but ever since I was 15 and filling my journal with bad poetry, writing has helped me. I would go so far as to say it has saved me. Writing has served as my counselor, my friend, my mother, my sister, my lover. Writing has become such a part of me that, as I like to tell people, only half-jokingly, things never happened unless I write them down. Until I write something down, it is stuck in the quagmire of my brain. And once stuck there, it slowly disintegrates as if being eaten by acid until there's nothing left but a memory so vague that I question its validity. I have lots of those vague memories floating around up there. I've been known to ask friends or family, "Did that really happen or did I just make it up?"
Over the years, I have learned that being an extrovert means, in part, that I need to process information by expressing it outwardly — either by talking or, so it seems, by writing.
So blogging has become my new processing center, and thus, my life line. When I sat down to write this particular post, I didn't know what I was going to say or what my point would be, but now it's crystal clear: I may not always feel inspired to blog — because my life is too chaotic or my spirit is too weak or I have nothing to say. Regardless, I NEED to blog.
And when I go for stretches without blogging, my relationship with myself becomes disconnected and strained, just like when my husband and I neglect to engage in reciprocal, meaningful conversation for too long.
Inspiration for the true stories I write at work comes easy. They materialize right in front of me — in person or in my email inbox, or on Facebook, or on the phone, or out and about in the community. But inspiration for my blog is also right in front of me — or more accurately, right within me — when I choose to acknowledge it, take the time to process it and am brave enough to write about it. There will still be days when I don't feel like blogging, but I need to remember it is vital to keep the conversation going.
Where do you fit in? you may ask. Another good question! Well, despite the cacophony of voices out there in the blogosphere and the formidable force of detractors and nay-sayers, it is my hope you, my reader, will find my personal stories of some use to you; that you will find them compelling, will identify with some of what I'm experiencing, and, most of all, that you will join the conversation.
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