One question I hear over and over from my Invincible Summer students is,”How do I express myself with authenticity on my blog … especially when I’m going through a rough patch/depressed/angry/(pick your poison)?”
When you make yourself and your work public, you aren’t “just” you anymore; you’re not just writing for yourself. Your audience has become familiar with the facets of self you present to them.
Blogging doesn’t ask you to lie, or change your personality, or otherwise build up a false persona to please your audience.
But it does call upon us to choose which parts of ourselves to highlight for our audience.
We’re all multi-faceted–perfect gems cut in a million places, each cut an experience or characteristic (or flaw) that shows a different side to us. Each facet bursts with truth and beauty. When we write with an audience in mind, we must be mindful of the facets we choose to reveal to our readers.
So we try, we bloggers, so hard, don’t we, to share the parts of us that are positive; to blog about the stories that inspire us; to write the things that our audience needs? A blog, after all, is not a personal journal–not usually, anymore, at least. It’s a dynamic creation, an organism of engagement: you provide the content that your readers want and need, and they feed you with comments and conversation, friendship and interaction.
So what happens when you hit emotional lean times? Is it really right to cheapen the community you’ve created by forcing yourself to fake a positive attitude, when everything in you is crying out to be heard–really heard, honestly heard and seen: all parts of you. The parts that hurt, too.
You can’t fake joy, or silky words that tell tales of a perfect world that’s always beautiful, when inside you’re dying a little & you want to punch walls and cry and spout your negativity, your sadness, your vulnerability, all over the place.
It’s good to be human. It means that we bleed and feel, that we cry, that we survive hurricanes and earthquakes and divorces and grief and disasters.
And your audience likes, from time to time, to see that you are human, too.
Often, the best advice for the writer in pain is to take a chance; take a leap; make yourself vulnerable. Let them see you in the plain light of day.
That being said, here are a few simple tips to help you decide when it’s a good time to vent all that negativity on your blog … and when it’s perhaps not the best time:
- If it’s the really negative stuff—the really ugly things that you’d never share out loud, with anyone, not even your best friend … it probably doesn’t go on your blog. You want your readers to see that you’re real, but you don’t want to scare them away. A private journal is a good place to write down that really ugly stuff.
- Speaking of really negative, nasty stuff–if what you’re thinking of writing involves a conflict between you and another blogger (or, for that matter, a non-blogger that none of your readers know), keep that stuff out of your web-space. Again, you don’t want to scare your readers. Think about a time when you were really angry, and arguing it out with somebody. Think of the things that came out of your mouth that you wish you could take back. Now imagine that a whole bunch of people have access to a recording of that argument and all the nasty stuff you said & now regret. Yeah. That’s what your blog looks like if you decide to turn it into an arena for confrontation and personal conflict.
- Wait 24 hours before publishing. If you’re unsure as to whether a post is too tender to share, save it and take a look at it a day or so later. If you still feel like sharing it could be a poor choice, then file it.
- If you feel full of stories that you need to put out there, and they just keep coming and coming, you might want to start a second blog where you write more personal stories, or start writing a memoir—something that’s really all about you, and less about developing ideas for an audience. (Your memoir will find its own audience, which will probably overlap with your blog’s audience).