Writing and authenticity, part II

I got such great comments in response to yesterday’s post, I thought I could respond to some of them here instead of responding in the comments. This is what I don’t like about complaints that there is too much “meta-blogging” — obviously, people like blogging about blogging, based on the response it gets. So why not do it? Why not do a little thinking-through of this new genre occasionally? Bloggers are experiencing some new and interesting things, and it deserves some thought and discussion.

One of the most interesting things people talked about (it feels natural to say that people “talk” on a blog rather than or in addition to “writing” on a blog — commenting on a blog is a mix of talking and writing?) is the way they like who they are on the blog, and this “blog self” helps them deal with their “real self.” It’s like the blog is a chance to create or recreate yourself in a space that’s more easily controlled than any “real-life,” physical situation. In that space — with a pseudonym or not — you have more freedom to experiment with who you are without all the usual markers that label you in some way — one’s body, clothes, possessions, job, etc. And what you learn in the space of a blog can be carried over into the rest of your life.

For me, I’ve been learning a lot about how much fun writing is. The writing I did in grad school did not teach me that lesson. Well, that’s not entirely true; I learned that, for me, critical writing is satisfying in the way that riding a century (100 miles) is — it’s hard and painful and I wonder why I began at all, and then I find moments of exhilaration and pleasure. Sometimes those difficult-but-rewarding things are worth it — the pleasure outweighs the pain — sometimes they’re not. But the blog is teaching me that writing can be like an easy spin on a sunny, spring day: a little effort, and a lot of joy.

I like the story of Dr. Crazy, who wrote a blog and created a voice she decided she didn’t like and that didn’t suit her, and who then decided to create a new blog with a new persona to find a more flexible, more “authentic” voice (see Casey if you want to discuss that troubling term “authentic”). She carried her readers along with her from one blog to another, so it wasn’t the kind of starting over that involved cutting all ties to the old self; it more about claiming a new “space” in which to write in a new way, declaring that she’s starting over. I love it that on a blog a person can say, okay, now I’m giving you a different version of myself than the one you saw before, and readers will understand and appreciate what’s going on.

Thinking about how one’s blogging self can change one’s “real” self makes me curious about how people deal with having family or friends read their blogs. Because if the blog self is in some sense an experiment, then what do you do if people who know you know about your experimentations? Does that bother you? This is a difficult question for me, since I tend to be extremely self-conscious about how others see me (more so than other people? I’m not sure). I don’t really want to be “caught” self-consciously experimenting. People wrote about this yesterday actually, about feeling self-conscious when family or friends read them.

I’ve got a few friends whom I’ve told about the blog; I felt both that the blog is something important that’s happening in my life and that my good friends should know about that and that the things I write about are the things I want to discuss with them, and I can’t do it naturally while pretending I don’t write about those things here. I’ve dealt with this largely by declaring to myself that this space is my space and I’ll do what I want in it and I’ll refuse to feel the need to defend anything I write here or to explain what I’m up to. No one is asking me to defend anything going on here and I don’t expect them to, but that’s not really the point — the point is the declaration I’ve made to myself that this is a space to get a little free of the usual constraints I place on myself. Doing so under a pseudonym is easier, even when I’m dealing with people who know the real “me.”

Finally, Danielle, the great asker of questions, asked me about the origin of my pseudonym, and Stefanie guessed it correctly. I was looking for a woman writer or a character from one of “my” periods, 18C or early 19C who was writerly but also athletic in some way. I’m not finding any cyclists from the period, for obvious reasons, and women weren’t often known for being physically strong in the time period, or if they were they were “amazons” or something similar (yes, there’s Mary Wollstonecraft who theorized on the importance of physical strength for women, but I didn’t want to call myself Mary W.). I settled on Dorothy Wordsworth as someone who wrote (and who wrote a diary, no less) and who was known for her amazingly long walks. I’d like to be known for my amazingly long walks too, so she seemed perfect.

1 Comment

Filed under Blogging, Writing

One response to “Writing and authenticity, part II

  1. I’ve only just begun in this medium, but I have to say that everything you’ve said here is right on. It made me wonder if there should be a new branch of psychology dedicated to the blogosphere. What do you think? What a great thesis project for an enterprizing Psychology major. Thank you for sharing your experience of this fantastic new form of communication and imaginative recreation.

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