Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Why I Stopped Blogging--and Why I'm Starting Again

I stopped blogging in March 2007.

I left this blog Awfully Serious up, posting at intermittent intervals that grew further and further apart, short notes about work I’d had published or reviewed, or places I was reading—a far cry from the long, lyric, and personal pieces I had been writing and posting, almost daily, for two years: posts, that, at one time, had garnered a following of over a thousand readers a day. 

Why did I stop?

I got emails from strangers.  I met a woman who was to become a close friend that way, but not all the emails were so positive—or sane.  A few months before I stopped, I married another writer who was also a blogger, and the emails got mean.  I liked your writing better when you were unhappy, someone commented.  Another made disturbing references to my young stepchild.  Some questioned my life choices:  You just move in with a guy and give up everything?  Someone googled my house.

I became conscious that people were watching—and some of them felt closer to me somehow in reading my blog than they might feel in reading, say, my poem or story.  The blog was newer, rougher, raw.   It reached more people, I realized, than the journals in which I published finished, polished, and done work.  The blog was alive.

It scared me, so I stopped.

I also wanted a job. After years of teaching in visiting assistant professor and adjunct positions, I decided to go back to school for my PhD, hoping that would cement my future in a stable, tenure-track position.  Once in school, I realized I needed to get serious.  I had this blog called Awfully Serious—but I wasn’t, not about a “respectful” professional life for myself.

So I changed.

I made no reference to my personal life on my blog.  I started a facebook account, but rarely posted.  I stopped writing autobiographical nonfiction, and obscured the personal references in my poetry (I mostly focused on fiction).  A few years ago I had a child.  Some of my writing contacts and more distant friends and certainly most of my readers never even knew.  The fact that I am a mother might actually still be a surprise to some of you.

Because I didn’t write about my child.  Not one word.

I have been living my writing life—and to a great extent, my regular life —as though a hiring committee has been looking over my shoulder for the past five years.  And when they finally did, when I finally got those coveted interviews, all my polishing, all my pretending, all my suppressing didn’t make a damn bit of difference.

I didn’t get a job.

I am sick of writing as though someone’s watching.  So what?  If you think less of me because I am a (single) mother, or because I write candidly or darkly or with an earnestness unbecoming to a career professional, I’m not sure I want to work for you.

Writing and living as though I was constantly on the job market, constantly under a lens, didn’t necessarily make my non-blog writing less candid—two of my books were eventually published during these past five years and the first was called Ohio Violence, after all—but I think it made it less real, less personal.  I left less at stake, less out in the open.  It certainly made me less open.  I flinched constantly, deleting friends’ mentions of my child on my facebook page, asking a wonderful writer friend to erase something she had posted on her blog describing me as a working mom.  Pretending not to have a personal life took a personal toll.

That’s not a way to live.  And that’s not a way to write.

So I began this again now.  I began this, not knowing if I will ever make it back up to a thousand readers a day.  Will the old ones come back?  Will the trolls come too?  Will it still hurt me as much to get those emails?  Or the other bad thing that happened because of the blog (which I will write about later)—will that happen again?  What will happen if I stay this open?  

But I also begin with more to say.  I begin with a reason beyond my own heart.  Now: I am a mother.  Now: We live in an area that is under attack.  There is more at stake.  There is everything at stake.  I have to say something, even if it means I never get my dream job, because if I don’t use my voice, who will?  Something has to be said about this.  About all of this.

And someone is watching.  I know that now.  I know just how many and how varied and how passionate you are.   

So listen up. 

I’m back.