Before I started blogging, I wasn’t even really sure what a blog was. I knew about a bunch of books that had been made from blogs, and that big Meryl Streep cooking movie, of course, but I hadn’t ever actually followed any blogs and didn’t have a clear idea of what made a good blog good. Did I need to post every day? Did everything have to be 500 words or less? Did I need a photo with every post, or did I need to post photos that told my stories without words? And what was it exactly that would make a blog shine brightly enough to get picked up for a book deal?
I knew what it meant to write memoir, to write a book, to write short stories. I knew what it was to write and to rewrite, to revise and then to rewrite again. I even knew how to write poetry (which, oddly enough, is was got me into grad school in the first place, despite never having written a poem since). I knew cadence, I knew pacing, and I knew big picture, but blogging was another beast entirely, or so I told myself.
My husband, on the other hand, spends loads of time reading stuff online. He reads political blogs, cultural blogs, economic blogs (you name it, he reads it), so he was the first person I went to for guidance on what successful blogs look like when I was thinking about starting my own. Consistency is number one, he told me – you need to post consistently and you need to keep a consistent theme. Twitter is number two.
I am not very good at tweeting, but consistency, I was sure I had that one down – the Anna Spanos of Techno Needs You was nothing if not consistent. Long after the real me had left the life of my memoir behind, my writing was still there. I still wrote in the same voice and still inhabited that same character I had created for myself. I even let myself go fully back into that world every now and again with temporary (and some extended) jags of drug use and chaos. I knew, though, that I was working at excavating a trough that had no more artifacts left to be found, and I didn’t know where to start digging the next hole.
Hence this blog. I said to myself, why not start right where I am? I thought about this new character I wanted to create, thought about what sort of consistencies I wanted to find in my new incarnation. Feminist techno-punk art student turned suburban but successful and ambitious (and still sort of edgy?) working mom. I would show pictures of my handsome husband, my beautiful old bungalow, my amazing little girl, and I would write stories from both of these lives, the one I have lived and the one I am living. But as the weeks have rolled on, with another 1200 words posted every Sunday and another batch or two of photos every week, I feel I am lost in so little direction, I’m still not sure what portrait I am trying to paint.
I’ve started reading online almost as much as my husband lately, researching successful mom blogs the way I might approach the research for my upcoming literature review, but what I am finding is that the blogs that everyone seems to love, the ones that that get book deals and big advertising and thousands of followers, are the ones that speak to me the least. The stories that most interest me, that I come back to again and again for inspiration and for honesty are primarily written by women who are just now setting onto that path to blogging success, and women who aren’t even really shooting for that, despite the quality of their work. What I love about blogging is that their stories exist too, and that someday they may be the ones with the book deals and the professionally designed websites with banner ads and glamour shots. Some of my favorites are A Library and A Garden, Girl in the Hat, The Valentine 4, Hysterical Runner, and Joy, Lovely Joy. They are beautiful and honest and just a few of the sites I always go back to.
These blogs make me think back to what made me want to start this. Instead of committing myself to another book or those forever delayed attempts to get Techno Needs You published, I remember just feeling like I wanted to read more honest stories of women trying to figure out a way to navigate this new world we are living in. The place to find these stories was online, and I wanted to get into the game with my own version of honesty.
In the last six months of writing Mom At Work, I have gone from knowing nothing about blogging, to knowing exactly what it meant to be blogging successfully, to again feeling like I’m not really sure what this blogging is all about. I feel like I’ve gone from telling true stories to trying too hard, to trying to curate my life the way I was able to when I had endless time to sculpt just the story I wanted to tell. With the deadlines I have set for myself now, the only version of honesty I have time to tell is the honest one.
The truth is that I am getting too old now to do a lot of the things I would have liked to have done in my life. My daily schedule makes me feel a little bit miserable a lot of the time and exhausted to the point that I no longer recognize exhaustion. My marriage can be a challenge, and I am not quite at a point in my career where you would definitively call me successful (stagnant is a bit more like it). And yet the truth is also, as I have said before, that I love my husband enormously and I love the life that we are building. Despite the sleep deprivation I am stronger and healthier now that I have ever been (thanks to my new running obsession). My job is rewarding most of the time and pays me just as much as I need. And even when everything seems to be going wrong or too much to bear, all I have to do is look at my daughter and everything is put right again.
And so there it is once more, that theme that just doesn’t seem glossy enough, but is my truth nonetheless. Rather than simply a weekly reminder of what isn’t quite there yet, or a poor attempt at masking the fact that my life is not quite what I would like it to be, I must let this blog be once again my simple reminder that life is hard and it is wonderful all at once. That’s just the nature of things. And even when all of it is feeling more hard and less wonderful, there is beauty and there is joy in each day.