Let's suppose for a minute that you're a mama who does a bit of writing. Perhaps you'd love to be published -- or published more often -- but you just don't have the time to write and re-write, to edit and re-edit, to buy more printer paper because your kids used the last of it for an art project, to type up a smart sounding query letter and send your work off into the world (assuming you can find some stamps) in the hopes of having it accepted by a publisher so that you can edit and re-edit it some more. Besides, even if you could find the time (and the stamps), you spend a good chunk of your day dodging sippy cup projectiles and wondering why your child refuses to use the potty at preschool and feeling guilty and anxious and imperfect and you really can't stomach the thought of any more rejection.
If that sounds remotely familiar, have you considered writing a blog?
After the birth of my daughter, I felt so alone in my feelings of incompetence, in my inability to breastfeed, in my descent into depression. I was sure something was wrong with me. Only a monster would feel anything but bliss postpartum. In looking for mothers who felt the same way, I sought out books like Andrea Buchanan's Mother Shock, Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions and Faulkner Fox's Dispatches from a Not So Perfect Life. I drank in their honest stories, and their voices sustained me through a very difficult time in my life. Then, in my search for more writing of this kind, I stumbled upon the blog world: Heather Armstrong of Dooce, Marrit Ingman of Baldo, Melissa Summers of Suburban Bliss and many other women who not only wrote about issues close to my heart, but chronicled their continued struggles on a daily basis. Since blogging is an interactive medium whereby readers can leave comments, the issues about which I craved to hear more were being actively discussed by other mothers. The honest discussion I found online was a refreshing change from the "of course we're all happy mommies" chatter I engaged in at Gymboree. In my dark days (and there were many), it was so important for me to know that feisty, funny, intelligent women felt the same way I did. I wasn't alone.
As my daughter started to sleep more, and the Zoloft kicked in, and I grew more comfortable with my new role as a mother, I started to write again. Whereas pre-motherhood, I was reluctant to show others my work, suddenly I felt a need to share my story in the hope that another mother might derive some comfort from knowing that I too had traveled a difficult path. I blogged about post-partum depression, fertility treatments, my second pregnancy, and the daily struggle to parent my high-spirited daughter. I wrote about feminism, consumerism, mother judgment, maternal guilt and the pressure to be perfect. I also wrote about Diddy, Tara Reid, chocolate, and my love of J. Crew shoes -- such is the freedom of blogging.
It took me a long time to grow comfortable enough with my writing to allow readers to comment on my work. I feared that people might leave comments like "you suck" or "bad mother," or, perhaps worse, they would not comment at all, and I would have proof positive that nobody cared what I had to say. But I was overwhelmed with the number of supportive comments and emails from readers, many of whom are blog writers themselves.
It's true that blogging is not the same as writing proper. I tend to blog about whatever pops into my head when I'm at the keyboard and then I hit 'publish.' I rarely rewrite or edit my posts. A serious writer would be wise to continue to engage in the tough work of editing -- the paring away of the sentences one adores, the proper use of the semi-colon -- to perfect their craft. But because, with blogs, there are no external deadlines to meet, and no editors to please, it's a wonderful place to experiment, to try new ideas, and to write what Anne Lamott calls "shitty first drafts." It's also a wonderful way to build a network of other mother-writers.
At a quick glance, the blog world might seem to be full of pundits, misanthropes and parents eager to show off photos of their kids. But if you dig a little deeper, you'll discover that the blog world is also a support group, a mothers' group and a supportive writing circle you can access 24 hours per day. Most importantly, blogging is a simple way to get your writing "out there," which can feel next to impossible for busy mother writers.
If you are interested in blogging but have no idea where to begin, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Before you start to write your own blog, it helps to read a few blogs to get a sense of how the blog world works. Many bloggers maintain a "blogroll" -- a list of the blogs that they like to read. Surfing through blogrolls is a great way to find other bloggers you like. Author Ann Douglas has a comprehesive blogroll on her mothering blog.
- The easiest way to start a blog is to sign up with a blog service such as Blogger or Typepad. Both services include blog templates that automatically allow comments and archive your posts. All you need to do is provide the content.
- The best way to publicize your blog is to comment on other people's blogs. Your blog's url address will appear along with your comment. You can also offer to blogroll your favorite writers and ask if they in turn will link to you.
- If you want to maintain your readership, write often. Most bloggers write at least two or three times each week; many write every day.
Be bold. Take risks. Experiment with your voice and style. Just remember that blogs are public. What you write may be read by your children, your employer, and your high school nemesis, but, of course, that's part of the fun.