27 August 2010

Blog Discussion: Keeping it Real

I know it's Friday. And I know that the title above looks a little serious for a Friday post. But this topic has been shuffling around in my brain for some time now and I've finally decided to turn to you for input. I'd like to have an actual discussion on my blog today. That means you're going to have to comment. That is, if you'd like to. I'll be checking in all weekend to respond to your comments and ask more questions.

I think my favorite thing about blogland is that fact that it is beautiful. It is like the world of rose colored glasses. Full of productive people, loving mothers, gorgeous designs, and hilarious writers. I've learned to enjoy and embrace the everyday with my blog. I've learned to take better pictures and fun games to play with my kid. In return for all of this goodness, I try to carve out my own little niche in blogland in the hopes of inspiring others in similar ways. And truthfully, I think I do an okay job.

But I know that life isn't as perfect as it is in blogs, and I'm totally okay with that. I often say that I don't buy glossy magazines to read articles about cranky mothers complaining about their kids. But as bloggers, what do we do about the not-so-great times that we do want to share on our blogs? What happens when you sit down at your computer and you can't bear to write one more upbeat post? What do you do when you want to reach out to the group of friends you have accumulated via the internets to tell them about something that just sucks?

Some of my favorite bloggers have written about personal hardships that have brought me to tears. I've loved them for their honesty and marveled at how much they're helping others by sharing their experience. I have always been grateful for their efforts to share what is real in their lives. Even my own account of postpartum depression has been read more than any post I've ever written, and writing it was a healing experience. But it was written in retrospect, and already had a happy ending. Now it seems that when it comes to writing about a struggle that is happening now, I'm much more hesitant.

So what do you think? What do you think differentiates between a post that is "keeping it real," and a post that is just about complaining? How do we address depression, job loss, miscarried babies, premature babies, divorce, bankruptcy, cancer, death, and fear? How do we reach out to the communities that read our blogs the way we would our friends we see in person everyday? How do you flip from a post about your favorite letterpress stationary to a post about your lack of confidence as a mother? Do you think these topics deserve space on a blog about life? Is it a matter of timing? Take some time to think about it and then please do tell me your thoughts.

Also, I feel the need to once again THANK YOU immensely for reading, emailing, and commenting. I really mean it when I say that blogging has taught me to embrace the everyday. I hope that I help do the same for you.


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25 comments:

Hannah said...

I'm very protective of sensitive subjects happening in my life, so I rarely share my struggles with my readers. However, I think that doing so helps people feel more connected and invested in your blog. You are not a negative person, so I am sure you will be able to share your experiences with hope and faith. I'm thinking about you, Mandy. Hope everything is okay!

nina said...

How about a sidebar of serious things for discussion and reflection or things you just want to get off your chest and get some help with. Maybe that way it won't be the focal point so that you can keep the happy side of it that you like so much. Hannah is correct you are not a negative person so possibly this might help others as well. By the way it makes me smile to see how homey and homemakie you are when you were totally not when you were single! :0)

Hil said...

Ooh, what a deep question for a Friday morning! I must first state that I love your blog. It is creative, happy, beautiful and most importantly, honest.

I've always taken the approach that my blog is my journal. I used to be an avid journal keeper, and just don't do it anymore. So, I make sure to blog to cover my hiney. I am kind of a taboo blogger in the fact that I try not to write for my readers, but for me and my future self (knowing full well people do read my blog, so I try not to share TOO much).

Writing about my experience with Michael was not only for future reference, but was incredibly healing. I met so many other women who had either similar experiences, or who just reached out with kind hearts. It was a blessing in disguise as I found so much comfort from people who would otherwise be known as strangers.

I believe the only difference in "keeping it real" and "just complaining" is the attitude behind it all. I really can't stand reading blogs that are all about how awful the writer's life is with no acknowledgement of any blessings.

On the other hand, when I come across a blog that is mostly upbeat and is true and honest about certain struggles, it definitely makes me feel like they are a normal person just like me and not some perfectly perfect blogger trying to live a double life. :)

I guess after writing this novel of a comment it all boils down to whether you write for your readers or you write for yourself. One isn't necessarily better than the other, they are just two different types of blogs.

I can't wait to see what others have to say on this subject. I think it is definitely one of those conundrums of the blogging world!

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of it depends on how the sensitive topics are brought up, and how often. I like to have a good mix on my blog, but I know there are times when it tends toward "fun" or "random" heavy and "wow that is serious" heavy. But I can't let my OCD tendency in wanting that perfect balance keep me up at night. I figure if it is well-written and honest, it all evens out in the end.

I am a pretty private person, so I am choosy about the topics I post. I don't post something big, heavy and serious unless I feel that someone else may relate or benefit from hearing how I've dealt with/am dealing with something, and if I feel I can express it in a way that would do justice to the situation. I think it's good to write with perspective.

I certainly enjoy all kinds of posts--the serious ones, the not so serious ones, and everything in-between. I think a blog that either lacks a smidgen of reality (the ones that always look magazine-layout beautiful, the writing is all about how awesome everything and everyone is, and you think "my gosh, her life is PERFECT") or is TOO MUCH reality (one long drama-spiel) don't necessarily ring true all of the time.

And you do more than an "okay" job, Miranda. I think you're a great writer, an honest writer, and your love for your family and friends shows through in your posts. You do it right. It is always a pleasure to read you.

:)
Melanie

dw said...

Yup, what they said.

No seriously. I like knowing that people are going through "real" stuff. When I read the "happy happy joy joy" (i.e. "welcome to the Brady Bunch, where unicorns fart out rainbows and money falls from the sky") blogs, they don't ring true and i usually unsubscribe before too long.

I try to write for myself or maybe as though I am writing a letter to my grandmother. My "memere" likes to hear how I'm doing (good or bad), but I also don't want to worry her by being too downbeat. In my opinion, your blog is about allowing people to peek into your life, not adjusting your life so it appears more "friendly".

Maybe it's just me, but I prefer a bit of lemon with my sugar.

Miranda said...

Oooh! Such great comments!

Hannah, I agree that sharing experiences helps people be more invested in a blog. Do you think that is something to consider when writing a difficult post? I think a really important thing you said was "sharing experiences with hope and faith." A silver lining definitely makes things feel less depressing.

Mom/Nina, I like that idea. I know there are bigger bloggers who have formed their own "community forums" so that they can discuss topics without cluttering up their main blog. Also, I learned all of that homemakey stuff from you. :)

Hil, your accounts about Michael were so beautiful and moving. I could always tell that writing about it for you was a healing process. I think the distinction between writing for yourself and writing for your readers is an interesting thing that I haven't thought much about before. I also think you're so right when you say that your attitude is what really makes the difference.

Melanie, I agree! I feel like I could really get caught up in feeling like I have to have a "perfect balance." Do you think that the quality of writing makes a big difference as to whether or not someone can get away with writing all types of posts? (Thanks for the compliment, by the way.)

DW, I LOVE your comment about writing to your grandma. Sometimes I hesitate to write negative things because I don't want people to worry. Imagining my grandma would probably help me write about the bad while still keeping my overall outlook positive. Also...lemon sugar...I love it. :)

Jen said...

Hey Mandy,
I think the title of your blog is perfect for what you are going through, "Narrating Life." Life is not all roses and peaches and cream. Unfortunately, along with that comes a bunch of sh*t. I think if you have the desire to write about the struggles you are going through you should...it is YOUR blog. I am a firm believer that writing is very therapeutic and if it helps you get through and make sense of the trials in your life then you should. You could try asking yourself, which I'm sure you have, "What am I to learn?" It might not sound like complaining so much. But, you know, sometimes I feel much better after I do just COMPLAIN! I don't think there is anything wrong with that. You are a very beautiful, positive, smart, strong, and a very good mother and friend. I love you always!
Jen

Katie {My Paisley Apron} said...

I agree, I also generally read blogs that inspire me with beautiful and fun things. But I've noticed that I almost always stop reading the ones that don't, once in a while, share something a little more real.

I think the key is to share the depressing things only once in a while, so as not to overwhelm your readers, but to be real and honest and keep them identifying with you.

It doesn't always have to be "depressing" or major, but I do find I'm much more interested in the blog where, sometimes, cakes flop or children have tantrums or at least something not-beautiful happens!

And the nice thing about posts is that you can almost flip from one to the next without any great transition, except maybe "thanks for all the comments on my last post; we're getting by" or whatever.

Anyway, great topic and I enjoyed reading some of your thoughts about this issue too!

jt said...

I agree almost completely with Hil. When I started my blog 4 1/2 years ago, I started it as a journal. I write my blog for me. It is my journal, and I try not to even consider my 'audience' when writing. (Remember when you were in high school and your teacher said you had to consider your audience, who would be reading, and then adjust your tone accordingly?) I write because I just plain love to write. I also write for my future self. I write for my girls, to have a history of me, our family, our lives together, and I hope that someday they can read my journals and find comfort or answers to something they may be struggling with. They may be able to gain a better insight into struggles, be it theirs, or mine. Of course it is impossible to completely ignore your audience, and there are some things that are off-limits, but it is usually out of respect for someone else and their privacy, not mine. I am pretty much all out there, and I think it is because I dont' want to waste time. If someone is going to like me, they're going to like the real me, and if they don't then I don't want them. So I out it all out there from beginning. No pretense.
I also agree about there being 2 different kind of blogs. There are ones I go to for ideas and tutorials only, and ones I read because I am invested and I can relate. I approach my friendships, be they blog-related or not, the same way. I want it all- the good, the bad, the ugly. If someone only shares their best, it doesn't feel real and I have no interest in glossy fake people or their friendship.
Whew.
p.s. Hil- do you remember I emailed you a few months ago sharing my similar experience with my first born?

Rachel said...

I guess I am a little conflicted about the whole world of blogging. A part of me sees all these wonderful blogs full of eye candy, humor, and crafty moms who seem to be able to do it all, and I start to feel like a low life nobody who can't accomplish a dang thing. And yet I keep reading, and not only that, I even try to create a space on blogland where maybe just maybe I can share a part of me that means something to me. And that is what I have to keep reminding myself, it is my blog, and it really only has to be interesting to me, right. Then why do I feel like I am writing for an audience......And really I don't even know that anyone reads my blog. I have stumbled across some blog posts where I have sat and bawled as I have sympathized with someone else's experience with marriage, loss of a loved one, or reminiscing about motherhood. I am grateful that these people are brave enough to lay it all out there for us to see. I think that it is amazing that we can network with each other in such a way. It is so cool, and I never could have imagined something like this even being available to us in my lifetime, and when I really think about it it is sort of astonishing. In my own blog I am still trying to find the best way to express myself, whether in my everyday life or when I have the need to share a challenge or hardship I am facing. I have a bit of stage fright. I read others blogs and think, wow, my challenges are nothing compared to what others are going through.....And then I just shut down and don't share much. But all in all I think this world of blogging is pretty fascinating....although I have to remind myself to just get out there and live life instead of just reading about it. Blogland just sucks me in, and then suddenly an hour is gone, the dishes aren't done and my kids are screaming and hanging on my leg. I think this is a very interesting discussion you have brought up here Mandy, I have thought about it often. I am really not sure how much of myself to share. I think it comes back around to the question of, why am I doing this blog thing anyway....for me, for others, so my mom can see cute pictures of my kid, for a journal of sorts. I don't know, but I am glad to have your blog to go to so I can absorb a little piece of Mandy into my day....But truthfully it's not as good as the real thing, I miss just hanging out with ya!

Miranda said...

Seriously. I am loving your comments.

Jen, it's true that what I'm doing is "Narrating Life" and it without a doubt has ups and downs. And oh my gosh..."What am I to learn?" That is the PERFECT way to keep a positive attitude about things.

Katie, I agree that I tend to read blogs that have a little bit more depth to them. And it is so true that the downs don't have to be major depressing things--a fallen cake keeps things real without overdoing it.

Jessie, I LOVE your honesty on your blog. I like your point about how if someone is going to like you, they're going to like the real you. Otherwise, you don't want them reading anyway. So true.

Rachel, it's true. Blogging is fascinating and strange. It is hands down the weirdest thing I do. I understand the stage fright that develops right after you read other blogs. Happens to me daily.

Angie @ Many Little Blessings said...

It's funny that you should talk about this right now. I have tried to be real on my blog, but realized that there was a major thing that I just wasn't being very real about. So, on Monday, I did a post on my blog called, "Will You Still Love Me If I'm Not Mary Poppins?"

The comments that I got on that post were proof positive that readers want blogs that are honest at times and say, "Hey - guess what? I'm not perfect."

marta said...

miranda, i am so glad you brought this up. what you've posted about is one of those questions that nags at me as well. isn't blogging funny, how it can overwhelm us with choices!?

anyway, i too, agree that your blog is full of fun and every day bliss and your personality seems to shine through so well.

i definitely have come to the conclusion that the reason most of us love blogs is the exchange of expression and creativity. i think we can gain so much from each other's personal insights (as well as party ideas, recipes, diy kitchens and more). i think we can best relate to one another if we are genuine and true within our writing.

i agree with hilary when she says that it's all about attitude, how you convey your message. i try to focus on the positive without going overboard into la la land. having a cheerful outlook is a main goal in my life, however when hardship comes, there is no faking it.

life gets tough and this past june i realized the darkness of sadness when i had a miscarriage. i couldn't believe the outpouring of love and thanks for sharing and i've been there too and prayers and support that came from blog readers. in my experience, it seems like the deep stuff always carries more weight and means more and leaves a greater impression on readers.

when we share our true feelings, even if they are burdens, others can empathize and learn from the experience. i think it turns out to be a good thing for both the reader and the writer. and from a writer like you, i know you'll handle any subject with tact and grace. you are not a whiny person, so i'm not worried. let whatever you feel you should blog about come out.

and about 'flipping' from sunny to rainy day topics, i am not so sure. i think it's okay to move forward and blog about whatever is currently in your radar of blogging subjects. i think people understand that life goes on and that one part of life does not necessarily dictate the whole of your life. you can show your different likes / dislikes / feelings / excitements all in the same week. that's why blogs are so cool. there are no rules.

sometimes it takes a second opinion to help encourage your doubts about writing something so personal. think it over and write it out and once you've done it, see if you still want to post it. i think so many will benefit from whatever you decide to share. we'll all be here for you.

xo. marta

Tamara said...

Hi Mandy, Excellent questions for thought and discussion. When I first started my blog several years ago it was as avenue to put myself out there in my writing world. I was scared to death of having other people read what I wrote.

Over the years my little writing blog has evolved into a look at the "grand adventures" of my life. Those adventures include good things and bad. One of the bad things is talking about my mom's dementia. It has been hard on members of my family when I write sometimes. (I did ask all of them for permission before I started posting our story.) However, I write the hard stuff because I know that so many other people are out there dealing with the same issues and I want to help them.

Over the years some of my toughest posts have generated comments that it was just what someone needed to hear. Maybe not everyone, but someone.

I do try to have a mix of good, bad, etc on the blog. I much prefer reading blogs that share both unless they are specifically a crafty type blog.

The great thing about blogland is that a reader can choose not to read a post. The trick is how to keep them coming back even if sometimes you write things they don't want to read. I think the only way to do that is to continue blogging and be consistent so they know that at some point the tough stuff will give way to something lighter.

paws said...

I think I speak for everyone who has commented so far when I say that you are a friend, and I would really like to know if you're going through a hard time, even if there may be nothing I can do about it.

Gail said...

Miranda, Interesting, reading the comments. Seems to me like the guideline would be your intentions, motivations for sharing a particular post. If your intentions are true and from your heart, go ahead and post. You and others will benefit and grow. I did like Marta's idea - if you are not sure, write it, let it rest a bit, read again, then decide. If you decide not to post, you aren't quite ready to share yet, but it has probably been good for you to have put it in words for yourself. Friendships come from sharing yourself - the good and not-so-good days. Oh, and BTW, I am a MIL who is very proud of you.

Serin said...

Miranda, I agree with those that say they blog as a journal, so those dark times have a purpose on my blog. But I especially agree with paws, in fact her comment made me a little teary because it was so true. I really hope you're not going through a tough time right now, but just in case you are I am sending some prayers and love to Idaho. ♥

Erica said...

I don't know if I can add anything that hasn't already been posted. I can't tell you enough how much I love reading your blog because it has your voice. Like Rach said, it gives me my Mandy fix when I can't see ya. I do think we, particularly women, need an outlet to share our struggles, trials and griefs with. I think that is how we process, heal and recognize the "silver linings" of things. I think God made us that way on purpose. We need each other to sometimes just listen, bounce off ideas, or sometimes to give advice. I sure love you. And I can tell you that when you did talk about your postpartum depression and such, I was so proud to be your friend, and so grateful that it gave me the opportunity to feel closer to you. I want to share those burdens with you. After all, what are friends for?

jt said...

I had a lot more to say. No surprise. Here it is:
http://callmebadger.blogspot.com/2010/08/when-i-say-too-much.html

michelle said...

I totally agree with marta when she says that the deep stuff seems to carry more weight. I love reading blogs and getting good ideas from the creativity of others. I also tend to get overwhelmed by comparing myself to others and the glossy selves that they project. The blogs I enjoy the most are the ones that are written by real people.

When I'm writing, I try to paint the real picture. Life is good, but parts of it can sure be bad! Still, like Jessie said, I don't put it all out there when it involves someone else's privacy. So some things are censored, but for the most part, it's my journal and I have to keep it real.

The comment by paws is just so perfect.

Miranda said...

Marta, you, like Hilary, are a perfect example of someone who has posted about hardship in such an uplifting way. I am such an admirer. I also like your thoughts about 'flipping' between topics. Readers understand that is the way life works.

Tamara, it is so true that sometimes our toughest posts generate exactly the comments that we need to hear. That is an easy thing to forget sometimes. Thank you so much for your kind words.

Paws, you are a wonderful friend. Thanks so much for your concern. I promise not to leave you in the dark. :)

Gail, good point that friendships are formed by sharing yourself. Also, I'm lucky to have such a supportive MIL. :)

Serin & Erica, I love both of you very much.

Michelle, I think the privacy aspect is such a great boundary to set. Especially as kids grow older. Thank you also for reiterating Paws' thoughts. I'm so happy to have good friends like you.

Emmylou said...

Hi! First of all, so great to see you this weekend and last weekend! Can't seem to get enough! Second of all, I don't feel you have ever brought anyone down . . . ever. One of the reasons that I have loved reading your blog is that your blog is true blue through and through you. When you write, I can hear your voice speaking and it is makes me smile and (forgive me) LOL. My husband and I were just talking actually about blogland and about how you can make it seem so incredibly perfect with editing a little here and a little there. I have to admit that I have actually become depressed reading some blogs because I feel that person is so perfect and I am not even close to perfection. As readers, we don't see what goes on behind the scenes. I have had several friends lose their babies in the last few years and social workers/counselors have actually set blogs up for them as a form of therapy and encouraged them to use it. I think people love you so much, that if it feels good to you to vent, they will love you that much more and be able to reach out to you. If they don't want to read it, then they will wait a couple days for a post on the latest trend in (fill in the blank) or a tutorial on (fill in the blank). I personally love real life, real people posts. One of my favorite posts of yours is the one where you burnt up the cookbook from the library. Cracks me up! I think that when the prophet warns us about the dangers of the internet and cyberspace, part of that is the "reality" or not-so reality that comes with it. Anyway, If there is ever something that you may not want to post for the world per se, I wouldn't mind one bit if you called me or e-mailed me just to vent. I went to natural helpers you know! :) Love you guts girl!

April said...

I don't really know if I have anything different to say that what has been said, but I'm going to say it anyway. (Isn't that just what I always do! Sorry I am just reading this now, computer issues.)

I write my blog for me. I express my true opinions and feelings. I maybe don't always write about the bad days or the hard times, but is that really what I want to remember? But if it was something that I needed to get out of my system before it ate me alive, I would blog about it. If it was something that I needed advice or help on, I would blog about it.

It is difficult to find the line between T.M.I. and keepin it real, but I like the idea of writing a post and then sitting on it for a bit.

I think you and your blog are fabulous. You should just continue on using the mad skilz you have in blogland.

BTW, if something not fun is going on, we (your many friends) cannot help unless you tell us what is going on.

Love you. Miss you. I was thinking of calling you all last week, looks like I need to.

Kimberlee said...

I know that you and I already talked about this post, and that I’m a little late getting my opinion out there, but I finally got around to reading everybody’s comments and I wanted to share anyways although I think everybody has already done an excellent job in answering your question:

First off, anything you share, anything, is worth reading. You make it worth reading. And I always look forward to your blog posts. No matter the topic.

You and I have talked about it previously, but the main reason that I love blogging so much is that it helps you keep in touch with friends and family. And not keep in touch in a “Hi, I got married and have three kids” kind of way, but in a “today I crafted, my husband is working loads of overtime and my kids started school, and look! this is what they wore” kind of way. It gives you an interesting insight in to others life that helps you appreciate and understand them in a way that no other outlet offers. If you change your life, sugarcoat it in a way that only the absolutely best is allowed to show through I don’t think it gives a true reflection of you and who you are. Which in a lot of cases is just fine (example: a craft blog, a cooking blog}. But like Jen said, your blogs title is “Narrating Life”. Life isn’t always daisy’s and perfectly made little cupcakes. It’s just not. Some days we have those days were nothing can go right. And some mornings just showering and getting dressed for the day deserves an orchestra and confetti {and maybe even it’s very own blog post}. If you ‘narrated’ your life and left out all the bad, all the trials and hardships; if the narrator went quiet whenever life hit a road bump, it would be like a book without a few of the key chapters or a play without character development. It just wouldn’t be complete?

With that being said, I think there’s different ways to share the bad. I think most of us prefer the uplifting. We are drawn to pretty things and things that make us happy. We keep coming back to things that we feel improve us and make us better. There’s a difference between complaining all the time with a nobody-understands-my-life-is-the-absolute-worst kind of attitude and occasionally pointing out your hardships and what they encompass. It’s all in the attitude. It’s about being honest, yet pleasant. It’s finding silver lining. It’s picking up the pieces of your shattered life and gluing them back together into something even more beautiful. And your attitude is just as it needs to be. You 'embrace' the good and the bad.

I love you Mandy and I love your blog.

XOXO
Kim

Denise said...

Thanks for "keeping things real." Reading your post and the comments made has helped me identify--at least in part--why I've dropped out of blogland for a couple of months. I've really been missing my mom lately and feeling generally overwhelmed by life. There. I've said it. Now, to blog or not to blog about it?. . . .

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