Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Why I Blog

A little while ago, I stumbled onto this post from Stirrup Queens about why she prefers blogs to tweets, and it got me thinking about why I blog. I'm not trying to get a book deal, or make enough money at my blog to allow me to quit my day job, or do anything obviously measurable with my blog. There are plenty of other things I could do with my limited kid-free time, and there is a good case to be made that many of them- tackling that pile of papers on my desk, for instance- would be more useful. So why do I carve time out to write blog posts and read the blogs of others?

When I first started this blog, I thought I'd write stories about traveling- and I still do that, from time to time, but that didn't turn out to be a compelling enough reason to write for me.

The blog didn't really take off until my first child was born. Pumpkin was- and is- an intense little thing. Delightful, wonderful, and, along with Petunia, one of the biggest sources of joy in my life. But her arrival tore my life apart, and I turned to this blog as a way to figure out how I wanted to put the pieces back together. It was my touchstone, a place where I could work out who I was now that I'd added "mother" to my identity. A place where I could admit that reworking my identity was hard-  one of the hardest things about adjusting to motherhood for me, harder in some ways even than the sleep deprivation.

I don't need that so much anymore. I'm now comfortable in my reconfigured life, and usually feel well-connected to who I am, although I do occasionally still need to work things out in that regard.

I also used to write a lot more about the mechanics of motherhood- sleep, breastfeeding, and the like. These topics do still pop up from time to time, but if that was all I used my blog for, this site would probably have gone dark a long time ago.

Now I write because it gives me a way to explore issues that are on my mind- from working motherhood to food to my thoughts on work-life balance- and pretty much anywhere else my fancy takes me. The blog probably spares my husband from having to listen to at least one rant a week. I do love to rant.....

The blog also retains one of the roles it has had since the very early days of motherhood: it is the proverbial room of my own, a place that is all mine, paradoxically untouched by the needs and wants of my kids and husband while also often being about them.

Over the years, I've gained valuable insights from the comments left on posts, and found friends whom I will probably never meet. I have felt less alone, able to pull away the perfectionist veneer that often covers real life conversations with other parents, to expose my parenting reality and find others who understand it. I think the blog has probably made me a better parent, both by giving me new ideas and by boosting the confidence and patience I need to follow my own parenting instincts.

I don't really have any goals for this blog. I've dabbled in money-making ideas, but realize that I do not take this anywhere seriously enough to truly monetize my blog. I have more ideas, but pursuing them is not a priority for me right now, because I am realistic enough to know that they are unlikely to provide a sound return on the time I'd have to invest in them.

(This, incidentally, is why you won't find me at BlogHer this weekend, even though it is in my hometown and I would have enjoyed meeting some of the people whose blogs I read. Just looking at the agenda gave me unrealistic ideas about what I would do with my blog if I were to devote much, much more time to it. It seemed silly to spend money to go somewhere that would probably leave me feeling unhappy. But I hope everyone who comes has a great time, and enjoys both the conference and my city.)

My hit statistics have gone steadily but slowly up, but I am not really trying to get them to any particular level. It is gratifying to know that people out there like to read what I write, but I don't know what I'd do if my readership suddenly skyrocketed. Probably freak out a bit, and then keep writing the same things I write now.

If I have an agenda at all, it is in my hope that I can serve as an example to ambitious young women who are afraid they can't have a satisfying career and a family- but I am not egotistical enough to think that many of those young women are reading my blog. I suspect they hang out in far cooler corners of the internet.

Given all of that, the only conclusion I can draw is that I truly am writing for myself, as a slightly (or maybe hugely) narcissistic hobby. Most of the benefits I derive could probably also be gained from an old-fashioned journal, but the publishing aspect has made me keep the habit going far longer than any previous journaling attempt. And I've learned a lot and gained interesting perspectives from the other blogs I've found via comments sections (both mine and others) and blog rolls. That is enough for me- at least right now.

What about you? Why do you write a blog, if you have one? Why do you read blogs?

26 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:33 PM

    "If I have an agenda at all, it is in my hope that I can serve as an example to ambitious young women who are afraid they can't have a satisfying career and a family- but I am not egotistical enough to think that many of those young women are reading my blog. I suspect they hang out in far cooler corners of the internet."

    At least one is here reading! I'm an ambitious young academic in a field that's not-quite-science but similar, just about to start my first post-doc, getting married soon, and thinking about babies soon after.

    I've been reading your blog for at least a year. It's one of the few that I've consistently found reassuring instead of worrying, and pragmatic instead of anxious. I especially appreciate your perspectives on work and motherhood and on relationships. We seem to think a lot alike. It's so helpful to read thoughts from someone who seems similar to me, but is a few years ahead in life. Keep it up :)

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  2. I love the work-life balance posts but just the whole thing: The examined life, in a way. I agree with the previous commenter that there's a pragmatic side to your blog that is kind of reassuring. And now I just want to keep up with you and your Ps. :)

    For my blog...I started a long time ago, on Diary-X, kind of as a part of therapy, and also to connect with other multiples. Since having kids I've also found it's a way to preserve my voice as a multiple in the midst of having to really be careful about having to be a cohesive and coherent parent. It sits a bit uncomfortably on the line between personal journal and blog, which is one reason I wouldn't market it. Even linking to it from comments sometimes seems extremely stupid. :-)

    I am all for bloggers getting book deals and tv shows, but I myself mostly prefer the smaller more personal blogs. I can get the books and tv shows as...books and tv shows.

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  3. I've thought about this same question recently as I've watched my bloggy friends grow from simple journaling of daily life to thoughtful, audience minded writers. I'm still just journaling my daily life as a mom and it's fulfilling that part of me but as the big milestones get farther apart and the suckiness of the daily grind of parenting a small child doesn't press me to vent out into the void as often as it did, I wonder if I'll keep it up or transition to a wider range of topics.

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  4. I started off blogging to vent my frustrations as a graduate student. Now, my topics have expanded. Sometimes I don't really know why I blog, but I think it's feeling like I'm part of a community. Where I can be honest and open about things, where I can ask for advice, or give advice, etc..

    I love reading your blog. Like the first commenter said, I find it reassuring to read. I like that you're open about how things really are, but are positive about things too (some blogs are ALL rants, and that gets tiring!).

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  5. the milliner7:33 AM

    "...it is in my hope that I can serve as an example to ambitious young women who are afraid they can't have a satisfying career and a family."

    I'd even say that you are a good example to ambitious, ahem, middle-aged women who are facing the daily challenges of having a satisfying career and family life. It's a tough road sometimes and it's great feeling like you have someone else in your corner.

    I read all different kinds of blogs (more commercial/for profit ones and smaller more personal ones), but the ones I come back to the most often are the blogs by Ask Moxie readers who I think have a similar outlook to my own chosen path in life. I love, as you said, the frankness, and the removal of the facade of perfection. And also the respectful way of discussing often sensitive issues. I have not yet found this in any other corner of the internet.

    My DH, I'm sure, is thankful for your blog as I am not regaling him all of the time with my theories and thoughts on parenting. And it is a great support to find others who I would not normally meet IRL, but can challenge me in my thinking and assumptions or make me feel like I'm not the only one experiencing something. And also, you're providing a great opportunity for people like me (who are too lazy or perhaps unmotivated to have a blog) to get their thoughts out into the ether and to discuss the finer points of a topic.

    I do have plans to start a blog of my own, though my goal is for it to be an outlet for my (3d) creative pursuits. We'll see... :)

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  6. Thanks for sharing Cloud. Blogging is a way way to express your feelings and connect with other people. It really helps when you wright down your feels and thoughts, it help you copes and understand more. It's such a great feeling with you post something and people take the time to read it and give feed back. You are not alone in the blogging community. I recently launched www.whyiblog.com as a way for people to share their stories and read about others. I enjoyed reading this post and I would love to hear what you have to say! Keep up the great blogging

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  7. I don't have a blog of my own, but I started reading blogs in the desperate hours after my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, and then through the tumultuous period of adjustment to parenthood. I've been pretty isolated socially since then, and blogs have provided community, support, even friendship. It makes me laugh, feel less alone, and gives me great advice when I'm at the end of my rope (professional & parental). So I think your blog is also for people who grapple with similar interests/problems as you.

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  8. Interestingly I did an interview with some chap writing for the UT who was talking to san diego food bloggers, so I was forced to think about this too.

    It was wierd to have someone discuss all the recent posts I've written since my blog is just a jumble of things that go on in my life and I have pictures to document!

    I find it very rewarding networking with other foodies, finding creative ideas and just reading brilliant writing and amazing photography.

    When I first started it was a way to connect with other likeminded people, many of who I've now met, and its very reassuring when you dont know anyone who shares your views in real life to at least find people who understand you across cyberspace!

    I'm hoping to do a little more blogging and be a little more opinionated, then start another business blog that is all rainbows and frosting and happiness, so that I can keep the balance!

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  9. I keep a book-blog almost entirely for myself - that way I don't have to re-read the books, and writing helps me to put my thoughts in order and also gives me a bit of practice putting words onto a page. I chose Math as an undergrad at least partially so that I wouldn't have to write essays...without realizing that I actually do like to write.

    I read blogs, especially parenting blogs, because they make me feel less alone. So often you write a post that strikes a chord - thoughts that had been making me feel lonely and miserable, when you express them suddenly make me feel that what I'm experiencing is ok. My daughter is older, but I'm still in grad school, so you will often write about something child-related which makes me think "oh yeah, that bit was rough, but we got through it ok in the end" and then a post about something school or work related that makes me realize things will work out ok eventually, I just have to stick with it and keep forging ahead.

    As an introvert I have trouble seeking out groups of people who I can get advice and sympathy from, but with blogs I can choose to interact in my own time and in my own way - without the stress that comes with the face to face interactions. I realize that written communication is more easily misunderstood than face to face interactions, and yet I've never once worried about what you might think of me - at least partly because we don't actually know each other. And while I think it would be really cool to actually meet you someday (I suspect our girls would have a blast together) I really don't have the extra time in my life right now.

    Anyway, I'm really glad that you blog. And I'm glad that the number of people commenting here is fairly small - it makes me more likely to comment (maybe it feels like the comment is more valuable because there aren't as many of them? Or because I feel like I have a chance of adding something to the conversation when there aren't as many voices?) I've been working at commenting more - partly as writing practice and partly because I feel like I know the people whose blogs I read and want them to know me a little bit too...

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  10. There are very few moms who work full-time outside the house (with a husband who also works full-time) and still have time to write a blog. I have looked around for them and have found a few. Most are abandoned or rarely updated. I think it is a seriously underrepresented voice in the blogosphere, so please keep doing what you do :-)

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  11. When I started my blog, I had no idea why I was doing it. First, I thought it would be all academic-related. Then, I realized that what I enjoyed about blogging was talking about subjects that come to my mind but I may not be able to share them with somebody in my every day life. So it became a mix of everything: politics, my work, my travel, etc. And occasional rants, though not too many. What I appreciate about blogging is the feedback. If I didn't get any comments, I would probably stop blogging and start a journal. That is also why I try to leave comments on other people's blogs if I find that I have something useful to say.

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  12. I think it is having a community for me. I am not a mom but have found a lot of brilliant, funny, sarcastic and wonderful women through blogs. I feel like it is the only exposure I really get to professional, academic, industry or STEM-interested folks. Otherwise in the male dominated world of engineering I can spend too much time turning inward and getting angry and frustrated and feeling alone.

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  13. Anonymous11:48 AM

    What cooler corners of the internet?
    I'm close to the end of my first two-year postdoc in physics, I have a son that was born in September 09 and will have another baby in October. So I guess I fit your description of a young ambitious woman, and I'm in fact scared about having a family and a career. Especially since this postdoc was a complete disaster. I don't think this had much to do with my kid though, the atmosphere here doesn't work well for me.

    I'm also getting more and more disillusioned with my prospects for an academic career, given that I'll have a 4-body problem soon and so I'd rather have something permanent instead of several more years as a postdoc with moves across countries and continents.

    As others have said I really like your blog because you don't pretend life and your mothering are perfect, but you are still mostly optimistic. I also feel I can relate to you, since I have a similar perspective on many things.

    I don't have a blog and I don't comment much because I always feel I can't contribute anything interesting to the discussion, but I crave the community, given that I don't know a lot of scimoms IRL and have generally few friends here since I moved to this city less than two years ago and have been incredibly busy. Reading blogs and comments gives me at least the illusion of community. So thanks for writing and keep it up!

    Irisevelyn

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  14. A blog is a wonderful outlet. I find that as a working mom, blogging fills a big gap in my life that I have now that children dominate most of my free time. I miss the social part of life. Hanging with girlfriends and having deep meaningful conversations. Since I spend much of my day working, I always feel guilty leaving my kids for a girl's night out.

    With blogging, I can still have that social outlet but with more flexibility to do it at odd hours when my time is not being dominated by other stuff.

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  15. I blog to connect with people, to vent, and to think out loud. I find that I censor myself a fair bit though after several fairly unpleasant blog kerfuffles, which I have low tolerance for (they upset me and drain my energy). So I keep on the down low more than I thought I would when I started out.
    But overall there are some nice people I have found through blogging, and it makes me feel less alone while combating the challenges of being a half of a dual-career couple, raising now three kids.

    I like your blog as you sounds strong, together, and real. And you never sound like an asshole (assholishness turns me away from a number of other blogs). I like that you are opinionated but respectful.

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  16. Wow, everyone- thanks for all of the nice comments. I swear that I didn't write this post fishing for them... but they sure were nice to read. Particularly today, which was packed full of meetings at work.

    @Anonymous- I'm glad the blog is helpful for you! Good luck with all the changes you have lined up. I had a period of life sort of like that, too- marriage, four months traveling, baby, new job.... Life's for living, right?

    @Shandra- I'm glad you're here. I always like reading your comments. I should drop in on your multiplicity site more often! Really, you probably COULD go for a book deal. Yours is a fascinating story, well told.

    @mom2boy- I hope you don't quit blogging! Your posts are such great little slices of life as a parent.

    @Alyssa- yes, I definitely like the community aspect of blogging, too. I think that may be what first drew me in.

    @the milliner- you're too nice! I'm glad my blog is helpful for you. Definitely let me know when you start your blog. I think I could use a design blog or two to follow. That part of my brain is almost non-existent, but I always like to see good design.

    @Kelly- what an interesting concept for a blog. I'll have to go take a look.

    @Erin- YES. Adjusting to parenthood=tumultuous=reason to read blogs!

    @Jennywenny- you HAVE to send me a link to that article when it comes out.

    @TodayWendy- yes, comment more! I always like to read your comments. I'm a complete extrovert. It is always interesting to read an introvert's take on some of the things I talk about.

    @Marianne- I certainly plan to keep going! I think you're right- the voice of the working mother with a working father husband is under-represented, particularly relative to our actual numbers out in the real world.

    @Spanish prof- I agree, one of the best things about blogging is that it gives me a place to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don't even have to care if anyone else is interested!

    @frautech- I agree. I think that one of the best things about blogs is that they can help give small and scattered communities (like women in male-dominated fields) a way to find each other and get support.

    @First Gen American- yes, yes, yes on the idea of blogging being a social outlet that can be fit into your schedule. For me, it is a creative outlet that can be fit in where my life allows the time- I used to play music in a group, but that was too rigid for me post baby. Maybe I'll get back to it later, but right now, I need the flexibility blogging gives.

    @GMP- I'm glad I don't sound like an asshole! I agree, there are some blogs out there whose tone just puts me off. It is a shame that you are self-censoring, but I can understand why. Drama is no fun, and not worth it, really.

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  17. I think I probably blog for the same reason I used to play computer games.

    Not sure that's so healthy.

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  18. A friend of mine referred me to your blog when I was looking for some like-minded mommes going through the same things as I was. I have a spirited son, had him late in life, and have very little in the way of familial support. Blogs are my advice/parenting books and yours is my favorite right now. I have a professional blog that has nothing to do with parenting and I keep that one because it allows me to "give back" to all the other bloggers in my field from which I continually learn. For now,I will thank you for offering your advice and experience so freely. It matters.

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  19. I'm pretty sure I did a whole post on why I blog, though IIRC it focused on why I'm specifically a "mommyblogger." But maybe not why I blog in general.

    For me it was a few things:
    - The need to find a community of people going through the same things I was (especially those with spirited children!).
    - The need to write as a creative outlet.
    - The need to write and talk about my kids and family life, which I don't find as much at work.
    - The desire to chronical what was going with my children and myself during this time period when sleep depreviation made my memory pretty crappy.
    - The desire to explore deeper issues that having been weighing on my mind, especially related to parenting.

    I'm finding a hard time with the last one, lately. To be honest, I'm going through a lot in my head that I'm really hesitant to write about, and I'm not sure why. This may have just gotten me over the hump, because this IS one of the MAIN reasons I blog. It also possibly explains why I've not been blogging as regularly as I used to. Hmmm.

    Look at that, Cloud! You are always making me think!

    ITA with what @the millinier said, "but the ones I come back to the most often are the blogs by Ask Moxie readers who I think have a similar outlook to my own chosen path in life."

    @Shandra - I just want to ditto Cloud's comment to you. Word for word.

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  20. Cloud,I blog for all the reasons you so eloquently described. It's creative outlet, memory book, therapy... but I think the community aspect is the biggest draw for me right now. And that's something I never expected when I first started blogging.

    And as for this comment by milliner:
    "I'd even say that you are a good example to ambitious, ahem, middle-aged women who are facing the daily challenges of having a satisfying career and family life."

    Yes! I agree wholeheartedly!

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  21. I also like to read your blog because of the work/life/motherhood posts. It is hard to find a blog from the working mom perspective. Most "mom" blogs are either SAHmoms or work from home moms (writers).

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  22. Anonymous11:58 AM

    I am one of these young women, I'm close to the end of my first 2 year postdoc and getting ready for the birth of my second kid in October, the first one is nearly 2 now. I feel that I'm at a cross roads careerwise, since I can't imagine keeping moving from one short-term contract to the next for the next n years and so I'm debating switching to industry.

    I find your blog inspiring because it does seem to be possible to have an interesting job in science and be a parent and be overall happy, and it is good to be remindes of this.

    I don't blog since I always feel that I don't have anything interesting to add to the conversation, but I crave the community. I don't have a lot of friends here (I've only moved to this city for my postdoc) and I don't have any "sciparents" friends close to me and that's something I really miss sometimes.

    So thanks for writing and keep it up please!
    Irisevelyn

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  23. the milliner7:50 AM

    @caramama, regarding this:

    "I'm going through a lot in my head that I'm really hesitant to write about, and I'm not sure why."

    Maybe you are having feelings/thoughts about whatever is on your mind that are very raw, you are not comfortable with (yet) or not comfortable exposing (and therefore would, to a certain degree, have to confront the ugly or difficult parts)? Just a thought. You'll blog about it if and when you're ready. And that's totally cool.

    Just an idea from a complete outsider :)

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  24. @the milliner - Thanks. Good points. I actually talked with my husband about blogging about one of the topics, but he was not comfortable with me putting it out there for the world (he's involved in that one). He suggested that I write about it, but don't publish it. But that's one of the issues, too, is that what I write often reflects on him as well and he has to deal with people who read what I write also. Sigh... Thank you for your thoughts! I'll keep thinking about it.

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  25. Well, I started reading blogs via a random surf to Askmoxie when I was feeling very tired and very isolated with a small, non sleeping baby. I was the only one of my pre-baby friends to have a child - so I had no one to talk to about the enormous change I was facing. I was so glad to find a world a) with perspective - as in, this will get better and b) intelligence and c) proper spelling and punctuation. Seriously, the state of the language on some Australian boards is appalling.

    I still tend mostly to read blogs linked from comments off askmoxie or your blog @Cloud. They seem to be mostly rational and non- judgmental. I do like to read about how other people manage their lives - and I infinitely prefer the blogs where the writer acknowleges life isn't all perfect love bunnies and sunshine! I do love a good rant - if I agree with the ranter! Perhaps that's why I read your blog - you rant and I think - gosh that @Cloud is just so right! :-)

    I started my blog to join the conversation when I was stuck on the couch twice a day holding a sleeping baby (and it seemed more productive and less expensive than online shopping). I've been struggling a little to find the time to comment and write now Moo (usually) sleeps in her cot during the day. Yes, today she has a cold so I'm back holding her and one thumb typing with my iPhone. Frankly, I could put her down - but I want to finish this comment!

    Anyway, that does finish this comment. So I should probably put her down and go get myself some lunch.

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  26. Another ambitious young woman here who is afraid I can't have a satisfying career and a family! My problem is more that I haven't found someone to marry, but one day in the next several years, I hope to have your problems.

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