My Raison D’Etre: Why I Blog Honestly
So my friend Kat blogged today about appearing competent on the Internet. She, like many, is cautious about what personal details she puts out on the net, because as a semi-public figure she doesn’t want to come across as whiny or idiotic. As she says, “Here’s the thing about the Internet: it’s public, and it’s permanent….So I behave like I know that people are watching me, and most of the time that’s fine.”
Then she muses upon the things we lose by only blogging about the things that look good.
I don’t blog about the things that look good.
I air my worst aspects simply for the reasons she mentions: if I don’t write honestly about what I’m going through, people will think that they’re alone. So I go to great pains to exhume some of my worst moments and put them out there for public consumption.
As a chronic depressive, I think it’s important to send the message to my fellow sufferers that yes, you can have this level of crazy pent in your head and still find a way to function.
As a writer, I think it’s important to send the message that even someone at my level of career gets a lot of rejections, and getting here took a lot of ass-in-seat writing.
As a polyamorous married man, I think it’s important to send the message that a lot of married couples deal with jealousy and squabbling and still manage to love each other very much.
These are all noble goals, and yet Kat’s fears are well-known. Opening veins in public spaces comes with a cost, and that cost is pretty awkward sometimes.
Because writing is a static thing, and you are (I hope) an evolving person. There are essays I wrote back in 2003 that I’d be embarrassed to admit to today. I’ve evolved considerably in how I feel about race, about politics, about feminism – and yet the ignorant shit I wrote almost a decade ago is still on the record.
You don’t escape that. People, by and large, don’t accept that semi-public figures can change their minds. And so I know people who’ve read an awful essay I wrote five years ago, and think, “What a thoughtless sexist asshole,” and that’s who I am to them now and forever. There are places where my name is reviled for stances I’d no longer take, and in many cases have actively backed off from. People have actively tried to talk my girlfriends out of dating me, because they know what a jerk I am – they know this from a handful of essays they’ve read, but that’s enough to know I’m toxic enough that anyone who dates me must have no self-respect.
Which is fine. But that’s what happens. Write once, read forever.
For every person who gets what I’m trying to do, there are an equal number of people who have written me off as a drama queen. They see my blog as a way of screaming for attention, rather than as a method of sharing. And for every nice comment I get, there are the links I stumble across where people I’ve never met discuss their mutual loathing of me.
And then there are the days where people have gotten so used to me discussing my feelings in a public space that they forget that this is a very scary thing to do, and I’ll post something somewhere, and a long debate will break out on the intimate details of my personal life – as if my life were a football game. That’s always a little unsettling.
Then there’s the cost of dating. Being with me means being in the public circle. Some of my lovers want more time on-stage, some want less time on-stage, and all of them want to be presented in the way they deem ideal… so The Blog is always an issue in relationships, a quiet thing to be constantly negotiated.
This is not to say that I haven’t done some good. But the danger of talking about yourself as though you haven’t got your shit entirely together is that many will see you as a walking train wreck. One post can cause years of trouble. Some people never forgive for one post… Even if that post was written badly on a stressful day and you didn’t say what you meant.
I blog openly because I believe being honest about my inner turmoil makes it easier for people to see that even quote-unquote “successful” people can still have issues, and work past them. Otherwise, all you see are the results, and you come to think that the people Up There can’t possibly have anything in common with you. (Not that I’m a huge celebrity, but I’ve had some accomplishments.)
Most days, I’ll stand behind that approach. But some days, if I’d known what would be involved, I might not have gone down this path.
It’s a performance that I can no longer step away from. This blog and I are me, and if I deleted my public presence, there would still be forum threads in spaces going, “What the hell did that attention-seeking idiot do now? I guess he’s trying to make people feel sorry for him.”
I deal. It’s not for everyone.
In fact, I think it’s not for most.