People who equate truth with fact are missing the point.

Into the Heart of the Thing

I kind of hate it when bloggers write about blogging because duh, most of my readers aren’t writers at all, so apologies in advance.

In November, 2010, I decided to take a short break from blogging and and all things internet-y to spend some time with my youngest son, Carter, during his fall break from school. That was true, but it was only half the story. Over the summer of 2010, No Points for Style had gained a respectable readership. I wasn’t playing in the big leagues by anyone’s definition, but my blog was growing and it was thrilling. I wanted (still want) nothing more than for people to read my words. Yes, I’ll cop to it: I want to be famous on the internet, and maybe even famous in the real world. That’s more complicated than it sounds, because it has more to do with wanting to be heard and needing my life to matter in some broad way than it does with fame per se, but I don’t guess I’ll figure everything out right here, right now, so, on with our story.

While watching my blog gain readers was exciting, it was also terrifying and confusing. I’m still not exactly sure why. Comments and emails about how I am poisoning Carter by giving him medicine, or how I’m ruining my relationship with my older kids by sharing stories of my marriage to their dad, or the occasional generic hate-filled diatribe peppered with misspellings and grammatical errors don’t particularly bother me.

I do know that I was paying far too much attention to the noise in the blogosphere (and social media more generally) about what was and was not OK in a blog and I pretty much tied myself in a knot over what other people might find acceptable.

Which, well, let’s back up a little bit, because this is what I do. I define myself, not based on my own preferences, talents, abilities, limitations, etc., but based on what others expect. And this is no small thing. In fact, it’s been pretty much sucking the life out of me for as long as I can remember. On meeting me for the first time, people tend to think I’m shy, but I’m just taking a few minutes to suss out who you would like me to be so I can be that person for you.

However (and this is one big-ass however), I am also an extremely passionate person with strong opinions, and I don’t just share those opinions; I deliver diatribes. In meetings, at church, at community events, in groups, I’ll be sitting on my hands thinking, “Be quiet. Just skip it this time,” but alas, I’m what you call mercurial, and before I know what I’m doing, my hand is in the air and there I go, speaking, and I have big gestures and high volume to go with the words. Put the passion and the fear together and (as my husband would be very willing to tell you), there is one sorry-ass puddle of shame-filled Adrienne to be found in the after.

Oh, Lord, The After. It can be ugly.

The After wasn’t particularly applicable to writing for a long time, in part because my audience was tiny, but more because writing gives writers as much distance from their subject matter as they choose. If a topic feels safe, I might dance right into the heart of it, and if it is dangerous I can stay safely away from the tender center.

And authenticity, integrity, blah blah blah. We analyze and dissect these ideas in the blogosphere as if they were real, achievable goals, an endpoint that some will reach and some will ignore in favor of a well-managed online identity and the product endorsements that are the supposed result of such bedazzled lives.

For the record, I always thought that was the falsest of false dichotomies. Whether we aspire to authenticity or not, we are all carefully managing our online identities with every word we share. I just had no idea how trapped I would become between the two non-existent poles.

I have never lied here in the virtual pages of No Points for Style, which is not to say that everything I’ve written has been factually accurate, but storytelling is the very definition of subjective. The truth as I have written it here belongs to me and no one else. The facts? Well, I don’t know to whom those belong. God, I guess, or maybe the past, but certainly not to me.

Bag Head

Even more strangulation has come in the form of replaying over and over the random bits of advice I’ve heard across the years. Be funny, said some; focus on mental health advocacy said others. Write shorter posts, from one corner; be more casual from another.

Why I even listen is beyond me because I know good and well that the only real advice I need is stop investigating your damn naval and write, you foolish woman. Some of it will suck; some will be brilliant. Most will be passable. Just fucking write.

I took that short break from blogging in the fall of 2010 and when it was over what happened was this: I found myself sitting at my keyboard, staring at the screen and thinking not about what I wanted to say, but how you would receive what I did manage to say, which is sort of like dropping a soggy wool blanket over a dancer: it stops all the art and replaces it with futile, ugly struggling. I tried several times to find my way back in, without much success.

I don’t know how one negotiates two desires that are so entirely at odds. I want to speak, and speak loudly, and be heard. I also want to hide under the bed where no one will ever have reason to call me names or fart in my general direction.

To speak and to be treated civilly is too much to ask if one is doing one’s speaking on the internet. All of us who put our hearts and minds into the public in this medium know that. If we haven’t experienced it directly, we’ve witnessed it.

If I wanted to do this blogging and writing thing with a bag on my head, I would have had to make that choice at the very beginning. I don’t think I would do it differently even if I had it to do over again. There’s nothing to do from here but shut the whole thing down, or take a leap back into the heart of the thing. I don’t know if the world needs my words or not, but I do know that I need to speak them. I am made of, for, and by words, and to be silent is to wither.

 

Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.
—Vincent Van Gogh

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14 comments to Into the Heart of the Thing

  • Lately, I am all for hiding under the bed.
    Maybe we could vlog or something from there 😉
    Sisters from Another Mister recently posted..Fork in the road

  • Jeanine

    to hell with everyone else. your blog, your words, your choice. write what you want, how you want, when you want. FOR YOU. for no one but YOU.

  • My dear friend Adrienne, I have missed your words more than I can tell. when they come now, far, far too infrequently, I treasure them. Whichever words you want to give: the funny ones, the raw ones, the wise ones. All good. But then again I’m a blogger who will write about autism one day, my dying mother the next, a haunting story from my childhood, and then a funny tale from my long-ago pregnancy. Also occasionally fiction. So what do I know about consistency and selling my “brand” as a blogger? – NOTHING – ha!

    But I love love, love, love you and everything you write – so more, please ma’am — more more more!
    Varda (SquashedMom) recently posted..A matched set of broken hips

  • I think “authentic” is the best way to describe your blog. You don’t write with a bag over your head, and I admire that for its courage.

    I also think that too many of us creatives have been locked in a corner by commercialism. Visual artists are expected to develop a “Style” that sells–and stick with it. Writers, pretty much the same thing except painting with words.

    But, even though you wander topic-wise–there is still a strong sense of Adrienne-ness in this blog. There is a truth to it that has nothing to do with accuracy, but with letting your light shine.
    Heather recently posted..Another Mini Hat Fascinator

    • I need to tell you how grateful I am for this comment, that you took the time to say what you did, and that you, somehow, wrote exactly what I needed to read. My mind keeps wandering back to it again and again, still, a month later. I don’t know how we all get caught in this perfectionist nonsense; don’t most of us start writing (or painting, or dancing, or gardening, or whatever) for the love of the words and the stories? And then we let the expectations creep in and the joy goes out and you have helped me find my way back to that.

      Thank you.

  • I live in the that dichotomy too, but lately I mostly manage to just fucking write.

    I love your words. I love the writing and the story and the loud voice and big gestures, which come through in your writing in a way that makes me pay very close attention. And I think the world does need your words, so just keep writing.
    Robin | Farewell, Stranger recently posted..Connorisms

  • I think suggestions are helpful sometimes. I think criticism is helpful sometimes. I think just writing is helpful sometimes. I think not writing is helpful sometimes. There’s no right answer — just a lot of slogging through it. And you are an excellent slogger.
    Alex@LateEnough recently posted..What Dinnertime Looks Like Some Nights

  • Adrienne, whenever you choose to write I will choose to read. You are amongst my very favorite bloggers, not just because you write about things that are very much on my radar, but because you do so beautifully. You’re right – the thing is just to write, maybe it will be good and maybe it will be bad. How do you know how the words will sound until they come out of your mouth? Be that person at the party who says what they’re thinking without thinking. Write the thing that is in your heart and your brain and if you get hate mail remember to put it in its proper place.
    Barnmaven recently posted..Girl things

  • I’m new to your blog, found you by way of Twitter, and I can tell you from personal experience that the best way to deal with the self-doubt brought on by a growing and increasingly opinionated audience is to forget to renew your ownership of your blog domain while you’re on your next hiatus, during which time a pornographer will co-opt it, and you can start fresh while shocking the pants off your old readers. That’s what happened to me! It was half a relief and half awful to discover what happened. On the upside, I have come back to start anew over recent months and found so many great new bloggers to read in the process, bloggers like you. I relate so well to what you’re describing here. For me, I also can’t help but blog with the worry that my DAD is reading everything. And he is. Hard to write truthfully when you’re worrying about what your audience will think. I am really digging this idea of starting yet another new one but with a bag on my head…
    Jenny recently posted..Top 10 Uses for My Post-Partum Gut Roll

  • I’ve been catching up on your blog. Wow! Just nominated you as one of my favorites for 2012 on my blog!

  • Mira

    My comment, and all the comments above and below, attest to the fact that people keeping checking your blog, no matter how infrequently you post. That, in the face of the ungodly fickle Internet, is testimony to the power of your writing. The fact that you’ve written your way through hell on earth is testimony to your spirit. That and, no one writes with pure motives. We want and need to see the words unfolding, to make language out of senselessness, and at the same time we want recognition and acknowledgment and a hundred million dollars. And, if someone were so prissy-perfect that she only wrote for extra-special pure reasons, well, who’d wanna read something by someone like that? Thank you for writing this, and everything. It’s worth waiting for.

  • Hi: You are the only blogger in my favorites. I check for your aricles every couple of days. When you do not post for a while, I worry about you and Carter and include you in my prayers.
    I once published a newletter every once in a while for the company where I work. The readers loved it and clamored for more newsletters. To remain true to the ideas animating the newsletter I had to the ignore pleas for more articles. I found I could publish only when there were things that had to be reported. Otherwise, the newsletter would become more entertainment than truth.
    Your writing is gorgeous and significant and touching and instructive. Your writing is miraculous. Do what you have to do so that you are pleased by your efforts. Your audience is captivated and will not desert you. We also do not want to cause you consternation or harm.
    Don’t succumb to the pressure of the blog. Just enjoy what you do. And maybe someday turn this into a book.
    Thank you always!

  • I second Alex: You can slog with the best of them. I mean, here I am slogging around and you are one of my slogging role models, so there you go.

    I’ll tell you something that someone very very wise (hint, hint, cough, cough, YOU, cough) once told me: Write what is behind your eyes…or it won’t go away. If there is nothing there, don’t write yet.
    Kati recently posted..Make Ahead Chicken & Green Bean Casserole

  • laura metz

    Please email me asap Iam watching you on the ricki lake show and have a 7 yr old daughter with bi polar disorder and would love to talk with you

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