Words of Substance

I feel like know that I haven’t written much of substance here lately that isn’t a weekly post, but with the long summer days being filled with vacations, work, friends, and sleep training, I just haven’t had the chance…or truly, I haven’t made this space my priority, and I feel like that’s okay. However, I miss really thinking about my writing, delving into issues that are important to me, and investing time and heart and soul into a post (not to mention I miss the interactions and input I receive from you all), so I’m hoping to get back to it soon.

(As a side note, I do not consider myself to be a great writer by any means, but this space has been so therapeutic for me over the years – truly my cheap version of therapy – so that is the part of writing that I miss!)

At any rate, Kelle Hampton @ Enjoying the Small Things wrote a post last week that was simply answering FAQs from her readers. She is not a TTC blogger whatsoever – I actually started following her because of her incredible birth story about her daughter Nella (who was born with Down syndrome), and I continued to follow her journey because of her gorgeous pictures of her daughters. I often skim her posts now days, but I do remember reading last fall that she had just suffered a miscarriage, and I was overjoyed to read just recently that she is expecting their 3rd child. At any rate (sorry, I totally got off subject there), one of the questions she responded to was regarding how she handles blogging about her personal life with such truth and integrity — especially knowing that her next door neighbor can then read about it. I absolutely loved her response (emphasis mine):

This is a great question. While the Internet and blogging present wonderful sharing and connecting opportunities, it also means your words can be seen by anyone, and they are permanent. Everyone has a different comfort level, and you need to remain true to yourself and what feels good to you. I maintain a certain level of respect on my blog and will never use it to defame someone’s character or hurt someone. If I ever question “Will I regret writing this?,” I think long and hard about why I’m asking myself that question. I have shared personal stories that may cause judgment, but that happens in real life too. The people whose feelings I care most about embrace me for who I am. Whenever we write about our lives–on a blog, in a book, in an e-mail–we are sharing a piece of ourselves. A piece. By selecting which pieces to share, do we run the risk that people will assume things that aren’t true or misinterpret our words? Absolutely. When I write publicly, I think about what I’m choosing to write about, what good will come of my writing, and how my words will affect others. And if I feel good about those choices, I write on.

Isn’t that great?

When I started this blog in 2009, a couple of months into my writing, I made the mistake of writing about my feelings about a former friend of mine and our incredibly tumultuous friendship. I was anonymous about her in my post, and I felt (at the time) that it was an honest post about how those who are closest to us can often hurt us the worst, but even though none of my IRL friends/family read this blog back then and I was thinking of this blog as a safe space to vent about her, I realize now that it was wrong of me. Unbeknownst to me, that former friend had been googling me, and since my blog was still tied to my regular email address back then, she had been secretly reading my blog, and she instantly knew that the post was about her. She was mad. Livid. Beyond upset with me.

At the time, I reacted with anger of my own.

How dare she violate my private space? (nevermind I had posted it on the world wide web).
How dare she troll the internet to find out information about my life? (nevermind it was a good lesson about being careful about what information you share on the internet – be it through blogging or a simple Amazon review)
How dare she get mad that I anonymously wrote about my feelings about an event that included her? (nevermind that if IRL friends/family ever read the blog someday [which they do now] it would be easily identifiable as being about her)

I guess my point is this… I’ve learned from it. I try really hard to not blog in a way that could “defame someone’s character or hurt someone.” That’s not to say that I don’t still screw up at times. A couple of months ago I wrote about my frustrations about an IRL friend of mine who got pregnant with #2 w/o trying (and who sadly lost the baby in her 2nd m/c). I honestly had forgotten that she reads my blog (sorry hon!), and of course the instant she read the post, she rightfully called me out on writing about her. Thank God she was okay with it – she knows what I have gone through, and she knows that I wasn’t mad with her, just frustrated with the situation, but it was a great reminder of the power of our words and how we should always think long and hard about what we put out there in the universe (aka, the world wide web). Whether you think there is a chance of the person reading it or not, I love Kelle’s philosophy that I quoted before:

If I ever question “Will I regret writing this?,” I think long and hard about why I’m asking myself that question… When I write publicly, I think about what I’m choosing to write about, what good will come of my writing, and how my words will affect others. And if I feel good about those choices, I write on.

Amen. 🙂

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14 comments

  1. This is a tough road to walk, isn't it? I recently wrote a post about what's going on in my family (lots of gross drama), and it took me a long time to write it and decide to post it. I know that if my family ever came across my blog, which isn't really 'hidden' all that well, I could be in some trouble, but everything in that post was honest and true to the best of my knowledge. For me, this is part of why I chose to blog annonymously. (basically I'm too chicken to blog with my real name) This is definitely something that we all need to consider when we write, whether we blog under our real names or not.

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  2. A very thought-provoking post. And something I've been thinking about a lot lately as well. I've always really admired your honesty and forthrightness here on your blog. It's not something that I've found in many other spaces and, on top of that, you blog publicly! I've been sorting through some things of my own over the past couple days and mentally writing some "heavy" posts, always wondering in the back of my head if I'll actually ever post them. This has given me some things to think about.

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  3. Those quotations are very interesting. They capture what I have been struggling with, and are juxtaposed well with the situations you described above. I think it is okay to write about situations involving others (especially if it serves to highlight a larger issue), but if you have any reservations about it (however anonymous you try to make it, there is a chance others will figure it out, and that person certainly will) the simple courtesy of a heads up goes a long way. A genuine discussion is fostered on respectful treatment of each other.

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  4. To be clear, I think that heavy posts are a very integral and necessary part of blogging (for me at least). They just require some more special effort and thought about how to discuss the situations and how specific to get with details. Writing about issues that include my husband are one thing that I need to be better about. I don't want to quit including my frustrated posts (you guys always have such GREAT suggestions for me on how to handle things and make me remember that I'm not the first person to struggle with those feelings), but I could be better about how I phrase my frustrations, and I want to try to include the positive side of our marriage too. It's all too easy to only write about the frustrating times, b/c that's when I feel like I need help.

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  5. First, I do love Kelle Hampton too. :)Second, great post. I always wonder about these things too. On top of that, my other rule is "Is it okay if my boss reads this? And how about Grandma?" That keeps me clean (okay, sorta clean) and out of trouble as well.

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  6. I think the need to write about tough issues is very real, and of course tough issues often (usually!) have other people at their roots. I'm not saying you shouldn't blog about those things at all, especially when you need to work through tough thoughts/feelings/pain/disappointment/etc, and writing it all out is often the best way to do that. It's just a good reminder to try to not publish something you will regret later, and to temper your writing in a way that will allow you to honestly, legitimately work through your feelings by asking for encouragement and helpful suggestions from others. This gives the writing a POSITIVE power in your life instead of just filling it with more negative energy.

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  7. LOL, I'm sure my boss doesn't want to read about my EWCM and sexual frustrations, but I still post them. 🙂 I figure in those cases, it's a "this is a blog that focuses a lot on my lady parts, so heads up, you probably don't want to read about it" case. But you're right, it's good to think about how you'd feel if others "IRL" read it. My blog is 95% private, but I have slowly shared the URL with a few in my life (Mom, sisters, closest girl friends, and a few girls in the area who I have found out had fertility issues). I think the fact that a few ppl I implicitly trust IRL read this blog goes a long ways towards keeping me honest! 🙂

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  8. …and I know that you (I!) often need to write about those things in order to work through them. I don't think it's a bad thing. Just remember to be considerate of others and be honest about your feelings…try to use the writing as a positive piece of therapy in your life, not just a negative bitching area. 😉

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  9. Oh, man. I cried SO HARD when I found Kelle's blog via Nella's birth story. I just. Yeah.I go back and forth between wanting a fully public blog in which I force myself to be careful and very measured in what I say, and wanting a totally PRIVATE blog where I can say anything I want. As it is, I have my husband and some IRL friends who read, but I keep my blog address far, far away from Facebook (I don't even MENTION it there) and I even removed the URL from my twitter profile because I had three of my brothers on my Twitter– not that they ever read anything I posted! I post about PAIL and retweet/post IF-related stuff a lot, and I think they just don't care so they ignore it, but it would take them about five seconds to find my blog if they went to the PAIL site, so it's a calculated risk. My mom has long been on the prowl for my blogs & diaries, and I think she's stopped now, but I won't lie… I've checked her computer history to see if she's been reading. (We have a "trust" thing in our relationship, heh.)Right now, I'm going through my blog and making old entries private. I'll probably switch them back eventually, just right now, I feel rapidly more and more nervous about things and I want to hide for a bit.

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  10. I just love that quote – because in my opinion – if you're asking yourself (or someone else) if what you're writing is OK, then it probably IS NOT. Words to live by. My former boss always told us (about email) that if we're writing something we would not want published in the newspaper, then we should not hit send. I navigated my professional life that way and it almost always worked out for me, and I'm now navigating my blog life that way as well.Amen is right!Terrific post. I love this!

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  11. Such a great post! I've been tempted so many times to give the url of my blog to some good friends, even those who have gone through infertility, but I'm too embarrassed. I know, right? I'll share all the gory details with you lovely strangers but I'm too embarrassed to talk about it with people I know! I gave the url to my husband, only because not doing it felt like cheating. But nobody else has it, and only a couple people know I blog at all. I've tried to make sure it's not searchable, but I'm pretty careless. Just waiting for the day when I get found out. But there's nothing on there that is mean to others, just my inner personal craziness. I've made sure that the only person I've insulted is my husband… Lovely, huh? 🙂

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  12. This is absolutely the right line to take at work. No question. The trouble with this philosophy as applied to blogs, for me, is that following it would really limit what I can write about. I just wrote today, for instance, about worries about starting my new job. Would I want my new boss to read it? Absolutely not. But if I didn't write it, my blog space would be that much narrower and less useful to me. I try to navigate the boundaries of my space by asking, "Is this going to do damage in any area of my life if it's found?" If the answer is no, then I figure it's okay enough to balance the need for discretion against the need for a therapeutic space. I'm not always sure of the answer to that question though, so I don't always know where the line is. Sigh.

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  13. Great post Josey! I'm not sure how I missed it but nonetheless I appreciated it. I agree with Shannon that I keep mine clean by thinking about what my Grandma would have said about my posts, or if my boss wouldn't like it. But on that same note, it's my personal space and if I need to vent, or throw out my opinions, I feel I've earned that freedom!

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  14. […] – In Words of Substance, I reflected on what it means to write in a public space, and how we should go about deciding what […]

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