This is part 4 in my series of advice for new bloggers. Part one is tackles whether should you start a blog. Part two is newbie mistakes I made. Part three is pimping your work and getting it out there. Part four is this – telling the truth. Here’s my usual disclaimer: I have no idea what I’m doing. Take everything I say with a grain of salt.
First, let’s all acknowledge that bloggers should tell the truth. Bloggers get a lot of criticism for presenting themselves in a false or fake way, for making things up to enhance story-telling, and sometimes for just outright lying. It should go without saying that THIS IS WRONG. In blogging (as in life) we should aim to not be full of shit.
But guess what? I’m telling you right now that you might not be able to tell the whole truth. You may want to share your life in a real and meaningful way. You may want to be honest about how you feel. But at some point, there will be a unpleasant and unexpected consequence for doing that and it was halt you in your tracks. You will start to think through the consequences of telling the whole truth and you know what? It’s going to scare you and it should.
People are reading your words and judging you. Sometimes, the feedback you get is awesome. The connection you make with other people is truly incredible. But that connection is only meaningful if you’re being real. But the more honest you are, the more the judgement you will receive is going to hurt. When you put yourself out there, you make yourself vulnerable. Be prepared to be judged, scorned, reviled and mocked.
Like it or not, this is part of the gig. And that part, while not easy is easier than what comes next.
What’s hard about this next part that it’s not about you. I recently watched movie The Dark Knight Rises and I was struck by this bit of dialogue (which I hope I’m getting right):
Bruce Wayne: If you’re working alone, wear a mask.
John Blake: I’m not afraid to be seen standing up to these guys.
Bruce Wayne: The mask is not for you. It’s to protect the people you care about.
While I bear no comparison to Batman, and I’m not standing up to anyone, the truth behind those words got to me. If you blog, anonymously or openly, you may not be afraid to say your peace. But your words don’t just affect you. When this becomes clear, you will want to wear a mask. You will want to put that mask between the internet and your family.
It’s one thing to write about yourself, but it’s quite another to tell the truth about the people you love. The truth is that your blog posts will impact how people look at your family. They will impact how people in your actual, real life will treat your kids and your partner. Then there’s the commenters on the internet. They will write things about your family in response to your posts. Those things will cause you pain but worse, they have the potential to cause pain to those you love.
Right or wrong, this is part of the gig.
It’s been really important to me since day one to be honest about my life so that other people can feel better about their own. I’m kind of a train wreck and I don’t hide that. But it was harder than I thought to be 100% honest about everything. Not because I was afraid to take the heat but because of the potential fall out on other people. Big parts of my life, important ones, were never blogged about. Rather than be false, I would just be silent on those things.
My sister is in the middle of a divorce right now. Not going to write about it. A friend’s husband is being a total douchebag and I want to write a rant kicking him in the sphincter so badly. Not going to write about it. One of my older kids is being really weird and I think it’s super funny BUT I’M NOT GOING TO WRITE ABOUT IT. I’m having some problems at work right now but I like being employed so there will not be a blog post about that.
You will have to make a choice – what are you willing to share? What do you need to stay silent on? If you choose to write about your kids or your marriage, what are the boundaries that you will set? What does your partner think? How do your kids feel about having their stories told? Once your kids reach a certain age, will the rules change?
I made the choice that if I can’t be honest about it, I’m not writing about it. But now I have to stop and assess every so often - is this stuff I’m sharing, when taken as a whole, an honest reflection of where I’m at and who I am? If the answer is yes, then yay for me and I get to keep blogging. When the answer is no – that’s when I’ll know it’s time to stop (or at least to stop writing about my life).
The take away? If you’re going to blog, be honest. But think through the impact it will have on your family. The internet is a CrAzY place. We don’t get to choose what goes viral and what people quietly ignore. Since none of us can anticipate what might happen, it’s a really good idea to know what you and your family are comfortable with before you hit publish.