Fans of Joey, my name is Ashley and I blog at Writing To Reach You. Joey kindly offered me some space on his blog and asked me to address the issue of private v. public blogging. This is a thing I have a lot of experience with. When I started my blog four years ago, it was completely private. I didn’t even tell my best friend about it for five months. And now my blog is completely public, which means my parents read it and anyone who knows my name can find my home on the internet.
I had a lot of secret blogging behavior that kept the people in my life from finding my blog. I’m sure that most of it was completely unnecessary, but I took my anonymity seriously. I used separate email addresses. At work, I would minimize windows when anyone walked by. When I checked twitter on my phone, I would hold it so strangers could not see my username. In conversation I would mention a friend who lived in New York or Texas, and hope that no one asked how I knew people in so many parts of the country/world. At the end of 2010 when I traveled to San Francisco to spend New Year’s Eve with internet friends, I told my family I knew this group from “school.”
After three years, I felt like a very different person than the one I had been when I started blogging. I was more comfortable with myself and the internet had become a huge part of my life. Anonymity started to feel limiting. I knew my professional goals involved writing, and it was time to learn how to do that in public. It took me a long time to decide to make my blog public. Actually, it took me only a minute, but then I spent a lot of time talking to people about it and preparing myself. One thing that several public bloggers told me was that the most random people in my life would be the ones who would read my blog and tell me about it. They were telling the truth.
Finally, I was ready, so I attached my full name to my blog and sent family members an email to tell them about it. Annnnnd, nothing happened. The world didn’t fall apart. No one showed up at my door to offer me congratulations for taking this huge step. Slowly emails trickled in from people in my life saying they thought it was cool what I was doing, but no one was all that surprised (the girl who likes to write has been writing? shock!), and life continued on.
But things are certainly different. Now when I think about hitting publish on a post, I don’t just picture the kind reactions of a small groups of bloggers who know me. I’m picturing a much larger and more anonymous (ha!) group of people who may have any number of reactions to my writing. If I sound too sad, I fear my parents will worry about me. When I write about theology, I imagine classmates critiquing me. When I write about feelings, I know that the people responsible for them could be reading. I almost feel defensive sometimes when people tell me I sound vague or guarded, because I don’t know how else to be when everyone I know has access to my most personal thoughts.
Faced with these challenges, it is easy to freeze in place and stop writing. But when I made my blog public, I knew it was what I wanted to do, and I told myself that I could feel as awkward and uncomfortable as I wanted, but I had to keep writing. Here’s how I do that: 1) I try to forget that anyone is reading. I can’t argue that this is healthy, but it works. 2) I try to remember that most of the people in my life want the best for me; whatever their reactions may be, they have good intentions. 3) I remind myself that no one cares half as much as I think they do. 4) I am ready to set boundaries with anyone who doesn’t respect what I am doing, but I respect the people in my life by telling only my own stories. 5) I try to remember why I blog. It’s not to embarrass myself by putting all of my feelings out in public. It’s to express myself in a medium that I think is really cool. I won’t let anyone make me feel like this isn’t as awesome as I think it is. 6) I don’t expect anyone to read my blog or assume that they have; reading my blog is not a condition of friendship. 7) I spend a lot of my time with people who understand: other bloggers.
None of this means that I go around wearing a sandwich board advertising my blog. The people who are most important to me know about it, and anyone else can find it if they search, but some habits die hard and I can still be a little secretive about it. You could say that I am still warming up to blogging in public. I made the move to making my blog public because it was the obvious next step for me and I was ready for the challenge, but I loved those three years I spent in the blogging closet, and I will debate anyone who says that is not a legitimate way to go. The environment that best allows you to keep creating is the one that’s right for you.
Thanks to Ashley for writing up this post, I know it helped me and I hope it helps others as well. Let me know if you’ve been through the process of taking your blog and making it public to the rest of the world, I am interested to see how you handled it. It was actually great timing for this post because I am currently trying to come out of the blogging closet and be okay with my family or friends knowing that I blog. Also, please be sure to head over to Writing To Reach You and tell her that Cuddlez sent you.