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The people behind the blogs – truth or dare?

Posted in Life & Love

masks“And…what do you do?” Invariably, there is a slight pause after the “and”, as if to feign hesitation. That intrusive question. But I get it. We meet someone new and we have an overwhelming need to frame them, to place them. As a woman, after all, it’s better to be asked what I do, than being presumed the wife of, a common practice until a few decades ago.

These days, though, what I do is complicated. Much easier when I was part of the corporate world and mention of my job led to talk about music and travel, with the listener eagerly fishing for gossip. Or when I was a chef: people loved to talk about their favorite restaurants and the meals they prepared at home. Now, I still cook – as a catering chef for hire. I also teach Italian and I blog. What to tell a new acquaintance then? The job I most identify with is the only one that doesn’t pay the bills. Sitting in front of a blank screen and coming up with an average of 700 words every other day or so.

“You write so much, how can you have time for anything else?’ a friend recently mused. My schedule is indeed a feat of creativity, with every hour of the day accounted for in color coded blocks. So much for spontaneity.

“How do you come up with ideas?” is a question sofagirl and I are often asked. There have been slumps and dry runs but, somehow, they never coincide. When I am at a low and my idea book doesn’t get much practice, sofagirl is like an active volcano and when she laments she can’t think of a damned thing, I rattle off a million sparks.

But, above all, it has been a matter of listening and looking at life a little bit differently. I have always been a good listener but now, as a fellow writer chastising me for using something she said, recently pointed out “everything is fair game with you. I must be careful what I say”. Which is a bit of an exaggeration because I would never use anything without permission, unless it’s just a passing remark. But, yes, everything I hear can be fair game – the most innocuous utterances can sit and simmer for a few days and then get regurgitated within the frame of a blog post.

Also, most everything I do on a daily basis is viewed through a different lens, as possible usable material. So, is everything on the page the real me? Yes and no. Once something is written and published, I tend to forget it. If someone mentions I cut my hair or I have a new car, I am genuinely surprised and ask “Who told you?”. “You wrote about it”. Right, I did. I don’t think of what I write as something that actual people do read. Mostly, it’s just a version of me. Not better or idealized or sanitized, just the imperfect one I choose to share.

LM-Hiding-Under-My-Mothers-Dress-2011-6854At the very beginning of this enterprise, my husband asked me never to write about him or the kids. “But I would only say nice things” I tried.

“Our relationship is ours”. Fair point. He knows me well enough to suspect I wouldn’t stop at the nice things. So that good piece I wrote about step parenting will never see the light of day and if you wish to know the pitfalls, joys and mistakes of step motherhood, you will have to contact me privately.

As I look at other blogs, I imagine the writers on the other side of their keyboards – a bit like pen pals of old, or imaginary friends, and form opinions, likes and dislikes. We share more and more about ourselves than any generation before us but, in the end, whether aware or not, we build what we hope are interesting personas for public consumption. It’s not cheating. Even the most raw and honest memoirs are as honest and raw as the writer feels comfortable with.

When we meet new people, we are often attracted to what we don’t know  as much as to what they immediately give off. It’s no different in the blogosphere. Which is why we keep on reading. In the end, I think the anonymity that the blogosphere affords us, also allows to be more honest. And honesty leads to more interesting writing. Or, at least, Virginia Woolf thought so.

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”
― Virginia Woolf

Images found in the public domain

 

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9 Comments

  1. Everything I hear students, colleagues, grocers, hairdressers, friends, foes, neighbors, Natalie, Joe, Jane and Jose say become possible future stories. Friends and relatives often say to me, “Don’t put this in your blog!” There’s that fine line of sharing and appropriating, to simmer and to recreate, or to just keep as private thoughts. It’s a weird world we live in now when information can be spread so quickly. So far I think I have been cautious; I find you more daring. But I know we both see a story in almost everything; at least we can’t complain that we don’t have ideas…

    December 11, 2013
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    • Lack of ideas hasn’t been exactly a problem. I think more get rejected than actually developed. I seriously have an idea book – you know, because I don’t remember anything these days otherwise

      December 11, 2013
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  2. Yes, the image was definitely spooky. A great post, Campari. Brilliant hook at the beginning, which led us on to how a writer’s life is.

    December 10, 2013
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    • Thank you….a life mostly of drudgery but with small, brilliant moments, right?

      December 11, 2013
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  3. I know…when I saw that shot I paused for a moment…think it’s a child hiding under the bed. Unlike a book or a magazine article, with a blog post you get to know some of your readers a bit and yes, it is weird. I think of some of them as people I know, but I don’t, really, and will never meet them. It makes for fuzzier but also very pleasant relationships.

    December 9, 2013
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  4. I must begin by saying that image REALLY spooked me out! I lost the thread for a moment…But I have regrouped. It turns out I was pondering some of what you touch on earlier today. There are some posts from bloggers that I really look forward to and when they comment on my posts I am really get tho know and like their personalities. But they are people I will most likely never meet. I know about their family life, their moods, their backgrounds, feel a connection to them but will never be in the same room with them. It’s quite bizarre when you think about it…

    December 9, 2013
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  5. Great post… and it really resonates. A post I’m going to publish in a couple of days contains a small allusion to some racism in my family. And actually, it warrants a whole post to itself, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to write it…

    As to information about myself, I find that I include more and more, especially as the rapport between me and my fellow bloggers&regular readers grows. It feels a bit like I’m writing letters to them, and I do bear in mind what kinds of tidbits they find most interesting.

    December 8, 2013
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    • sofagirl and I often toy with whether to talk about situations of people we are close to, and it’s a fine line to walk. It might make for some uncomfortable Sunday dinners too.
      Unlike you, as much as I love the conversation with the readers and sofagirl and I try to come up with topics they might find interesting, when I sit down to write, I am completely alone in my mind. If I start to focus on the readers, I get stumped.

      December 9, 2013
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      • Well… there is a kind of positive feedback mechanism at work… I wouldn’t write something that I wasn’t into, just to please an audience. You attract readers with similar interests, and that their response is more of an indication of which seams to mine, rather than which overall direction to take. I’m sure it’s similar for you, in a way.

        December 9, 2013
        |Reply

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