I like to wax poetic about online community and how supportive it can be, and it is. But as much as we talk about the virtual support, it can sometimes be hard to remember that there are real, live people on the other side of the screen. Or, I suppose, somewhere in front of another computer that is connected to yours through a series of tubes.
The people reading your words and maybe (or maybe not) sharing their own have their own lives going on. They bring their own experiences and biases and current moods with them when they read your blog. I re-learn that regularly, as commenters interpret my words much differently than the way I meant them to be understood. This is fine, really. I receive some of my best insights when the conversation veers in a direction I never would have expected. I have learned not to take my posts too personally, and I’m giving up the need to be clearly understood at all times. Blogging is a fluid thing, and while this virtual space is primarily mine I do not need to control every word that appears here.
You learn lessons like that through blogging, many lessons. I have learned that the best way to get better at writing is to just do it, and do it a lot. I have learned that I don’t really enjoy personal conflict, and I prefer to address people’s questions or comments one-on-one through email. Long debate threads are fun to read, but hosting them makes me sort of nervous. I suppose I have learned that I get far more of a thrill from positive feedback than is maybe strictly healthy. Through these lessons you can figure out what works best for you, and tailor your online experience accordingly.
Blogs are still a relatively new platform, and they are fundamentally individual. What I do, and the way I blog, works for me. It might not work for you. I post photos of my kids and use their real names. My last name is embedded in my blog title. I post 6 days a week, even on days when I have other posts appearing elsewhere. I use Twitter prolifically, and comment on other blogs a lot. I try to keep my posts under the 700 word mark, and rarely or never go about 1000 words. But I admire other bloggers who do none of those things. This is about finding your own way, there’s no single right way to blog.
Bloggers are real people, just as our readers are real people. We have strengths and weaknesses and weird idiosyncrasies. The best way to learn that is to get together with a bunch of them, like I did last weekend. Vancouver-area Twitter mamas (and papas) met up for brunch. There were babies, toddlers and awkward greetings when you feel you know someone you’ve never actually met. There were comfortable conversations and jokes and note sharing from people who understood what it’s like to be a blogger. But mostly, it was just a bunch of women getting together for a social outing. The little ones who came along were remarkably well-behaved, and 4 of us who came without kids hung out for over an hour after everyone else left reveling in our freedom.
I have to thank the amazingly real Nicole for organizing the meet-up, and my also real friend and fellow suburbanite Carrie for sharing the car ride and helping me get back in one piece. I was delighted to see Michelle, Crunchy Carpets and Left Coast Mama again. I was thrilled to meet, in person, Alexis, Janet, Stephanie, Marilyn and Harriet, who gave me a hug right away. Harriet is very real. And I was perhaps most thrilled to meet Scattered Mom, who baked us all cookies and packaged them in lovely little bags.
The people who attended that brunch all have their own approaches online. Our sites have different content and platforms and audiences. But I’m willing to bet you that none of us enjoys receiving negative comments, or maybe even worse, no comments. None of us likes feeling like the odd one out or the low man on the blogging totem pole. We all value the community we’ve found through blogging, and through befriending other bloggers in real life. There are commonalities, even in the middle of the differences, just like anywhere else in life. We are all people underneath it all.
So tell me, have you learned things about yourself through blogging, and cultivated your own blogging style? And have you met other bloggers or Twitter users in real life? How does getting together with other bloggers change your perspective on blogging? I’d love to hear!
March’s Crafting my Life series is about the whys and hows of blogging, and what blogging means to pursuing your dreams. On the last Thursday of the month, which just happens to be the 25th, I will include a link up. To participate, write a post on this month’s theme anytime in March, or track down a post you’ve written on the subject sometime in the past, and add yourself to the list. Then read everyone else’s ideas and thoughts and be inspired! Check out the link-ups from January and February to get a feel for how it works.