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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lessons :: Censoring your blog, getting personal... How much is too much? How little is not enough?



My LESSONS posts seem to be pretty repetitive. The common theme: I'm obsessed with goals, schedules and deadlines, but life doesn't always go according to plan. It's not that I don't like change -- in fact, I've grown to love it. For awhile, I only liked the changes that I made; the ones that were under my control. I even wrote a guest post here about making changes for yourself. Now, I appreciate any and all change. It helps me grow and learn. I'm grateful for it! One thing that has also changed over time, along with my life and me, is this blog.

I've actually been blogging for over 10 years. I started out at LiveJournal where I posted lots of personal photos and secret thoughts. If you're not familiar with the site, users would add 'friends' as opposed to followers. Most of my posts were marked 'friends-only' and not public. I didn't think about blog traffic or the quality of my content. I didn't even think of it as a 'blog' -- it really was a journal.

In 2010 I stumbled upon Keiko Lynn while posting my outfits on Lucky Style Spotter (I'm not sure if it still exists now). Until that point, I hadn't known much about the world of fashion blogging and had not even considered it for myself. But after becoming addicted to Keiko's blog and finding a few others (including Vogue Gone Rogue, Miss Melissa, Grit & Glamour, and The Citizen Rosebud) I realized that this was all something I, too, could be a part of.

Documenting my life through words and pictures is something that I've been doing forever -- even before I joined LiveJournal. I received my first diary (with a lock!) and first camera on my seventh birthday. Since then, my love for writing and photography has never wavered. I was excited to have found a new outlet for my creativity; through fashion blogging, I could combine my passions of writing and photography with personal style.

Soon, though, I became frustrated. Everything I read was telling me to narrow down what my blog was about -- only focus on one or two topics, three at the most. I tried to do this, but after awhile, I just couldn't. Yes, I like dresses and chocolate and the color pink, but I also like rap music, scary movies, and tequila. All of these things make me, me. And why should I hide certain parts of myself? I missed having the freedom to post about what I wanted, when I wanted to.

Last month, Cassie Boorn tweeted, "The day I started censoring myself on my blog is the day the lady at the gas station in our small town said she read it." This month, Delightfully Tacky wrote, "This blog isn't the whole story. It's real life, but it's just peering through a keyhole into one room of the house of my life."

Do these bloggers have to post everything about their lives? Of course not. They're entitled to choosing what they want to post about certain things. That's what works for them. Elsie of A Beautiful Mess blogs the same way. In her e-course Blog Love, she explained: "I have plenty of likes and dislikes that I don't blog about. I think that these choices make my brand stronger. It also helps me maintain a private life. Boundaries can be healthy, good for branding and clarity too! I've put a lot of thought into my role in the blogging community. I know who I want to be and who I don't want to be. I have a purpose. My blog's purpose does not reflect 100% of my real life interests, hobbies and opinions -- and that's intentional. I have a focused plan." She's not showing a 'pretend' self, but rather, a version of herself.

It's perfectly fine, of course, for fellow bloggers to censor their blogs, but only if that's what makes them comfortable and satisfied with their blogs. If you want to post about something that's out of the ordinary, then by all means -- do it! It's your life, it's your blog. I think there's so much pressure for us bloggers -- pressure to share things, pressure to hide other things. I've said before that my only rule for blogging is to be yourself. If you're naturally an open person who tells everyone your life story (like me), then don't hold back. If you're naturally a private person that likes to keep things secret, then don't share more than you're comfortable with. Our differences make us unique and special. And for the record, I love blogs and bloggers that are completely different from me and mine!

Blogging is supposed to be fun. If you're having fun, then you're doing it right. You're doing things your way. If you're not having fun, then something needs to change. Do you feel like you're holding back something that you want to share with the world? Do you feel like you're sharing too much and you want to pull a few things out of your blog? It's okay to make changes. It's healthy. It's good.

Little Chief Honeybee made a goal this year on her third blogiversary: "This blog has been a blessing, but there are still times when I feel like I can't commit myself to say some of the things I want to. That's the part I hate. Absolutely no one is holding me back from saying these things or writing these posts except myself... I hope I can be more upfront and honest in the things that I write. Everything on this blog is valid and true, but I find myself only drafting the posts that are sticky or just seem so silly. I can't imagine that thousands of people want to know about that one tiny trivial thing that I did, so I end up not publishing it. That's silly. This blog serves as a virtual scrapbook for my twenties. I don't want to just skim the surface anymore."

Fenn of Short Girl Blogs sent me an e-mail recently that also stuck: "I feel like I put almost all of it out there. I leave out my ranting, because that sort of writing doesn't go anywhere... But I talk about my insides all the time. Sometimes, I forget just to write about my art or whatever, because I think I spend a lot of time writing about me."

I couldn't agree more, for myself and my own blog. It's become more personal over time; it's not just about outfits anymore. And I'm glad. Once in awhile, though, I can't help but feel like it's a little too messy, too random, too all-over-the-place. And when that happens, I just read this (by Kyla Roma) and feel better: "Finding your niche is an idea you’ll find at every blogging conference and piece of marketing advice you pick up... Instead of worrying about which sub-genre of blogging that you fall into, remembering the overall story that you're telling can be a positive way to connect all the pieces that make up your blog."

It's funny, because even though I'm not afraid to post (almost) everything about my life, I'm shy when it comes to telling people about my blog in 'real life' (as if me sitting here typing to you isn't real). I mean, I want traffic. I want people to read this blog. I want people to know me. I want to be everybody's friend. If I didn't, I would keep this all locked up and tucked away, like I did before. But I've chosen to publicize it. At the same time, I don't want everyone to know everything about me simply from visiting this blog. I want it to be organic. I want someone to get to know me through me, not through a computer screen. And then later, he can read the archives...

What about you? Do you feel like you share too much (or too little) on your blog? Is it time for you to make some changes? Let's chat.

19 comments:

  1. I think about this all of the time! Over time, my posts have definitely got more personal and while that leaves me feeling more exposed, it also makes me wonder if it's interesting to anyone else. I think as soon as it becomes more important that someone else like me (or my writing), the less honest my writing becomes. It's a difficult balance because I, obviously, want people to read but I want to write what is true, not what is popular.

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  2. I love this post. Like Shannon said above, it's something I think about all the time. I just switched from tumblr to blogger - when I blogged on tumblr, I had a couple hundred readers and was brutally honest about a really rough time in my life. When I switched to this blog, I tried to leave that behind, be more specific and only blog about design (of style & life) but then I realized that's not who I am. As soon as I started writing from my gut again, the emails and notes started coming in again. There's really no niche that can compete with the feeling of a total stranger writing to tell you that you made her feel less alone. Thanks for reminding me of that :)

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  3. I loved this!! I've only just started blogging and I'm still trying to find the balance. I'm also shy about telling people in real-life about my blog. My family and my closest friends know, but that's it. I knew exactly what you were saying when you talked about writing about whatever you want to write about and not just sticking to one genre. I'm doing the exact same thing. Thanks for such a good post!
    urmeganmecrazy.blogspot.com

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  4. This is kind of a double edged sword. Eventually everyone's resume will be on the internet (LinkedIn, Monster, ect). Employers will google you before scheduling an interview and what will pop up? Hopefully not your LiveJournal with your deepest darkest secrets, or your MySpace with drunken pictures of you plastered all over it.

    So when I set out to blog in my most current endeavor it wasn't about making money or finding my niche or anything like that. I decided I'd rather it be what I want people to see about me. I don't want everyone knowing every part of me - that's for my friends and family. But on the other hand I am very open, feel like I have nothing to hide and anti-censorship. But am I open and anti-censorship if I want to keep certain aspects to myself? It's not something I've ever really thought about.

    Blog to blog. If you are blogging to make money then worry about all that stuff but its EXACTLY as you have said, if you are comfortable with what you put out there then don't worry about the rest just have fun and be comfortable.

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  5. I love it when bloggers post links to other bloggers and I get to discover new gems! I loved this post, it's something that I think about too, what to share, what I think I should keep to myself and so on.

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  6. I love this post! I definitely agree that the most important thing is to stay true to yourself and what makes you comfortable and happy. I definitely like to share the many sides of my personality on my blog and I hope to continue sharing even more. I don't want to censor myself because it just isn't me. It can definitely be scary to put so much of yourself out there but I think it is really the best way to make genuine friends in the blogging world and build a brand that people can really relate to.

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  7. This is a great post, love. I sort of feel like I'm in the middle, though not fully satisfied. Sort of like I'm stuck in middle earth as it were, and not sure which way I want to go.

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  8. I've definitely felt the pressure of having to find a niche but you know we creative people hate to be put in a box! LOL. So instead I try to have a focus and maintain that focus - but feel free to go on a little tangent every now and again to mix things up.

    As far as how personal I get, I am not the one to spill my guts to everyone so most of the time I don't do that on blog. I will get honest about certain things if I feel that it can help at least one other person who feels the same way I do. Like you said, it all depends on the blogger how much they want to share. All I ask as a reader is for some personality to come through! (otherwise it gets boring! LOL)

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  9. I think it's a little ridiculous to fear that a blog will be found by future employers and they will KNOW YOUR WHOLE LIFE! Trust me, Facebook is already doing that. But the reality is, that the internet is GINORMOUS and you're hard to find...oh, and most people really don't care all that much anyway.

    As for censoring or not...it has to be exhausting to create a brand of yourself. Who are you, Barbie? Guh. I'd be tired, having to fit myself in a pretty box with nice packaging. I would also feel fake, which I hate. I hate dishonesty, I hate misleading, I hate avoiding reality to try to make everything smooth and glossy and pretty. I think bloggers who brand themselves in a specific way very much come across as a product that I don't want.

    It is totally possible to be completely yourself without revealing EVERYTHING. I probably post way too much about poop in my marathon entries, but not everyone has to dissect their bodily functions that way. And even a simple sentence, "Sometimes, I need to escape the city and head up the coast for a weekend away," coupled with a beautiful photo of a beach can say all I need to know that you're a real person with real issues. I don't have to know every single aspect of that issue, but I can definitely relate to the need to escape, I can fantasize about that beach, and I can make a connection between us, because, yeah, sometimes I need to escape too.

    I think a lot of female bloggers worry they won't be liked or will present themselves in an improper manner, because they don't realize they can be real : happy, sad, frustrated, bored, unkempt, imperfect and not have to write some nasty post with intimate details. Anyone can have a bad day or a bad week and write a few sentences that let us in to real emotions and real struggles without detailing every second of everything.

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  10. I think if it's in your nature to share personal stories, without planning and branding, then share. I don't think either way is right or wrong. Just go with what's innate. I personally like having a mixture of blogs to read. I enjoy blogs like yours, because you are seemingly more relatable. You're just trying to tell your story, not promote something.
    This is purely my opinion of course, and what do I know? I'm lucky if I can get more than two comments on anything I post, haha.
    Cheers to you and your blog!

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  11. this is a great post. i write like i talk in real life pretty much. i often leave weird quirky things in that probably are colloquialisms (I know they are actually) but that's who i am. now who i am in real life also doesn't talk politics, religion, or really sex with the exception of some very close friends, and even then, maybe 1 of those 3. so that's just how i was raised, so i don't feel like it would be truthful for me to talk of any of those things. plus - if we wrote about everything we wanted to, wouldn't it get kind..of boring? you know? maybe?

    anyhow. my two cents i loved reading this and seeing all the quotes - it brought a lot of good views to the table

    <3 katherine
    of corgis and cocktails // current giveaway

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  12. I feel I always try to be honest on my blog, I let my true personality shine through in my posts, but that doesn't mean I reveal every aspect of my life. I like the quote from Delightfully Tacky, I feel like that is most applicable to my own blogging style.

    I am both a sociable & private person. I like connecting with people & sharing what I have to say but I like to keep a good part of my life private & separate from my blogging/social media.

    Also holla at longtime LJ users! I feel like Blogger has become the natural progression for me, from LJ to open blogging. Also, in this regard I guess I write for an audience as well as myself. If I just wrote for myself then I would still be on LJ typing away behind a locked post.

    Awesome post Stephanie, really thought provoking x

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  13. My blog is a simple little nail polish blog, which I am satisfied with :) Sometimes I will include personal things like trips, but it will usually relate to my nails at the same time so it's not just out of the blue. I don't feel comfortable putting really personal things out there, but that's just me. At the same time though, I am such a giant social media butterfly with my fb, twitter, and instagram...but I try to keep things private so only friends can see my posts. Maybe I'm naive, but that is good enough for me.

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  14. This is an excellent post. I don't think there's a single blogger out there who struggles with what's "too much" and what "isn't enough".

    When it comes down to it, I think all my favourite blogs are written by those who are comfortable in what they are doing. Some blogs I read are very personal while others are JUST about posting outfits or beauty reviews yet I like them equally.

    At the end of the day, if you're comfortable with what you're sharing, if you're doing what feels best to you, be that sharing it all or nothing at all, it shines through in your writing and I'd rather read things that flow naturally than things that are obviously forced.

    Emily Jane xo

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  15. I think all bloggers have to decide whatbthyre comfortable sharing. As you know from my blog I don't get very personal. I still haven't shown much of my children be cause I worry about weirdos. But it's up to the individual. Certainly I really enjoy the blogs that let me into their lives, but I also enjoy ones that are less personal.

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  16. i am totally someone who does not really put a lot of personal life into my blog and there are a lot of reasons for that, but mostly i enjoy a lot of privacy and i have a distinct message i want to send that doesn't really involve my personal life.

    that said, as a reader i really do enjoy people who make them selves vulnerable and put themselves out there, no matter what that means to them.

    but for me i tend to take the elsie (who i j'adore) approach. cultivating a voice that is consistent and true to myself but definitely not all myself.

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  17. Thanks for this post-
    I'm new to blogging and have always found I'm the kinda gal who will tell someone my whole life story before I resort to commenting on the weather. I'm all for deep and meaningfuls, not skimming the surface !
    Having said that, i am conscious about what I write online, simply because I come from a small town. I briefly mention anxiety and depressed thoughts, but I'm yet to write a full on article about my depression. Maybe one day i'll be comfortable enough, but at the moment it's hard figuring out what is appropriate and what is not, knowing that my employers/teachers/acquaintances can all access my blog!
    Thanks for the food for thought.
    xo Laura

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  18. You know I think I need to make some time and just sit back and read all you lessons I missed before I became a follower, it only JUST accord to me 'oh ya...there's MORE isn't there?!' :D Love this post! Also a veteran friends only user and I agree absolutely pressure to share more but while I love sharing I agree about keeping that line so people don't think ALL you are is the sum of your blog posts you know?

    Struggling to keep remembering that my blog is about finding and recognising MY voice, it should never be, in print or IRL about getting people to like it.
    I want people to like me cause they like me :) Guess I'm old school like that? Lol

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