writing on Writing

This is not another BlogHer recap post, so don’t run away. It is, sort of, a reaction to BlogHer and the many many BlogHer recap posts that have been written. It’s also about what I learned at BlogHer, what I didn’t learn at BlogHer and what I suspect I will never learn no matter how many BlogHers I attend.

You cannot teach someone to be talented. Talent is something you either have or you don’t have, like a super fast metabolism or a crazy drunk grandmother. You’re either someone who can eat cheeseburgers and ice cream and pop all day and still fit in your high school jeans or more likely you aren’t. One may become thin by exercising and watching what one eats and skipping dessert and working hard but it’s never the same as just having it. Talent is like that. You can foster a love of something and learn the technical aspects and search out things that inspire you and work your ass off – but you will always be at a disadvantage to those who were born with a natural skill.

I do not have a talent for writing. I enjoy writing. I like to think I am pretty good at writing. I once had a creative writing teacher read my essay out loud in class. But that was in 2003 and I’m still bringing it up now so obviously the accolades are few and far between. I have no illusions that I am going to wake up one morning and sit down at my typewriter and pound out the next great American novel. At best I might Instagram a photo of myself sitting in front of my dad’s old typewriter making duck lips and holding a gin & tonic.

My blog isn’t poetry, it isn’t how-to, it isn’t deep thoughts, it isn’t photo essays, it isn’t brilliance. It’s in a no-mans land, a junkyard, an oasis of random – except that there are hundreds of other bloggers here with me. It’s the world’s most crowded deserted island and I feel like we spend half our time sharing coconuts and the other half fighting over who gets to sleep in the cool kid’s hut. We’re all struggling to tell our stories and capture a snapshot of our lives with the words we do know, limited as they may be, so people will stand up with us and say “I share this experience” or “Wow!” or even just “Cool story, bro”. Maybe we’re all crazy narcissists for thinking our lives are worth documenting – but does it make it better if we realize that’s what we are? If I’m willing to acknowledge that I have reached maximum saturation among people who like red headed children, occasional recipes and mediocre photography do I win an award of some kind? If I admit I am not that good do I get to keep writing?

Maybe these words right here are some of the most unnecessary ever posted on the internet. Since the fact that everyone is writing about writing has already been written, why bother to publish my thoughts at all? Why am I asking so many questions I have no intention of answering? Why is the rum gone?

In the end, the thing I love about blogging is my space gets to be mine. I am the captain of my blogging destiny, or at least the only one with the login to my WordPress dashboard. I don’t have to be the greatest. I’m not competing for Babble’s list of the Top 10 Bloggers Whose Posts You Think Are Super Deep But You’re Not Really Sure Because Your Eyes Cross Half Way Through or even just Top 10 Mom Bloggers As Chosen By Their Friends Who Also Work Here. The rules for blogging are not actual rules and there are no blog police who can shut you down for not being good enough.  There is more than enough room on the internet for everyone.

Let’s be friends.

evan and caroline friends

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31 Responses to “writing on Writing”

  1. Suz says:

    Love this post. It’s pretty much me but sub in photos of twins for your precious red heads & freshman college class essay circa 2000 for your 2003… :)

  2. Yes. The rum is gone.

    Always a tragedy. As is your underestimation of your talent. In my humble opinion.

    I love your words.

    Also I gigglesnorted at Babble lists. I was drinking coffee, even, so you know it had to be unintentional.

    Eff the (blogging) Police.

  3. Mom101 says:

    I don’t know you personally (I have yet to be invited inside your hut, ha) and I’ve never read your blog, but one paragraph in, and I was thinking, “Wow, what a good writer.”

    Thanks for reminding the world that it’s okay to do something because we love it. Forget writing; I wish more people lived like that in general.

    Nice to meet you.

    • bebehblog says:

      You are welcome to share my coconuts any time. I hope you know I linked you because I really admire you and that post said it all better than I can, not to include you in a list of people who would vote me off an island. Thank you so much for the compliments.

  4. Cecily says:

    You’re clearly a great writer. That creative writing teacher was totally right. :)

  5. I’ll drink (coconut milk) to that!

    Well written, my friend. Well written!

  6. Brigid Keely says:

    FWIW, I really like your blog. I think you’re a more than adequate writer with an excellent voice of your own, and you’re very good at forging personal connections and are making a little community of your own here.

    I’ve been blogging since 1997. My first “blog” was hand-coded on GeoCitites where I’d open up an HTML document and put a new entry on top of previous entries with the current date. I didn’t have comments, I had a guest book. I had a blogger account back when it was new and had almost no themes, waaaay before google bought them out. I had a livejournal account when you had to be invited by a friend and get a secret pass code to sign up. I’ve been around the blogging world for a LONG TIME is what I’m saying, before “blogging” was even the accepted word and, in fact, people were making fun of it.

    And blogging has changed.

    A lot.

    Your blog, in general, is much closer to what blogging used to be, which is a big part of why I like it so much. You DO do sponsored posts and you have ads, but YOU are very much shining through. You tell stories about your family and your kids and yourself. You ask questions. You think about things in public. You get excited and share that. You are making personal connections and I love that. I love that so much. And you’re good at that.

    I’m glad you have a blog. I’m glad MKP told me to check your stuff out (thanks, bb). I’m glad I’ve gotten to know you over the intarnuts. I hope you keep on blogging, even if you’re not making a million dollars or living in a Dooce-y sponsored mansion or being invited to the cool-kids blogging yurt or whatever. Thanks for the time and effort you’ve invested in your blog and blogging, I’ve appreciated it. :)

    • bebehblog says:

      I LOVE my little community. I know/read every single person who has commented on my semi-whiny, self-pitiful post and I shouldn’t let that feel like a negative thing. I wish we lived close enough for our kids to play together.

  7. Amy says:

    I brought rum. Now let me in the hut.

  8. I totally get it. I write for me. Because my heart needs it. Not for an award, popularity contest, or because I am actually good at it. It makes my heart melt that there are people (all 5 of them) who actually like reading about what is going on in my world, my heart. I like helping people through my shared experiences when I can, but ultimately my blog is for me. I feel so honored that it has allowed me to meet and make amazing friends like you.

  9. MKP says:

    I call shenanigans, missy. From my perspective as a writer/editor/teacher judgmentalist, a “good” writer is one who can communicate clearly and effectively, who has a voice (my workshop professor last year told me that voice is the thing that can’t be taught) and a sense of judgment about what should be said. You are all those things – you lead us through tutorials, you express yourself so clearly that I basically recognized your speaking voice from your writing, and you’ve got a point of view that is yours. It’s consistent, it’s entertaining, it’s engaging. So. SHENANIGANS.

    • bebehblog says:

      Since you know these things, like, OFFICIALLY, I appreciate your shenanigans. I think my biggest stumbling block is that my voice is…my voice. I’m not going to win any speaking competitions either.

      • MKP says:

        Neither is Mindy Kaling, but she works her ass off and is basically the center of the universe now. Not that tv writing is your aspiration but you know what I mean :) Did you read her collection of essays, “Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me” or similar….

  10. barbra says:

    I agree with MKP. You are a great writer, because I said so. And I am the end all be all of great writer decider-ers. Not really, but you have my vote.
    I love your blog. I love that you write for yourself and that shines through in your writing. You aren’t pandering to sponsors or anyone else.

    Someone once told me that some people’s photography is art, and other’s is simply documentation. I think this applies to writing/blogging as well as photography. My blog is nothing but documentation, I have no illusions about it any other way (I have 3 email subscribers and my highest ever one day page view is 44). That is okay with me. I’m not trying to advertise or market or do anything that would increase my readership. I don’t care (very much). The blog is for my son. It is his baby “book” and the fact that my far away family can read it and glimpse into our lives is just a bonus.
    Art is subjective. To me, your blog is art. I love it. To others, it may be documentation including to yourself if that is how you view it. But what does it matter whether you call it art or documentation? You blog shows you, your children, and more importantly, your views/interpretation/opinions/etc. of a snapshot in time.
    I used to follow a top ten blog but stopped because that blog got too “big” and stopped being real, it wasn’t a glimpse any longer and that wasn’t what I wanted to read. All of the blogs I follow are smaller and I think it keeps the blog owner honest. I say carry on just as you are, and screw the top ten.

  11. Emily says:

    Ummm… I think you are a good writer. I mean maybe the Pulitzer people aren’t going to chase you down, but I don’t think they read blogs much, anyhow, so no big worries there. In my opinion, what makes a well-written blog is an authentic voice of someone. My favorite blogs (yours included) are the ones that I feel like I know the person, like I’ve had dinner with them, and gone to playgrounds with them, and listened to their joys, and felt their sorrows, and heard their opinions… whether they write it all eloquently, or from the gut, stream of conscience, or even just show pictures. You do all of that pretty well, plus you do it humorously!

  12. the grumbles says:

    No great writers ever sat around thinking, “I’m such a great writer.” Except the jerky ones. Just saying. I’m not a writer, so what the hell do I know?

  13. raincheckmom says:

    Rules for blogging? They’re more like guidelines really:-)

  14. mego says:

    Dude you write as you are in person. No difference! I hear your voice & point of view clearly.

  15. Mindi says:

    So very well put. I love reading your writing. You are so honesty and true to yourself and it shows. What I learned at BlogHer was to be a better blog reader and that making connections through blogging is so amazing. I certainly connect with your writing as a mom of young children and of course as a mom of a redhead.
    BTW LOVE this picture! Sums it up perfectly!

  16. I loved this post. I’m new to blogging, it is something I have always wanted to do but never had the guts to do so because my writing…for lack of better, bigger, blog words SUCKS. I hope I never get caught up in the “rules” and competition and just do what I’m here for to share and learn with others and maybe provide a good laugh or cry. Have a great night!

  17. Miranda says:

    As a teacher, I can tell you that you’re a great writer. Take this post for instance. You picked a theme, that of being on a deserted island, and carried it throughout the entire post! A++!

    I love your words, Suzanne. All of them. And your pictures. And you. And maybe even rum if I could get up the courage to try it again. But definitely Johnny Depp.

  18. LOVE what you wrote! I’m fairly new to the blogging world, so this may not mean much…but the thing that I think matters most is… you are AUTHENTIC!!! And apparently not everyone has the coconuts to do that :)

  19. Kimberly says:

    Silly girl. I adore your oasis of random. xoxo

  20. Rebecca says:

    I too love your blog. I’ve been reading it daily since BlogHer11 at that burlesque restaurant when you gave me a card with a hand-knit pin attached. Your “voice” is wonderful. It somehow manages to be hilarious and sarcastic while still sincere and endearing.

    I totally envy/admire your writing, photos and blog community. Write on sister, write on! :)

  21. Elizabeth says:

    Can I just say that this WAS BRILLIANT? I think brilliance is the ability to get inside someone’s head and tell them what they’re thinking without them knowing that they thought that. Like they didn’t have the words for it, but you’ve reflected a while and you DO have the words.

    Thanks for being in my head. It’s kind of comforting to share this sometimes-lonely space with someone.

  22. It’s like you hijacked my brain, because you literally said what I have been thinking for a while now. But seriously, I feel like you and I would get along great, I love your humor and your down to earthiness. Thanks for the excellent article that made me feel not-so-alone in my thoughts.

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