I love today’s Armchair BEA blogging topic because it coincides so well with much of what I’ve been contemplating and working toward recently.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s introduction to these series of posts, I’ve been blogging for nearly five years. During that time, my approach has undergone some dramatic changes while certain things have remained the same.
Authenticity vs. Anonymity
The obvious change is that I’m now (as of last week!) blogging under my real name. As our lives began to be documented more and more online, and as my professional and personal interests started to blend, it became more difficult for me to blog under the veil of anonymity, as I did in the very early days.
Back then, I wasn’t even Melissa; I was Betty and Boo’s Mommy. After awhile, maintaining that persona became too much work as I realized that if I was authentic (which I always try to be in my writing and my life anyway), then there was no reason to hide online. My main concern was always what an employer or potential employer would think about my blog, that I would be fired for it. I was tired of being afraid about … well, what, exactly?
I mean, I wasn’t exposing corporate secrets or dishing dirt about my coworkers. I was, for the most part, just giving my opinions on books and sharing our family’s experiences with raising a son who has autism.
I’ve come to realize that if those are make-or-break issues to a potential employer, then there are probably bigger problems at play there. (And then I was laid off anyway – although not for reasons connected to the blog – so it didn’t matter.)
Another issue with changing to self-hosting and dropping the anonymity was – and is – the desire to write professionally. I’ve been writing a novel, and I’ve blogged about that process. It’s hard to stay anonymous as a blogger when you’re using your blog as a platform for your writing (and kind of counterproductive, too, right?). So I realized that if I really do want this, then I’d better get comfortable with the idea of blogging under my real name. (Or, at least some name other than Betty and Boo’s Mommy!)
It has been liberating. Freeing. For me, I think it has been the right choice.
One key to growing as a blogger has been getting involved in blogging communities – both online and in real life. Within our online book blogging community, there are many ways to do that, whether it is by participating in or hosting events, supporting new bloggers, promoting authors, and much more. Although we have grown and changed considerably in the past five years, and many micro-niches have developed in book-blogging, I still think there is ample room for people who have a passion for books, who write well, who have integrity, and who are committed to creating quality content while finding their own voice.
There may be opportunities to do that within one’s larger real-life community as well. In Pittsburgh, that comes more naturally here than in some other places. In my introductory post yesterday, I wrote that this city seems to attract incredibly creative, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, and collaborative people.
I’m getting more involved in some of the behind-the-scenes work for Pittsburgh Bloggers, and all one needs to do is peruse that site to see the wide variety of topics that Pittsburghers blog about. Separate from that, there is a Pittsburgh Bloggers Facebook page where we help each other with issues, occasionally guest post on each other’s sites, and come together to promote various causes. We also get together IRL for regular “tweetups” and there are creative groups where you can find kindred blogging types, such as Propelle and CreativeMornings Pittsburgh. A few bloggers are even akin to local celebrities here, which is kind of fun.
The Future of Blogging (for me)
I’m interested in exploring local blogging collaborations from a social justice perspective, especially given my nonprofit background. I’m keenly interested in women and girls issues, and would like to do more work in that realm while connecting with similarly focused bloggers. I’m also working on a new idea involving the Pittsburgh writing and literary communities.
I’m starting to submit some writing locally. Two of my personal essays that were published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette were based on blog posts. I was recently hired as a freelance book reviewer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as well (my first review should appear in a week or so), and on June 18 I’ll be doing a reading of my novel-in-progress at Allegory Gallery in Ligonier, Pa. combined with a talk about book blogging. (It’s open to the public if you are nearby!)
One goal for the future is to work more closely with authors on a professional basis. I recently edited Melissa Luznicky Garrett’s young adult novel, The Prophecy, and I absolutely loved the experience. We wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for blogging and we’ve become friends in the process. I’d like to think I helped make her book stronger. You can read more about my professional writing and editorial services here, then contact me through my website if you’re interested in talking with me further.
Every so often, someone or a group of someones decides that blogging is dead (again) and writes another version of its obituary. I don’t see it that way and never have. I see blogging – and book blogging in particular – as something very much alive, a form of expression that continues to evolve and change.
Just like those of us who love it so much.