If I’m going to be completely honest, I am often jealous of more successful writers. Today I read an article entitled “After a Year of Blogging: 9 Things I Wish I’d Known From the Start.” Number one on the list: That she wasn’t prepared for the huge influx of traffic from her very first blog post, which was featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed.
Maybe the writer didn’t mean it like that. And I should be happy for a fellow blogger’s success, right? But I couldn’t help it—I felt annoyance, jealousy, even anger. I’ve been blogging for a year. I’ve never had a Freshly Pressed post. The author of this article also worked in that she was accepted to Scary Mommy (which I have as well) and BLUNTmoms (which I have not). There it is again, that competitive feeling. Why haven’t I written for BLUNTmoms?
Reading this purportedly helpful article about blogging had the effect of sucking me into a downward spiral of, “Why haven’t I published more? Why aren’t I as successful as these other writers? Am I even good writer? Maybe I just suck.”
Sometimes I feel like I’m just playing at writing. Before becoming a blogger, I was an honest-to-goodness magazine editor. I had interviewed celebrities, gone to movie sets (OK, they were TV movies, but still [EDIT: How could I have forgotten? I have done a set visit of a big-screen movie: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince!]) and attended Fashion Week (at which, I can assure you, I was the least fashionable person). I had a pretty cool job, and I felt semi-legit.
But this blogging, freelancing thing is different. I worry that I’ve fallen into the black hole that is Writing For Free, like for this blog and for Huffington Post, for example—which is apparently something “real” writers don’t do. “No, I won’t work for dog treats,” one writer whose career I admire lamented on Facebook after she was offered a gig writing for a pet product company that would only pay her in said animal biscuits.
This writer had a similar trajectory as me. She was an editor, then became a blogger for a magazine’s website (OK, not exactly the same as me), then parlayed that into a book that was favorably reviewed by The New York Times (hm, definitely not the same as me), and now writes mainly about parenting for a number of magazines and websites. The green-eyed monster has wielded his piercing gaze at her for a while—but the icing on the cake came when I found out she is now writing for a magazine that I also freelance for (one of my two regular paying gigs). That’s my turf, I thought. Don’t you have enough of your own stuff? I’m struggling to hang on here, give me a break!
Of course that’s now how it works. And if I’m confident in my own work, why should I see her as a threat?
My husband says that I only see the glass half-full, that I don’t recognize my accomplishments and only see what I haven’t done, not what I have. I know that’s true. As soon as I am have one piece accepted I’m off to accomplish the next goal, without stopping to take pride in what I’ve just done. But there are so many more goals to achieve.
Some would say that crippling self-doubt is one of the hallmarks of being a writer. Maybe that’s true. But sometimes I wonder if I even deserve the label of “writer.” True, I am a published writer—so by the technical definition, yes, I am. But I still feel like somehow I don’t measure up, that I don’t have the formal training. I didn’t do internships at big magazines. I haven’t attended writers’ workshops. I am (probably) not known in the wider circle of who’s who in the writing world. I fly under the radar, working in my pajamas as my toddler naps. I’m a dime-a-dozen mommy blogger.
I’m not just fishing for compliments. I really don’t know how to feel about my so-called writing career at this point in my life. Maybe if I just had more time to write, I think. Maybe I need a little garret in an attic somewhere where I could hunker down and just “hone my craft” or something. But would that fly for my husband and toddler? I already feel guilty that so much of my “work” doesn’t make actual money. Does it even, therefore, count as “work”? What the hell am I doing with my time anyway? Should I just go back to working full-time in a “real job”? Is this just a first-world problem that people who have to work for actual money would scoff at?
But if I’m going to go for it, I need to know that my family supports me in this endeavor, because in order to be successful in this kind of creative field, you have to go whole hog. Half-assing it won’t work. Then I will fail for sure.
So dare I put down in writing my goals, my writers’ bucket list, if you will? OK, here goes:
- Write a book, probably a memoir based on my many years of infertility and pregnancy loss.
- Get published in The New York Times Motherlode column.
- Write for Brain, Child magazine (they keep rejecting me).
- Branch out into travel writing, something I love but have no experience in.
- Make a living out of paid, yes PAID, writing assignments.
- Achieve some kind of award or recognition that will reassure me once and for all that I am, in fact, an honest-to-goodness, “real” writer.
- Stop doubting that I am an honest-to-goodness, “real” writer.
That last one, I know, will be the hardest of all. Maybe the title of “writer” is not something you earn, but rather something you believe yourself to be. Something you own. Something you just are.
Fellow bloggers, can you identify with what I’m feeling? Let me know I’m not alone!
It’s my blogiversary! One year ago today I started Foggy Mommy with this post. As is the case with many aspects of parenting, it doesn’t seem like it’s been a year. I can’t believe LM has gone from being a one-year-old who couldn’t yet walk to a two-year-old who’s in school. One year ago I hadn’t yet ventured in the genre of parenting writing, and since then I’ve been published in The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Fit Pregnancy and The Washington Post’s On Parenting. I hope that doesn’t sound boastful, but I’m proud of how far I’ve gone!
Some observations on blogging:
- It’s hard to keep up with social media. I admit I probably don’t have time to tweet and Facebook as much as some of my fellow mommy bloggers. It’s just somehow not built into me — maybe I’m too old. Or maybe I just already feel like I’m too distracted from my son (this is something I’m working on as a mom). I can’t be tweeting every detail of my life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if you can. I just haven’t yet mastered this — maybe that’s why I still need more Twitter followers. If you haven’t already, please follow me! I’ll try to tweet more in the future.
- I love blogging, and I love freelance writing. I love the flexibility to do it whenever and wherever. But, that flexibility often makes me feel that every available minute I have I should be writing, blogging, tweeting about blogging, etc. It’s not like I just stop working when I come home from the office. I write at midnight. I email during playdates. So I wonder if I just need to turn off sometimes.
- That said, I love that I get to be home with LM. Despite the multitasking, I do feel that I’m able to give more personal attention that I would if I worked outside the home and had to commute. I think our lives would be more harried and hurried. I think LM has benefitted from me being available and around most of the time.
- A note on “oversharing”: After a piece in Slate about the profusion of personal essays, the blogosphere has been abuzz. Are we oversharing? Are we going to regret oversharing? I do try to balance what I say and what I reveal with the repercussions: Is anyone going to be pissed that I wrote this? How will LM feel about this when he’s a teenager? So I do take that into account. But in general, I don’t see what’s wrong with talking publicly about the things one has gone through. I wholeheartedly agree with this comment from XOJane editor Emily McCombs (XOJane is on my writer’s bucket list):
I can’t tell you how often I have encountered the attitude that because these stories are about women’s lives, they are somehow superficial, silly, or unimportant. Women’s lives – our stories – are not unimportant. They often reflect the feminist maxim that the personal is political.
…to suggest that adult women aren’t fully capable of deciding when and where to share information about themselves denies them an awful lot of agency.
I write about my own personal life because I want to lessen shame and encourage connection. If people read a piece I wrote and say: ‘This writer has had this experience, done this thing and felt this way so maybe I don’t have to feel ashamed of who I am,’ it’s worth it.
That pretty much sums up why I write. I want to tell the truth about infertility, miscarriage, breastfeeding, parenting after loss, and just parenting in general. All parents are a work in progress, and this blog helps me (and hopefully helps others) become aware of the things we need to work on. People have said I’m brave to share my story. I don’t think of it that way. I don’t know why I should feel like I can’t share. I’m not ashamed of my story. That’s the point — no one should be.
Give me your feedback on Foggy Mommy, or just drop a note to say happy blogiversary! I look forward to hearing from you.
I refused to read all the comments on my Washington Post article. This is because the first few seemed so mean and troll-ish that I figured it wasn’t worth getting upset over. Maybe as an internet blogger I need to grow a thinker skin. But regardless, a couple comments that I did read, hurtful though they were, got me thinking: Am I self-centered as a parent? Am I self-centered about my infertility?
The first charge against me: In the opening anecdote, in which three moms including myself did not move our strollers to get out of the way of an approaching jogger, I admitted that I “felt bad for our lack of consideration.” Some commenters apparently thought that this was not enough and decided to berate us and lament that parents think the whole world revolves around them and their children.
OK, I get this. To people who don’t have kids, it seems like everywhere you go kids are ruining your peace and quiet. Their strollers block the way. They bring general chaos in their wake. It can be quiet annoying. But the thing is, kids are like that. They are chaos personified. You never know when they’re going to freak out or have a poop explosion. They’re going to cry on airplanes. Sorry. There is just not much you can do about it, although I agree that some parents are more aware than others of their surroundings and how their kids are affecting people around them. In our instance, though, we were very, very new moms. It was literally the first time I’d been out for a walk with him in the stroller. I was late and couldn’t figure out how to catch up with the other moms. I parked in the wrong place. I was sweating my ass off. I was stressed and hormonal. And I didn’t know what the stroller etiquette was. So to that jogger, wherever she may be, I offer an apology. As a somewhat seasoned mom, now I know better.
The second charge against me: That I complain too much about my infertility. I have read so many comments like this over the years directed at people with infertility, and I fail to see what about this condition causes such a visceral, callous response. Would you say, “Just get over it,” to someone who dealt with mental illness? Losing a limb? The death of a loved one? Cancer? If you think my analogies are extreme, I can assure you they’re not. A study was done that revealed that people going through infertility treatments had the same level of depression as those going through cancer treatments. In most cases (but not all) infertility will not kill you, but it will greatly affect your quality of life. I don’t understand how people can go on and on about how their kids are their world, but then ask people who are having trouble having a child to just forget about it.
I did beat infertility. I now have a child. But just like any trauma, the scars stay with you. And for some reason, the scars of infertility, like infertility itself, are just not talked about. So that’s why I wrote the essay. Am I “over it”? As I said in the piece, I am struggling not to let it define me. And now as I try to figure out how to have a second child, the wounds are opening up again. There is post-traumatic stress – the feeling of being out of control of your own life, the anxiety of fearing you’ll lose everything you love – that may never fully go away. Dealing with the aftershocks of infertility happen every day. It is a valid point of view and one not generally heard by the general public.
I know infertility may not be the worst thing in the world, but unless you’re living in a war zone or extreme poverty, nothing else is either. (But knowing that there are so many other bad things than can happen is something that plagues me. What’s next? I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.) I know that many people have gone through other, different traumatic experiences. Their points of view are valid, too, and I’d love to read essays about their personal struggles. But why does that preclude me writing one about mine?
Sometimes I do feel like I’m a broken record, harping on infertility over and over again. But this is my experience. This is my reality. This is what one in eight couples deal with. This is what’s not been talked about. I am going to be an advocate for myself and my silent sorority. So to those who want to criticize my writing about it, I say: Get over it.
Why do you think infertility is so misunderstood by the general public?
Last Sunday night, I watched the HBO show The Newsroom after a busy Thanksgiving weekend. I like the show, which focuses on the behind-the-scenes of a fictional newsroom and uses creator Aaron Sorkin’s trademark fast and witty dialogue. The characters are top-notch journalists, serious news reporters. This season, one of them is dating a woman who – gasp! – starts writing about her own life for a website. He accuses her of vanity, of trying to start her own reality show, of, basically, selling out.
As a blogger, this made me feel bad about myself and question why I’m doing it. Am I selling out my child and my family in the hopes of drawing attention to myself? Am I revealing too much? Am I contributing to a culture where anyone can become a “writer,” whether they’re any good at it or not?
Here’s the thing: I never really considered myself a journalist. I did not go to J-school – in fact I didn’t even major in journalism. I was an English and History major. What I also was, though, was a very good writer. I knew about sentence structure, grammar, how to outline a paper, how to prove my point. I also loved literature. After college, I fell into the publishing world by becoming a proofreader and later an editor.
It was not hard news that we were doing. Certain places I worked took shortcuts and liberties with stories. I knew that what was going on was not always at the level of, say, The Newsroom. But I still believed that what we were producing was something of value.
After becoming a stay-at-home mom, I no longer had an outlet for creative expression. I was no longer reaching out to others and maybe even impacting them with something I wrote or edited. I missed it.
I didn’t start blogging until my son was a year old. I admit that I looked down on it a bit – it seemed like everyone had a blog, that there was no special talent or skill necessarily required. “Mommy bloggers” were everywhere, and the butt of jokes. Did I really want to take part in all that?
The answer, eventually, was yes. Freelancing is hard – trying to make contacts, get gigs, write on-spec pieces that no one might ever read. And even though I’ve been somewhat successful at it, I missed just writing without the hustle. And not just writing in a journal – writing so that others might see it and learn from it and share it. So that it would touch others. That’s what writers d0 (or at least try to do). So I started a blog.
I have something to say, and yes, that something is personal and based on my own experiences. But that doesn’t mean it’s not valid or worthy of being published and read. I’m not writing because I want to be famous or because I think my kid is super-cute or because I want to be the star of my own reality show. I write because, as I stated in my first post, I think we, as moms, need to tell the truth about motherhood. We are not just silly “mommy bloggers” to be mocked for recording their child’s every dirty diaper. The reality of being a mom, and becoming a mom, is too easily dismissed. We need to talk about it. I need to talk about it. That’s why I write.
Fellow mommy bloggers, why do you write?
Now that I’ve been a “mommy blogger” (can’t decide whether I find that term offensive or not) for over a month I’m finding out that it’s actually quite difficult to blog and take care of a baby. As I type now my son is napping on me – I tried to bring him upstairs but he started to wake up and search around for my nipple, so I put him back on the boob. I’m now typing with my arm awkwardly above his head. It’s not comfortable, and it doesn’t help that the space bar on my stupid computer sticks so I keep having to backspace to fix words running together.
People often ask me when I find time to blog. Nap time is pretty much the only time, unless a grandparent comes down to watch LM. And when I write during nap time, or even when someone is here to watch him for a short period, it always feels like a race against the clock. How much can I get done before he needs me again? How fast can I type? How long can I make this blog? And forget about making sure it’s any good. When I read my blog posts over later I feel like they read as stream of consciousness ramblings rather then well-thought out essays.
And then I read other mommy blogs and can’t help but feel inferior. I find everyone else’s funnier, more insightful, more polished than mine. I don’t know if that’s because I can’t be objective about my own work or because my blog does, in fact, suck.
There’s also the issue of the other freelancing work I’m trying to do. I have one regular gig that pays, although it’s not exactly something that’s going to be moving my journalism career forward. Then there is blogging for The Huffington Post, which is awesome although it doesn’t pay. Then there is trying to get published on a myriad of other sites, which often involves a lot of networking and on spec work. I like writing for the sake of writing, but it’s frustrating when I feel like I can never catch a break. I got a personal email from an editor at The New York Times who liked my “Lost Pregnancy” story and apologized because she already had a piece to run for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. So if I had sent it in earlier I would have had a story in The New York effing Times? What a missed opportunity.
So this blog sometimes ends up taking a back seat to other pursuits. It’s hard to come up with things to write about every other day or so, and actually craft a good piece of writing. I try to read everything I can on every popular parenting site, and it’s exhausting. There is so much chatter it’s really hard to cut through it all and actually say something new and different. My foggy brain tries and tries, and I do feel like I have a unique perspective because of everything I’ve gone through, but I feel like I just keep coming up short. Am I being too hard on myself?
My mind makes lists and lists of things I want to do, but I have such limited time that I can’t seem to make a dent in it. Activities that are even supposed to be downtime, like looking through catalogs or watching TV, turn into chores: Look at that giant pile of catalogs on the coffee table! We’re up to 90 percent full on our DVR!
I know this is what the internet likes to call a “first-world problem.” I know that I’m lucky to be home taking care of my son. But the adult part of my brain wants to work, wants to accomplish something for myself. No, I don’t want to go to work in office. No, I don’t want to put my son in day care. But I would like a block of uninterrupted time for writing and polishing and networking and maybe one day publishing something of value.
So please continue to check my blog. I will do my best to keep the posts coming, but cut me a little slack – after all half the time I’m writing with a kid attached to my boob. Please comment or share my stuff if you like it. And if you’re a fellow mommy blogger, please tell me I’m not alone in feeling this way.
Thanks for reading!