The one year anniversary of this blog rolled around while I was in the midst of directing movers and deep cleaning our house. As I scrubbed walls and vacuumed up dog hair, I thought about how and why I started this blog because, with the chaos of the last few months, I have missed the catharsis of writing here. After having an outlet for so long, the words have piled up and cluttered my mind, echoing against the edges of my thoughts as I try to go about my day. If nothing else, it has been a good reminder that I still want to do this regardless of where it goes and how long it lasts.
It all began after we moved to NY. My husband was off of sea duty and I had finally graduated and had more free time. As I looked for jobs and floundered a bit figuring out what I wanted to do, a few people in my life suggested that I should start a blog. It was an obvious answer to them, less so to me. Writing this way is largely personal and I’m not big on letting even my closest friends and family read my personal writing. Even my husband has only read the short stories and essays I had to turn in to my professors anyway. Strangers don’t phase me nearly as much as the large group of people that fall between strangers and intimate friends. That is where the greatest vulnerability lies because you care what they think without trusting that they will extend you grace.
Part of me liked the idea of a blog though because I would actually be writing and doing something with it other than letting ideas roll around in my head indefinitely. The other part of me poo pooed the idea because, frankly, there can be a stigma around “having a blog.” As if it’s what you do when you can’t write well enough or have anything interesting enough to say to actually be published and this is a way of forcing it on the world against their will. Or it’s a place to dump all of your unmediated thoughts and opinions that no one wants to hear about in person. Like it’s something I should be embarrassed about because people start them left and right and drop them after five enthusiastic posts in one week. And unless you are a professional, you definitely shouldn’t try to get anyone to read it because you’ll only collect pity followers.
If I got past all of that, I still convinced myself that I didn’t have enough to say on any particular topic to make a blog out of it. I thought that I needed a niche to write in; that is what all of the advice posts said. “Find your niche and create a platform, tailor to your audience and orchestrate a following.” None of that appealed to me. I certainly didn’t want to write for other people; I had just spent 6 years doing that and craved the freedom to write whatever I wanted in any style I wanted. I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted anyone to follow me either because then I would have to worry about their opinions. I did, however, want the finality of “publishing” pieces because then I was forced to finish and polish my work.
Any time I looked around for niche topics, they all fell flat. Yes, I was a mom, but I didn’t want to be strictly a “mommy blogger.” I have heard the scorn when bestowing that title. It is a phrase used to dismiss women and their writing as if writing about motherhood limits your intelligence and talent. Those are the same limiting assumptions about mothers, and they are wrong. I like reading those mommy blogs, sometimes especially the less sophisticated ones. Even still, I don’t make a good candidate for this because I have no desire to fully outline the experience of raising our kids and, for privacy reasons, we limit what we share about our daughter online anyway.
Another extremely obvious overarching category was military life. Without underways, deployments, and duty days, my time in NY felt so distant from what we had known in VA. I wasn’t living in base housing or involved in any military events or organizations either. Albeit on rotating shiftwork, my husband was home and that edge of just surviving was gone from daily life. I was living like a civilian as much as possible in anticipation of him getting out at the end of shore duty. We had only been married three years when we arrived here and all of that added up to feeling like I didn’t have anything to offer that hadn’t already been said better and with more authority.
Then there were lists of interests. I love books, but only writing book reviews sounded like a self-imposed college finals week. I hate DIY projects. I don’t even want to look up directions on how to do it myself, let alone come up with my own arrangements and have to figure out how to get someone to replicate it. I can’t take pictures worth crap, and I don’t have the creative brain power to keep coming up with projects that aren’t just time wasters. Some people make DIY into true art; mine looks more like a kindergarten class project gone wrong. I didn’t want to write about food because I don’t like cooking and once again, pictures are hard. I love to bake, but I want to do it based on my current craving and only when I feel like it and making it look pretty only delays the speed at which I can get it in my mouth. Exercise, holistic living, random hobbies, controversial topics – I never wanted to write about even one category most of the time.
One of the most logical ideas was to write about writing. It’s what I spent 99% of my time in school doing and what I do with my free time; it’s my passion and my frustration as well as my job. Writing for school had consumed so much of my time and energy that I didn’t have enough material outside of that to work with. Sharing my fiction writing online for all to see never even crossed my mind. Truth be told, I wasn’t writing with enough consistency or intention to give anyone tips about the writing process for fiction or poetry much less actual directions and advice on what to do.
So, based on eliminating every conceivable topic, how on earth did I ever come to start this blog? At first, I didn’t. I set it aside as something that wasn’t for me. When my daughter was around 6 months old, I finally was able to steal an hour or two for myself after we got her to sleep at night, and I began writing. I was still debilitated from my accident and this was something low key to do. I recovered my first love of fiction writing and felt the inner me coming back to life as words hit the page. It is honestly hard to believe that my book and this blog began last fall because it feels so separate from all the awful things that were happening. When I think of writing in the evenings, I think of peace and happiness and finding myself again. It feels like a separate timeline.
But the idea of a blog finally came back up as I was happy with the fiction I was writing, but all of these other words were floating around in my mind and I wanted some place to put them. My husband was a huge encouragement, yet I didn’t precisely know how to start it and or what it would be about still. After all, I had been over that extensive list before. Then that eye-opening Saturday happened and the words poured out of me. I completed it in one draft and knew then that it was my beginning. When I finally put it on social media for friends and family, I was astounded that anyone responded.
I decided not to limit myself to any topic and just to write what came, to write the things on my mind and in my heart and that would be my niche. It has been a vulnerable and challenging ride because it is so far outside of my comfort zone to share my heart and my words with people in any setting other than one-on-one. Ironically, I am embarrassed to talk about this blog in person because shyness and vulnerability make a bad combination. Still, I am so proud of myself. This collection of words has helped me process the events of 2016 and document my way of moving forward. I still find myself, organize my thoughts, and relax my mind here and that is worth continuing.