Serial Anna

The Blogger’s Dilemma

Let me give you a little bit of background: I’m a writer. Before the introduction of the Internet into my family’s house, I was a writer. When I was in first grade, I wanted to be “a author/illustrator.”

I have a formal writing education, too. In high school, I attended Interlochen Arts Academy and studied Creative Writing. I wrote a lot of poetry. They gave us pre-college career guidance for young writers: submit your work everywhere, become friends with rejection, read as much as you can, establish a routine, write as much as humanly possible, revise. And then there’s that staple piece of writing advice: write what you know.

I have kept a personal notebook of writings since I was about 12, and in 2002, I started my own website, a hand-coded personal blog (at first hosted by AngelFire). Even with papers, proficiency exams, club sports and with my time spent working for the litpub, I found time to write semi-regular updates about my life. The habits established in my early teenage years translated nicely to the Internet. I found the anonymity to be freeing (a popular concept at the time, when there was a greater lack of awareness about how easy it is to find things than there is today). I talked about my friends, my family, things that pissed me off, and my process of coming out of the closet.

My senior year of high school I co-edited an issue of The Red Wheelbarrow, the Creative Writing department’s quarterly magazine, and I got hooked. I liked formatting and layouts, learning to respect the writer’s intent as well the reader’s physical needs (white space, organization). I was comfortable with QuarkXPress, as I did all my writing for school on Quark instead of Office since my mom is a graphic designer. I came to college and did litpubs and wrote poetry regularly, but I found myself floating away from the idea of writing as a career.

There was just so much else out there for an undergraduate in college. Always a good student, I understood the world through coursework and readings. Ultimately, I selected Film and Video Studies as a major, happy to find both a goldmine of subject matter and excellent mentors. Only very close to graduation did I learn that with all the coursework I had taken I would be able to receive a dual B.A. in Creative Writing and Literature, and I was glad to have my activity documented officially on my diploma.

I continued writing poetry. My poetry always seemed too formal, even for me sometimes. Often my themes touch on subjects that morph narrative fiction and personal memories. I still write regularly, but have not pursued publication.

Over the past few years I’ve been having a hard time reconciling my personal versus my professional self. At SI, we’re encouraged to keep professional blogs. You’ll find this one is pretty spare.

Yet I’ve been building content for the past 7 or 8 years, much of which is available at my personal blog. Despite being a fairly mild-tempered and significantly un-wild person (I call my alter ego “safety mom”), I used to think that the personal was meant to remain exclusively personal.

However, just as cell phones used to exist separately from MP3 players, that perspective has changed. During the course of working with local writer and essayist Sarah Smallwood to build a site that she could feel proud of, I started to think about her professional representation. Sarah’s essays shine because she translates small personal moments into something that everyone can empathize with and, where appropriate, laugh about. I also started reading, the site maintained by a professional writer which was almost certainly the inspiration for her first book, Why Girls are Weird, about a blogger whose online life melds in existentially confusing ways with her personal life.

When I first started working with Sarah, I thought, well, she’s a writer and I’m a computer-y person. That’s just how it is. But that isn’t really the whole truth. Right now I am devoting much of my effort in becoming fluent with current web technologies in order to become a UX/Usability/Human-Computer Interaction Specialist, which includes lots of coursework and projects, but I am always, always writing. Sarah and I have been fairly open about having blogger crushes on one another.

I talked with my friend Brian Walline, who, as a designer/illustrator with a “way with words,” also maintains a professional blog. Brian advised that I should showcase some of my older blog posts. So you can see some of those featured in upcoming weeks.

I’m not going to do the work of providing you with a link to my personal website, because the oldest stuff was written by a fairly naive 18-year-old (whereas the more recent stuff is written by an arguably somewhat less naive 26-year-old). Instead, I am going to begin looking at this blog a little differently. You can expect to see more personal essays mixed in with my updates about what I’m learning to do. I am not going to shy away from creating a text-heavy blog.

Writing has been my personal refuge for years. It is my most direct route to expressing the richness that is the human experience. It’s about damn time I took a step toward giving my professional self a more vibrant voice.

Ultimately, I submit this essay to offer my perspective on The Blogger’s Dilemma. I know this is on the minds of a lot of folks these days, as many professionals are encouraged to “keep blogs.” How much do you share, and how much do you shut up? How much of the fun parts do you let shine through?