Having a bad day? Reach for a pen, or a keyboard.
According to Edna Ferber, “life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death – fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant.”
Ferber died decades before the invention of the weblog. Yet I think she would have understood its underpinnings.
Sure, the Internet is crammed with cat videos and twee posts about OMG-so-cuuuute toddler birthday party themes. Yet it’s also a place for primal screams.
Writers deal with illnesses – their own or others’ – and grieve when the Lifetime movie ending doesn’t materialize. Parents of teens (or millennials who’ve moved back home) worry not just about money but about their children’s futures.
Young men and women struggle with money, careers and love, or with the lack of all three. Artists toil in obscurity and wonder whether any of this is worth it. Jilted lovers wail and/or plot revenge fantasies that they’ll never really commit.
The common thread? Sometimes, life really stinks – and sometimes writing helps us deal with it.
Not too long ago we’d handle life’s pressures by keeping journals. Now we can let it all hang out online. That’s not always a good thing, especially if you don’t have a pseudonym but do have children, a spouse and a job you’d like to keep.
Thus you should think long and hard before getting too specific about too much. What makes you feel better could constitute a massive invasion of someone else’s privacy. Don’t press “publish” without thinking over what you might be doing.
Messages in virtual bottles
Does that mean bloggers can’t be honest? Hardly. Some of the rawest, real-est writing I’ve ever seen is online.
When life hits hard, blogs are better than hard liquor to blur the edges of the pain. Writing about your sorrow is like a castaway putting a message into a bottle. Is anybody there? Can you help me?
The difference: If you have readers, your bottle will be retrieved and help will come, i.e., expressions of sympathy and solidarity in the comments section. Readers will offer coping tactics and smart advice, or just a simple “I’m so sorry this happened to you” that can make all the difference.
Sometimes life does its utmost to defeat us. Writing about this – even if it’s just in an unpublished journal or a blog post that never makes it past draft form – may be what helps us keep going.
Leading by example
The amazing Dorothy Allison began to write out of anger, “to stop my own rage.” But it’s clear that she was being eaten up by the need not just to testify, but to understand.
“If I die tomorrow,” she wrote, “I want to have gotten this down.”
Myself, I write for all sorts of reasons: to share something funny or terrifying, to question the status quo, to teach, to amuse, to ask why, to be heard. Best-case scenario: No matter what the reason behind a post, it starts a conversation. Maybe a whole lot of them.
Life gives us plenty of material, even if it isn’t always the material we would have chosen. So we whirl and howl a bit (or a lot), and moan about how it isn’t fair. Often, we’re right: Life isn’t particularly fair, but that won’t change. The only thing we can change is how we react to what’s thrown at us.
That means taking a critical look at the situation. It means pulling our heads out of the sand (or some darker, scarier place) and facing facts. It means getting out of stasis and moving toward solutions.
Doing this in blog form can do more than just help you formulate a plan, however. It’s leading by example, i.e., showing readers how to handle life when it starts to stink. Keep that in mind as you look at the whatever-it-is and think, I can’t deal.
And maybe you can’t – right away, anyhow. Allow yourself some private whirling and howling. The blog will be there when you mop your eyes and marshal your thoughts. Just be sure not to press “publish” without one last read-through.
Readers: Have you ever written about a rough patch in your life? Did any of the comments surprise you?