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The Watermark of the Incident

I wrote a post on BlogHer about how Mark Twain’s autobiography is being released 100 years after his death by his request and how this relates to the boundaries we set for ourselves in blogging (please join the conversation over there about how you set your boundaries).

As much as we tell on our blogs, the flipside is the stuff we don’t admit.  The all-consuming thoughts we leave out, the major moments we never talk about, the health crises or fights or embarrassing moments, not to mention the stuff we want to blog about, need to blog about, but don’t blog about because it’s not our story to tell.  Because it crosses a line, it opens a door.

I think what goes unsaid often leaves something akin to a watermark on the blog.  The unspoken stories come out between the lines if you look closely enough.  Suddenly a blogger stops writing for a few days and then resumes without mentioning the absence.  Or the tone doesn’t match the subject matter.  There are times that I’m reading a blog and I’m wondering more what is happening off the screen than what is being recounted on the screen.

Every blog post is only a tiny sliver of a life–by necessity, we must leave things out.  But are there also watermarks inadvertently left behind with what we wish we could write about but choose not to say?  Not the things we leave out simply due to space, but the moments and thoughts we leave out consciously.  Purposefully.  Because they open a door that we either don’t want to open or isn’t our door to turn the knob?

There was a time when I posted the cheeriest, happiest post as life was falling apart behind the scenes.  There have been times that I’ve scheduled a post to run because I haven’t been in town, but reading my blog, one would assume that I’m just lounging around the area.  And then there are the times when I am angry beyond belief, but I can’t write about it lest the person find my blog.  Or I am gutted for a friend and it’s all I’m thinking about, but I can’t talk about it because it’s not my story to tell.  I am incredibly circumspect about what I stories I tell that belong to the twins, but the twins are a clear focus of my day-to-day world.  So much gets left unsaid, but is it still somewhere tucked into this blog regardless?  In the unused white spaces; between the existing letters?

Do you stop blogging when you can’t tell a story (because it’s not something you’re willing to reveal on your blog or it’s not your story to tell) or do you blog about something else?

43 comments

1 Cece { 05.25.10 at 11:22 am }

I go back and forth. My last 6 months have been a roller coaster. Sometime I wirte what I’m feeling, and other days I’m like ‘Look at the cute baby picture’ as I have tears coming down my face for the baby that I’m not taking pictures of. Or the post I just put up – talking all about the fact that we had a wonderful weekend – but not including that the entire ride up was rehashing Nora’s death and the way family members have (or actually mostly have NOT) been helping us through it. Sigh. If I posted everything I was feeling – it would be admiting to strangers more than I even tell my husband, to tell you the truth.

2 christine { 05.25.10 at 11:28 am }

I, too, came up with boundaries for myself prior to beginning my blog. So, while I would like to think that my blog is a true picture of my life in that moment, there are certain things I am unwilling to share due to the fact that should my family or my spouse ever find my blog, I would not want them to be offended by the content. Sure they might have questions about some of my posts/comments relating to them, but overall, I have vowed to only post what I would potentially be willing to share with them IRL.

3 a { 05.25.10 at 11:32 am }

I started blogging to try and release some of my pent up angst, and then realized that I can’t really complain much about people I know without listening to my husband chastise me about how rude that is. So my options are to either start up another super anonymous secret blog (eh, too much trouble) or keep it to myself. This is why I will eventually implode from all of the pent up irritation. :)

4 serenity { 05.25.10 at 11:35 am }

I’m careful as to what I put on my blog, but mostly because half the time when I’m working through something my posts come out as a neverending loop of the same topics over and over. And since *I* get tired of hearing the same things over and over, I can’t imagine my readers (however many they are) will want to listen to it either.

But the problem with that is that if I don’t have something of substance to write, I don’t end up posting at all. Not intentionally, mind you. I just don’t have the time to write about anything other than what I’m feeling deeply.

Perhaps that’s why I have fewer readers now. Who knows?

5 Jenni { 05.25.10 at 12:09 pm }

My policy is that the only person in my day to day life who gets to read my blog is my husband. Other than that – it’s all under assumed names – I change pretty much every name mentioned in the blog – including my own.

I know that I don’t write about things that aren’t mine to tell or share. I may b*tch and moan about my MIL, but I don’t share my sister’s struggles .

6 JuliaS { 05.25.10 at 12:39 pm }

Yup – obviously I do stop blogging. I haven’t been able to blog on either of my blogs for months now. There is a lot going on – life shaking stuff, relationship stuff and it is all so much to process and so consuming at times. Someday when things get a little more sorted out – maybe the story will be ready to be told, or I’ll be ready to tell it. For now – it stays off. Though, I’m still around – sort of!

7 Steph { 05.25.10 at 12:44 pm }

I definitely do. Sometimes I vent and tell a story (that is mine to share), but when the hubby and I have a huge fight about something I don’t blog about it. I’d like to think my blog is an open and honest place, and for the most part it is, but sharing ALL of my insecurities and ridiculous behavior with the world isn’t something I’m comfortable doing. Maybe I’ll keep a private place to vent about these happenings and it can be shared in 100 years ;)

8 Kristen Foster { 05.25.10 at 12:51 pm }

I am not savvy with words, so I often don’t blog. It is hard to get what is in my head out on paper or on the blogsphere. I have tons of stuff rambling around in my head and I have a ton of drafts that I never post because it just does not come out right.

9 Mrs. Spit { 05.25.10 at 1:04 pm }

I have chosen to simply not write about things. I am incredibly sensitive about what I write about Mr. Spit, always aware that words can hurt, and that stories are not mine to tell.

I’ve written about other things when I can’t write what I want, and that has sometimes been a good thing – a valuable break for my mind.

10 Justine { 05.25.10 at 1:05 pm }

Sometimes I worry that if I blog what I’m really experiencing, I will bore my readers. We are necessarily narrating, selectively writing histories, aren’t we?

11 Jo { 05.25.10 at 1:20 pm }

Yes, yes, yes, a resounding yes! I could have written this post myself (except you are, of course, so much more eloquent than I am). In the past year I have struggled with defining my boundaries, what to post, what not to post, etc. And yes, an observant reader will definitely see between the lines and make an educated guess (which may or may not be entirely accurate) about what’s REALLY going on. And yet I can’t NOT post when I’m feeling so deeply. My way of coping is of course the anonymity of my blog and a vague reference to “issues” that need resolving. I use my blog to sort out my feelings, while being conscious of what is and what isn’t mine to tell. It’s a fine line, though, especially when lives are so entertwined as they are within a marriage, a family, etc.

I’m blessed that currently, no such issues are rearing their ugly heads. And I’ve thought about going back and removing certain posts from the archives that don’t reflect my truth as it stands today. But I stop myself, because it’s a part of my journey and because it may help someone else who is struggling with something similar. At least, that’s how I justify it to myself.

12 Calliope { 05.25.10 at 1:21 pm }

so glad you shared that link to the Twain article you wrote on Blogher- I really enjoyed reading it.

When I am stressing, freaking out, dealing with stuff that is totally unbloggable I still feel compelled to do something within my blog. So typically if I am going through a dark and twisty moment my blog will become chock full of posts about pop culture, polls about random things, photos of W looking cute.

There are HEAPS of things that I don’t/can’t write about so when I do end up writing about something hard I feel especially raw and vulnerable about it.

13 Kir { 05.25.10 at 1:23 pm }

I think the last three yrs prove (including my bedrest) that I don’t blog when I just can’t talk about it, for whatever reason. Like everyone I worry, is it too personal, is it too revealing, is it shameful, will it make people think less of me…or will it bore them to death. Will talking about the boys hurt my IF friends? Will not talking about them, worry my After IF friends

I guess we never really know do we? That’s why I expect that I will start just blogging about things and see where it takes me, even it is my sister’s divorce, or my friend who has come back into the picture after 5 yrs or an old boyfriend who recently became a dad…I’ll write because sometimes it ‘s easier to share it with all of you and get it all out, instead of inside.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT my Friend!
HUGS

14 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.25.10 at 1:24 pm }

I blog about something else.

There have been just a few times I’ve wanted to go dark. But I never do. Or I never have.

15 Tara { 05.25.10 at 1:24 pm }

When I started my blog, I decided it would be about my TTC as a single 35 yr old woman & though personal info seeps in for the sake of clarity, I keep a large part of my life out of it since it doesn’t directly relate to my TTC.

16 susy { 05.25.10 at 1:36 pm }

Yes, I don’t blog about certain things I decided I wouldn’t put out there b/c it’s a public space for reading by anyone. Before I stuck to this one – which has gone now through a name change, you know – I had a space that soon after became more like a “dear diary” vent fest. When I’d read back, I wasn’t sure I’d want those part of the vent to read it in the futre way out of context and not understand what I was going through at the moment. So I decided to keep venting to things I don’t mind others knowing about, and that I can speak up about IRL. Another thing I never make mention of any ‘major’ disagreement or loss of balance between HunHun and me. I don’t do it in real life either. Neither of us do. I think it’s part of all media out there.. especially this sort of ‘rea world’ we write in. We’re reality internet, and just like on tv, things get left out.

17 chickenpig { 05.25.10 at 2:13 pm }

I have a tons of things to blog about, but I just can’t because they are so loaded that I don’t know where to start. Or I’m afraid that if I start, I won’t be able to stop. Like the fact that one of our twins was just diagnosed with autism, for example, or that we are supposed to be closing on our new house this week, but that our financing fell through because of a huge mistake on the part of our lender and now it is too late to reapply in time. I’m so stressed and floored that I can barely breathe, I just can’t find the words.

18 Heather { 05.25.10 at 3:16 pm }

I stop blogging to prevent writing about fights with BigP…cause he reads my blog. If he didn’t, I would vent there about him – just being honest.

19 Delenn { 05.25.10 at 3:49 pm }

As usual, a very thought-provoking post. Yes, I often censor myself on my blog, but keep writing. Sometimes, I avoid the issues all together. Sometimes I am posting something pointedly to hope that someone (usually my family) can read between the lines…but most times I avoid the subject instead.

It is an interesting intersection, this internet friendship/aquaintence relationship. Often I feel that I could share more with my blog friends that people in real life–unfortunately, sometimes those over lap so that I cannot share my whole self, but yet feel a kinship to people that I have never met.

20 wordgirl { 05.25.10 at 5:54 pm }

Oh my Mel — I was just going to post about this very thing … a writing instructor once said about our fiction pieces: what’s the dog that didn’t bark here– and I’ve felt that way lately about my blog — just recently I’ve had this specter of anxiety about losing G — why?
Not sure but I haven’t been able to write about it — nor about the very real shift in our hard won step-family dynamics –a shift that breaks my heart and reveals my limitations….(sorry :I’m typing one-handed here and am not really articulating this well — but how serendipitous that you should post about this. Perhaps at bedtime I can write a post about this.

xo

P

21 Vee { 05.25.10 at 6:01 pm }

There are some things I don’t blog about because like you say it’s not my story to tell.
Sometimes I have something to write but I don’t know where to start because it all intertwines and would just become a huge long post that wouldn’t be read. Like at the moment I have one particular story to tell but I just can’t get it out there, I may just have to do it and omit some things but when I read back on it in years to come I wont be able to read about what really happened, because I didn’t write about it.

22 mybumpyjourney { 05.25.10 at 6:11 pm }

I think that my trend has been to stop blogging if there is something I can’t tell. I have tried to remedy that by having the PWP posts, but there is always going to be something that can’t be written. It might be b/c I am STILL afraid that person will read it despite my privacy measures, or b/c I can’t put it into words- or my words don’t do it justice.
I sometimes wait to blog something b/c I have to find the right words- and then so much time as gone by I just don’t do it.
I agree that they are some stories that just aren’t ours to tell- even if it touches our lives.

23 Rach { 05.25.10 at 6:40 pm }

I write about everything, I’m extremely honest and open on my blog, some may say too much. I put it all out there. Why? Well mainly because it’s my form of therapy, I need an outlet, my log is that. The ONLY thing that I restrict myself on blogging about is Bikerman, he’s the ONE person I can rely on in my life and so I won’t “put him out there”. I put vague details out there but nothing overly personal.

24 MLO { 05.25.10 at 7:05 pm }

If there is a really, really private thing that you need to write, send it to yourself in email – or write it in a notebook.

25 queenie { 05.25.10 at 7:18 pm }

I mostly blog about what I’m thinking. I don’t edit, I don’t think it over-type and publish, and that’s it. But, I blog anonymously, so that helps remove some of the concerns you raise. If I didn’t, I would have to censor, which would sort of negate the whole reason that I blog.

I hadn’t heard about the Twain biography, and that news made me inexplicably happy.

26 queenie { 05.25.10 at 7:19 pm }

I mostly blog about what I’m thinking. I don’t edit, I don’t think it over-type and publish, and that’s it. But, I blog anonymously, so that helps remove some of the concerns you raise. If I didn’t, I would have to censor, which would sort of negate the whole reason that I blog.

I hadn’t heard about the Twain autobiography, and that news made me inexplicably happy.

27 Christy { 05.25.10 at 7:56 pm }

I tend to stop writing. I’ve always been of the belief that whatever I put out on the internet needs to match up what I would do IRL. So if I wouldn’t talk about something in my life, then I wouldn’t blog about it. My own personal stuff, it depends on how I feel about it. Sometimes I don’t think I have the strength to relive an event in my blog. So I don’t.

28 coffeegrl { 05.25.10 at 9:27 pm }

I often stop writing but I think it’s not so much because I don’t want to write or share, it’s because I just can’t find the words or way to express myself. And sometimes that’s because I feel like people just wouldn’t understand or empathize (which is sad because I’d like to write treat my blog more as a diary than a place to make friends or find sympathy). But I guess that’s just the way things stand for me right now.

29 MyLazyOvaries { 05.25.10 at 9:31 pm }

YES!!! I’ve been blogging for 3 years under my real name, where friends and family and basically anyone who Googles me can see. There would sometimes be weeks go by when my mind was completely consumed with issues of my infertility or my mom’s battle against cancer. My blog would go dormant and then I would just pick it back up and go on about the minutae of my days like there wasn’t this great huge thing that had totally dried up my “conversation”.

It has gotten to be a bit too much, so I just started a whole new blog/twitterfeed (no names attached) in order to have a place to talk honestly about my infertility.

30 Mad Hatter { 05.25.10 at 9:45 pm }

Hmmm…I like your idea of the watermark – I think it’s true…the white space, what’s not said – it’s still there in between. I tend to write mostly about my infertility with my annonymous life story on the side. I’ll stop blogging when the life story part takes over and the journey to fertility is forced to take a backseat.

I really respect your choice to not include the twins’ stories – I never quite thought of it like that before and it makes sense.

Love,
Maddy

31 Junebug { 05.26.10 at 1:10 am }

I tend to not blog. The main problem I run into is the IRL people that read my blog. However, I think it is good sometimes that it holds back certain things that probably shouldn’t be out there anyway. In addition, if I’m pissed I write but don’t publish without a night to sleep on it so I don’t regret some things.

32 Manapan { 05.26.10 at 3:15 am }

I just stop blogging. Obviously. :)

There are a few things I’d like to blog about right now, but I have readers I know IRL and there are details I don’t want to share with them, so I’m silent for the time being.

33 jodifur { 05.26.10 at 8:11 am }

I don’t blog about extended family, and now that Michael is 5, I try to give him a little bit more privacy. And ironically, I just wrote a very similar post.

34 Bionic Baby Mama { 05.26.10 at 10:16 am }

a friend had a miscarriage recently that raised a lot of issues for me — less because the miscarriage itself, though there was that mix of sadness/ugly envy there, but because of the (lousy) medical “care” she received following it.

…but it’s not my story. she’s a close friend, and she shared something with me that wasn’t for general inspection. i may share things on my blog i wouldn’t share in real life, but it’s not my place to make that decision for others.

since i decided not to write about the story that was consuming my mind and emotions at that time, i didn’t write about much else, though. so there’s a little palimpsest.

35 loribeth { 05.26.10 at 10:55 am }

If I’m not blogging, it’s generally because I’m busy, on vacation, etc. My blog does not tell the entire story of my life… and I do try to be careful about what I write there about other people. There are times when I’ve wanted to vent about someone (dh, lol) but bitten my cybertongue. I have never told anyone IRL (besides dh) about my blog, but being on Facebook now, I can sense the compartments I’ve tried to maintain among the various parts of my real & cyberlives starting to blur a bit — & that sometimes worries me. I try to consider what that person would think if they found my blog & recognized themselves in a post (even though I generally do not use real names & try to keep the details vague).

36 Cyndy { 05.26.10 at 11:26 am }

Unless you are completely anonymous (which I unfortunately am not) there are plenty of things that should not be blogged about. But different people have different levels of comfort with that. A few of my husband’s friends have become such frequent readers that it kind of creeps me out and I find myself posting less often because of them. They smother me. I really don’t want them to know about each and every little fun thing I do – it’s like they are hovering, waiting for my next post.

Also, since I moved back into my old house last month after five years of being away from it, my whole mood is different, in a good way.

I think I haven’t been blogging much lately because I don’t really have the need anymore to distract myself from all of the crap I had to deal with before. But I am kind of missing it – the blogging, not the crap. Maybe I’ll go write something on my own blog now instead of continuing to blather away here on yours.

37 Rebecca { 05.26.10 at 2:55 pm }

I think for me it all depends. If it’s something going on that affects me or if it’s something I’m going through, I will blog about it. If it involves someone I’m afraid will find the blog or if it’s “not my story to tell” then usually I don’t. I’ll stop blogging from time to time and the tone and content of my blog changes through each season of my life.

ICLW

38 Kristin { 05.26.10 at 4:25 pm }

Even if there is something I can’t blog about that really is screaming to be discussed, I usually have enough other things going on to have something to write about.

39 Half of a Duo, Raising a Duo { 05.26.10 at 6:04 pm }

That old adage — “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all”?

I’m old school. Age-wise (I veer sharply on the precipice of 50 in a few short weeks) and also, parenting style wise. Most of all, writing wise.

I would never write negative things if I could help it. It does not help me, it is not cathartic to put out to the universe private pain. Whether that be pain of having a bad day, or health issues, or whatever.

I stopped blogging for nearly 5 months, from December thru just recently. My sons both are medically fragile and I was working overtime to caregive them thru RSV (Jan), pneumonia (Feb), bronchitis (March), a URI (April) and now, a serious sinus infection (May) that will result in one son having surgery.

If I wrote about all these really tough, tough days it would just be weeks and weeks of agonies and seeing in writing (when I had time, which, I basically had zero time on my hands, me being sick as well catching what they had) would just bring me down further.

As a woman who TTC via traditional surrogacy, I even stopped the blog when TTC when the going got tough. It serves me no good to write about the travails and tribulations a woman about to become a mother via surrogacy, who has zero control over the children inside the surrogate’s womb, and zero control about anything, actually… that we basically go through hell to become mothers…

It served me to keep my mouth shut and pray.

It serves me to do so again, now. With my boys so sick and me working overtime, doubletime, and getting no sleep.

If the boys reflect back on my blog years from now (yes, there will be years from now) I really don’t want a litany of negativity. Just love. There is a lot of love, for a lot of people. So I try and put that out. On the bad days, I just don’t write or a friend does a Co or Guest blog entry and that makes me happy.

40 lis { 05.26.10 at 11:03 pm }

sometimes, like tonight, i don’t know quite what to say but how to say it, even though i want nothing more than to let it pour out.

other times it pours and pours and i usually share, even if i haven’t properly formatted or edited, because if nothing else, my blog is a journal for me and the fact that others are along to share and support my experiences is a lovely, unexpected thing that i am ever so grateful for.

http://www.builtinbirthcontrol.com/2010/05/no-blood-in-sample.html

you can feel free to delete, i am in no way trolling for followers or readers, just my post tonight is so full of watermarks that it’s practically dripping.

41 Cherish { 05.27.10 at 12:20 pm }

I stop blogging until something else happens I can blog about, or I can find a nice tidy way to summarize it.

42 Nelly { 05.28.10 at 4:33 pm }

I’ve been debating on starting my own post for a while now (since I just figured out what a blog WAS). This post has given me the courage to try- I always wondered if everyone had such a perfect life in blogland – why couldn’t I?? It’s nice to know, in a sick and twisted way, that there is more between the lines that I know. Thanks for the inspiration!! I started blogging yesterday – I’ll let ya know how it goes and who I piss off.

43 Bea { 05.28.10 at 11:35 pm }

Yes, it’s true. I don’t have a set formula, because it depends a lot on the situation. Sometimes I can ask readers to just take something as read (“stuff happened that pissed me off and as a consequence of that…” the story continues) and sometimes it’s a matter of delaying til the conclusion and sometimes it’s not posting and sometimes posting about something else and sometimes… there are probably others, too. You do have to be careful.

Bea

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