Blogging for me started as an outlet from the relentless and exhausting experience of undergoing IVF. It was part journal, part relief and a way to update family and friends who knew we were undergoing fertility treatment. It was far easier to write about a failed IVF attempt than it was to ring someone to say that it hadn’t worked. It was hard enough dealing with my own disappointment and raw emotion, let alone the disappointment others felt on my behalf. I use to think that everyone was so sick of hearing about my failed attempts at falling pregnant, that they were generally sick of me, which is understandable because quite frankly I was sick of me. Writing, blogging, whatever it was that I did back then was a way to unload and download. I would google other IVF blogs desperate to connect to another female who I could relate to, who felt what I was feeling, experienced what I was experiencing. I needed to connect, I needed to not feel so alone. I was looking for answers, I wanted hope and I wanted to find out if other women were feeling as awful as I was. It was like bootcamp for my emotions and therapy for my head.
It still is.
I am happy to be a blogger. Whether I’m good, average or plain crap at it doesn’t really matter because it’s something I willingly and gladly do regardless of the outcome and there is real freedom in this. I don’t need to make money from it and I don’t need to go viral. I write because I can. My inside thoughts, out loud. I don’t know the craft behind the writing and the SEO side of things makes me itchy. But my grandmother once said to me “just write what you want to say” and so I mostly try to do that. Probably the only outcome that truly makes me feel good is when I know I have said something that has genuinely resonated with someone else. My “why” is to connect and feel connected and blogging allows me to do this. To write something that touches people often feels unattainable but I still just write it anyway and I love it.
My second love, the next best thing that makes my soul sing is to read.
So I read it. Actually I inhaled it. And holy shit it is good. Cleverly crafted and bloody hilarious. Despite my immense dislike for one of the characters (I generally need to like the characters to fall in love with a book) I could not love this book anymore.
It was also the kind of book that makes you think. Perfect book club material because despite the humour, the irony and the entertaining plot, at the heart of it is the subject of authenticity and specifically that which relates to who we are online versus who we really are offline.
I should of course point out that Holly’s work is one of fiction though I suspect she has gained some inspiration from some high profile bloggers. This is maybe just my take on it but even so Holly manages to do it in such a superb manner.
I once wrote about “How real is your highlight reel” here before. This book truly explores this because it is a behind the scenes, candid and intriguing look into the subculture of bloggers, specifically “Mummy Bloggers” and it begged the question, how do we go about making sure those we follow online aren’t airbrushing out reality in order to get more likes, clicks and shares and do we care anyway?
I mostly follow and read people who I feel I can trust to cut through the bullshit. Those who have stories to tell, and that do so with sincerity and truth.
For me, what I write about now is family, motherhood, friendships, anxiety and whatever else is going on in my messy head. There are some stories I don’t tell, usually because they aren’t always my stories to tell, but everything I write is what it is. My content is what I’m thinking and feeling. Though I struggle to find the balance between inspiration and creativity and keeping it ordinary and real. In Holly’s book the characters are all competing to win a lucrative Bloggers Award and so strategy takes over, there is all kinds of embellishing going on and we become a part of their shrewdly curated social media lives. It’s funny and fascinating because it’s fiction but then you wonder about the actual truth behind it.
Last week, I was in Fiji. It was lovely and glorious and heavenly. It was also non stop. Holidaying with a four year old is not all hammocks and cocktails.
My insta post was absolutely true. It really was going to be another day in paradise. But behind the scenes, the text message to my friend was also true. Two versions of my holiday experience, both real but against the backdrop of a sunset and a few palm trees was also the struggle of getting sunscreen on the four year old.
Social media isn’t a competition to win at life and we need to remember that almost everything comes with a filter, a disclosure, and with conditions. Bright, shining moments they may be but with a side serving of something else going on behind the scenes. With something like 40% of women having been diagnosed with anxiety disorders and considering that comparison is the thief of joy you have to question whether there is a link between our anxieties and if they are as a result of the belief everyone else is living a perfect life because their online content has been well curated to look that way. Or are we smart enough to know the difference and should we just take it for what it is, social, fun and to not necessarily believe everything we read and see. Does it matter if someone you follow posts a picture of their child eating homemade sweet potato pikelets with the hashtag #healthymumma only to know that the next image that wasn’t photographed and published is the child spitting out the said pikelet? Do we care?
At the end of the book, Holly’s acknowledgements read “And lastly to the parents who do share their lives online. It’s a gift. There was a time when mothers had to shut up and smile. Now, telling the stories that allow other women to feel just a little more normal, more connected and understood.”
I’ve discovered that for me writing online is staying true to myself, to let my guard down whilst trying to silence the inner voice that tells me that it isn’t good enough. And so because my nana told me to do so, I just write. Also, as Holly says, if something I have written has somehow made someone feel a little more normal and more connected then that is the sprinkle on the sundae.