Saturday 19 February 2011

Writing About the Big Stuff

There you were thinking that New Bloggers Fortnight had finished but not so. Peppa Pig may have come and intruded but there are two final post to come. Today we have a really insightful post from Penny at the Alexander Residence to see us out. This is what Penny says about herself -

Writing about life with small children.

Being a mum to two under five. Being me. Finding the balance.

I gave up my teaching career to be a mum, but after four years I have itchy feet. My thoughts generally revolve around escaping suburbia, making space to write, reminding myself to make the most of my wonderful small children now, while furiously plotting what to do next. I am working on a creative writing diploma with the OU.

(Subtext – My mum has brain cancer and I am scared)

Firstly thanks Michelle for having me, I really admire the support you are giving to the blogging community and your honest yet positive outlook. There are so many types of blog out there, and there have been some excellent posts this fortnight about finding your voice. I asked Michelle if I could write this post about blogging about the darker sides of life.

Deciding how deeply to delve into your life when blogging is a big decision. Opening up absolutely terrified me as a new blogger. Do you know that feeling when you post something, then feel hideously exposed and have to sit on your hands to stop yourself deleting the post?

I didn’t write about my Mum’s cancer initially, partly because she was reading my blog, but also because blogging was an escape from thinking about cancer. The day I won the Fresh Voice category of the British Mummy Bloggers Brilliance in Blogging Awards, I found out mum was dying. I had a huge bubble of subtext which was about to explode all over my fairly upbeat blog tales of day to day life with kids, which people were now looking at. More importantly, my offline life was exploding.

I thought a lot about whether to blog about mum dying. I am glad I did it. Writing about my feelings was very cathartic. I worried people would stop talking to me, but the opposite was true. My posts put me in touch rapidly with people who had similar experiences. I gained some great perspective from knowing I wasn’t the only one to have lost someone.

Even if people haven’t been through the same experience, emotions like loss, grief and guilt are part of the human condition. Every comment brought comfort, even when people protested they didn’t know what to say. Just the fact people said something was special. Blogging helped me in my offline life too. Friends read my blog and understood how to support me. I printed off my blog posts to help the celebrant who led the funeral service gain a picture of my mum.

I worried about hurting my nearest and dearest. I asked my family’s permission to post about mum’s death because things happen more slowly offline. The rest of my family’s grief is personal and I respect that.

I went through a long process of grief, but to those who haven’t, the thought of losing a parent is a very raw and painful thing to contemplate. I am generally a positive person, and I choose to write honestly, but positively, and with hope. I felt a sense of responsibility to my reader, and to myself, to find that hope. Again that’s another big, personal decision.

There are days I desperately want my old blog back, to post whatever I like, and for my grief to not be part of it. On the flipside I could write about my mum in every post, but my blog is one of many sounding boards.
I took my time thinking about how to write and I wrote at a time when I had made blogging friends to support me. The blogging community amazed me. I am beginning to give something back, to offer my support to other bloggers going through tough times.

Deciding whether to open your heart is a very personal decision. Another option is to blog anonymously on a friend’s blog, or via blognonymous, a network of established bloggers who host and support posts by anonymous writers:

Paula at Battling On

Jay at Mocha Beanie Mummy

Nickie at Typecast

Emily at Mummy Limited

Bumbling at Bumbling Along (some of our bloggers are anonymous too!)

Sandy at Parent Confidential

They are also on twitter; follow @blognonymous

Thank you so much Penny for such an honest post you have certainly made me think about what and how I post in the future. I think that we all need to stop and think carefully when we blog about other people's stories. I have massive admiration for you being able to write this post now at such a raw time for you. Thank you, Mich x