09 June, 2007

Blogging: Anonymity, Life, and Writer's Block

I've had this sitting in draft form for four days, trying to decide if it was worth publishing. But I've got nothing else, so here goes...

I've been fighting writer's block for maybe two months now, but it's gotten worse since the MilBlog Conference. Anything I've written in the last month has been like pulling teeth and it hasn't come from the place of authenticity that has powered some of the better stuff I've written here (see "Other Notable Posts" in the sidebar for proof that I used to be a good blogger, haha).

I wish I knew why this was, but I only have a bunch of theories. Part of me really wants to just shut down the blog, but part of me also says I'd regret it.

For those who care, a list of what's going on inside my head (and is, I suspect, causing this block) is found below...

1. Pressure. After winning the MilBloggie (much to my surprise), I feel like I have to maintain a standard to justify the win and not reduce the credibility of a MilBloggie for the next winner. But blogging is something that comes from my heart, not an intellectual exercise. So instead, I've done very little of the kind of blogging that got me that award in the first place (going from repeated links by all the conservative heavy hitters to the kind of personal drivel I've written recently is hard on the ego).

2. Life. As I've said repeatedly lately, there's a lot going on inside my head, and I feel suspended between two worlds--excited by the possibilities and fearful that they'll never come to be. And that's apparently eating my brain. And beyond that, the 12-hour split-shift schedule of work makes wasting those open hours between the split very easy. Add to it that the schedule has obliterated my volunteer opportunities, which were a rich source of quality blogging.

3. Anonymity. The MilBLog Conference and SpouseBUZZ (and some recent stupidity by a reporter) have linked my blogging and non-blogging lives--both personal and professional. And having someone you've never met walk up to you amongst your coworkers and say, "So this is where you hang out!" because she saw you at SpouseBUZZ when you were addressed from the stage is a bit disconcerting, especially when you've been told to keep a low profile at work for the sake of coworker harmony.

4. Merging. This is a continuation of #3. My career used to be a part of my offline life, completely separate from online activities and blogging. Now, I'm using my online activities in an attempt to forge the kind of career and offline life I want. For example, my prospective employer is aware of this blog (yes, it'll go right out the window if asked). It's also a bit disconcerting to have a philanthropist at Walter Reed say after someone mentions your blog, "Oh yes, we all know exactly who you are and what you do." And this year's MilBlog Conference continued to cement "online relationships" that I now see have had an even more profound shaping effect on my life than I previously thought--in everything from job prospects to how I view myself to who my mentors are in areas both personal and professional. If I get that job in DC, the merge will be complete; if I don't, I think I'll continue to feel suspended between two worlds (with the more "substantial" world being the least-desired at this point).

Numbers 3 & 4 particularly bother me. When I started this blog, I was a music teacher in an isolated town in Arizona and I expected to be there for the forseeable future. It seemed it would be easy to keep my "real life" and blogging separate. I tried to be my real self online, but told no one offline of the blog and I wanted to avoid any possibility of my name, location, etc., being public knowledge in either sphere. I kept my town name secret because there were only a handful of schools in that town, so it wouldn't have been hard to figure out which one had a single music teacher (which was the extent of my blog identity). And as Valour-IT developed, I tried so hard to stay in the background (that worked out well, huh? LOL!).

The topper was when I realized a fellow blogger and I are now working at the same location. We had lunch together and he later advised me on a significant purchase. He was so kind and made the decision so much easier. I wanted to blog about it and give him due credit for being such a prince, but realized that since he makes no pretense of hiding as a blogger, I would be revealing my exact working location, down to the building level (And yes, a regular reader probably knows exactly where I work, but the random reader isn't going to know it from any single post at this point).

I can't help but think about things like how Matt of Blackfive and his family were threatened, with his correct home address posted online. I don't have his stature, of course, but all it takes is one whackjob. I fear I wouldn't be hard to find if someone really wanted to. That's another reason to hope I get the DC job, I guess; it'll give me the chance to make sure everything is unlisted (and I don't have any relatives there that share my last name).

Maybe it comes down to the idea that blogging used to be a place where I could be emotionally and physically safe to be completely myself without worrying how it might affect my job or peoples' opinions of me, or whether some troll might find out he lives in the same neighborhood I work in; I could be myself and if people didn't like it, so what? They were essentially just "figments of my imagination"--to take a cold-hearted view. But now I have to worry about how what I say reflects on me to potential employers, and most of my true friends these days are "online friends" (even ones I haven't "met" yet). The increasing significance of online friends in my life is further propelled by the fact that the only people I've gotten to know here are my co-workers, and with the exception of one new person, we don't seem to be compatible outside of work.

So weird to find myself in this hybrid position: to close this blog would be cutting out a huge part of my life and who I have become. But if that's true, why should continuing it in a manner I can be proud of be so difficult?

CLARIFICATION: I'm very proud of what I've been a part of as an adopted milblogger, and beyond grateful for the online relationships I've developed (and for the attendant opportunities). On the personal front, I've grown in ways I never expected, and on the professional/charity front I've been blessed to be a part of amazing things. I'm just finding this time in my life very difficult to navigate with style and aplomb. I suspect that if I end up in that DC job, a lot of the "blockage" will break. Hopefully.