I just read a fantastic article from Bitch Magazine’s newest edition, “Better Homes and Bloggers,” and it deeply resonated and spoke to me to the darkest depths of my blogging soul. Freelancing mama Holly Hilgenberg (great name) writes:
Both the appeal and the unease of lifestyle blogs are centered on the fact that, unlike more traditional forms of media like magazines, television, and movies, blogs are supposed to be real… This tension between authenticity and aspiration may be at the heart of why lifestyle blogs don’t just inspire readers, they also tend to bum them out… As one reader, Claudette, recounts: “I see her fucking noodle soup. And I feel like I should do that. And I don’t feel good. I feel like I should be perfect.” Claudette, who follows many style blogs, particularly those that reflect her own modernist sensibility and obsession with fashion and design, isn’t unhappy with her own life. But, she says, “I look around my house and I like the things I own…but it can never be good enough.”
I know Mama Nervosa is merely a week old, but this is not my first trip around the blogging block. This is my fifth or sixth attempt to create a blog with more than 4 readers (Hi, Mom!) despite the fact that for all of those blogs, I followed THE NUMBER ONE RULE OF BLOGGING SUCCESS which is DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE: that is, find a niche and aggressively pursue it. I tried a budgeting blog (HA!); a mommy blog (fun for me, boring for everyone else); a hilarious TV blog (dang it, you have to actually watch a lot of TV to do that, preferably shows that are currently running and not outdated dregs on Netflix streaming); and even an aquarium enthusiast blog (it died when my fish did).
I sometimes worry that Mama Nervosa won’t be read because it is non-niche. We’ve written about screaming toddlers, grandmothers and peonies, and birth and car purchasing. OK; all of those topics have a thread of motherhood woven through them, but we promise to branch out into topics as diverse as our past lives as hippie fangirls, smokers, baristas, and teachers; crazy road trips with drug dealers and Frisbee throwers; quitting graduate school and near-death experiences; anti-hipster rants and commentaries on teen magazines from the early 90s. (So, far, though, we think the real NUMBER ONE RULE OF BLOGGING SUCCESS is USE FACEBOOK. It seems to be working.)
But the big premise behind all of this, the one thing we agreed upon when we hastily formed a blogging alliance via email after a transformative writing workshop, was that MN had to be about “messy life.” Not organized life. Not sexy mom life. Not it’s-the-little-things-and-insanely-good-taste-that-make-life-perfect life. True, real, un-light-diffused, unstaged life (past, present, and future). We think there’s room for that in the blogosphere. I’m not anti-lifestyle blog and believe me, I’ve felt deep pangs of envy when I look at Young House Love’s art wall. I’ve seriously thought that a household binder would change my life forever. It’s just that the best thing, to me, about blogging, has always been real people. The real people behind blogs interest me. My favorite blogs, the blogs that got me hooked a dozen years ago, the blogs I stayed up all night at the library computer lab to read? They weren’t lifestyle blogs. They were people’s life stories, told well, and told (mostly) truthfully.
So this is my real life, right now. It is not styled.
These are my dishes, always. I have no solution to the enduring problem of dirty dishes. I wash dishes every day, and the damn things keep reappearing. My kitchen looks like this right now, and every day.
This is me, right now.
Optical illusion brought to you by unfortunate laptop placement. Note the living room chaos behind me, including a partially dismembered wagon and nicotine gum wrappers strewn about. I didn’t even crop this, y’all.
Me again, close up. My face is breaking out, and I don’t wear jewelry, and is that a gray hair? It may be. I’m due. I am sure you are as excited as I am that I washed my hair last night – a triumph! Let me tell you a secret: my husband thinks I look great and really likes everything about my post partum body, my lack of makeup, and my everything. (I’m just as surprised as you are.) Apparently, sexy transcends appearance, at least in our love story.
So what’s your real life story, not style? What life problem do you have no solution for? What life problems aren’t really a problem at all? What are your snapshots of chaos and beautiful nowness? We’ll post ‘em. lauren(dot)clodi(dot)whitehead(at)gmail(dot)com