CHANGE YOURSELF: Your Perfect Imperfections: Blogging Your Way to Self-Acceptance


AUGUST 5, 2011

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>> Good morning, everybody. It's very exciting to be here, and have BlogHer starting. I'm excited to be here with this fantastic panel, and this is the change yourself track, and the session is Your Perfect Imperfections, Blogging Your Way to Self Acceptance. So a few things before we dive into the topic, housekeeping things. Any information you need about how to connect with the speakers, the Wi Fi information, hash tag, all of that is on the speaker slide, and this session is going to be live blogged and audio recorded. So if you are asking a question or making a comment, make sure that you wait for the microphone so that everybody in the room can hear you clearly and also so we capture it for the recording. And just to get a sense of who is here, who you guys are, how many of you have been blogging, say, for a year or less? And how many of you are coming up on two years? And then how many people are three or more? Wow! So we have got a lot of everything. Okay. And how many of you blog about self acceptance in one way or another? And last question, how many of those are pretty targeted like mine are? Gluten Free Girl is pretty targeted. And then mostly everybody else's sort of stuff.
>> Everybody go to this side of the room.
>> The camera guy is like, did you see our panel, sir, did you or did you not? Okay. You are set. Okay. Sorry. And I have this thing against unjust accusations, so I'm sorry you were unjustly targeted.
>> Where were you the night of the 28th?
>> Now, you see, we set this whole thing up, because it's about imperfections so this has all been staged.
>> We are so good, we are demonstrating that as we go.
>> That sounded like it was in stereo. Did that work? Can you hear us now? Got it?
>> I hear yea and nay at the same time.
>> So we will what we are going to do is once we get started, we are going to do a deep dive with each of the three panelists so you can really hear what they have to say. You will have an opportunity to ask questions and engage at each point, so you don't have to hold questions to the end. You will have a chance to comment like at the time when we are focusing on that subject. So be thinking of your questions as you go along. Now, we are going to do eye super quick a supper quick introduction. You have a lot of information in your material, so you can do that, so we will just do real quick. I'm Gretchen Rubin, author of the blog and the book "the happiness project?
>> BRENE BROWN: I'm Brene Brown. I blog at ordinary courage and I wrote The Gifts of Imperfection.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: I write Gluten Free Girl, and I'm the chef of the cookbook of the same tame.
>> MR. LADY: I write a personal memoir blog called Whiskey in My Sippy Cup that deals with personal imperfections.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: I was gratified to see they had a gluten free area of snacks down there, so. So the topic for today is Blogging Your Way to Self Acceptance. And in the context of blogging, self acceptance comes through self disclosure and it has benefits but also hazards. So that's what we will be looking at today. The benefits of acceptance and connection that comes from self disclosure and honesty and authenticity, the creation of a constructive community around these issues, and the self examination that you get through the discipline of constant blogging about these things and disclosing these things and engaging with other people. And then the hazards include the loss of privacy and we all have different levels of privacy we want to maintain. Opening yourself up to criticism, whether that's thoughtful criticism or just dumb criticism or even malicious criticism, and also that sense of irreversibility you have with a post where once it is out there, you can't take it back. And so how do you think about that? So to start, let's begin with BRENE, and BRENE, you have written a lot about shame, empathy, authenticity, self disclosure and even stepping back from blogging what is it about self disclosure that helps to foster self acceptance?
>> BRENE BROWN: It's a tricky question because of all of the advantages and disadvantages that Gretchen went through. I think after a decade of studying really hard topics like shame, which we all know that warm wash that comes over us that makes us feel small and the not good enough emotion. One of the things that I have come to learn is that our worthiness, our ability to really engage with the world from a place of I am enough, that worthiness lives inside of our story. And so this seems kind of binary, but in my mind, we have two choices and that's own our story and share our story or stay outside of your story and kind of hustle for our worthiness, which I have done a lot of in my own life, perfecting, pleasing, performing, proving, and it's just exhausting and I don't think it's sustainable. So I think for me, owning and sharing our story is a part of how we get to our worthiness. Because if you are like me, I think most of us have orphaned parts of ourselves and parts of our stories that we don't believe fit with who we think we are supposed to be. So I think that's part of, for me, part of owning our story.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: How do you think blogging can play a special role in that process?
>> BRENE BROWN: I think it's an incredible venue because before blogging if you wanted to write something that was maybe a narrative about your story, you had limited choices. Like did you know anyone at the newspaper? Could you get published? Did you have an agent? It was not a democratized system. The people who were the most connected got heard.
And to be honest with you, there was a lot of gender discrimination in that history, and so to me, blogging gives everyone the opportunity to tell their story in a way that's important to them, whether it's in 140 characters, you know, using Twitter or it's writing a blog or whatever it is. To me it's about opening the playing field.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: And one of the things you talk about a lot is perfectionism and how perfectionism can get in the way. And I think that feeling of wanting your blog to be perfect is something is that a lot of people feel.
How do you think you think about that in a way that is constructive?
>> BRENE BROWN: My blog is perfect! (Laughter).
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: No it's not.
>> BRENE BROWN: I have more my writing pieces that will be published somewhere. I keep an editor on retainer because I don't have time to fool around with dangling modifiers and stuff like that, and I guess I had a crappy high school. And so my blog is really imperfect, so a lot of times it will be like four days after I write a post and I will go back and say, oh, that doesn't sound right. And I will change the word like no one saw it. Here is what I learned about perfectionism that was hard for me especially in my most recent research. I always thought perfectionism and healthy striving, like wanting to be the best were the same things, striving for excellence. As it turns out, and this is across the literature, striving for excellence or healthy striving and perfectionism have nothing in common at all. Perfectionism is basically a very addictive cognitive process. It's simply this. It's a way of thinking that sounds like this. If I look perfect, write perfect, do perfect and live perfect I can avoid or minimize feelings of judgment, blame and criticism. The reason why it's so addictive is that for those of us that struggle for perfectionism when we go out and eventually feel criticized or blamed or less than, which is part of the human experience, our response is not, oh, man, the whole perfectionism thing sucks, it's ridiculous. Our thinking was, it wasn't perfect enough.
So basically I call perfectionism the 20 ton shield. We carry it around as a way to protect ourselves from feeling judged and criticized and ashamed, but it doesn't really protect us. What it does is keeps us from being seen. I have to tell you that I was profoundly changed. I just interviewed Gretchen for my blog and it will go up next week, and when I asked you in perfectionism, your answer was really, I cried when I read it because you wrote something like I would rather write the imperfect book that gets published than write the perfect book that never sees the light of day. I would rather have the dinner party with takeout
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Which I do.
>> BRENE BROWN: than have the elegant dinner party that's handmade and perfect that really never happens. And it was the reason it was emotional for me is I have a friend who is in stage 4 cancer and is on hospice, and her daughter and my daughter are best friends. And they are, you know, they are seventh graders. And a lot of times I want to say something or do something, but I don't have the perfect card or the perfect words. So I skip it. And there is no time for that shit right now, and so to me, perfectionism is a way we protect ourselves, but it's the biggest risk we take because it's really about not letting ourselves be seen.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: So do you have a discipline like when you feel the urge to be a perfectionist, do you have a mantra that goes through your mind or a system that you take yourself through so you don't get sucked into?
>> BRENE BROWN: Yes, it's simple, what am I afraid of? If I'm taking Ellen to this mother daughter thing we just joined, and whoever invented Nike shorts, I'm coming after you, because all they want to wear is Nike shorts and a T shirt every day. It's the uniform of middle school, and I had to say don't you want to wear a cute dress, and she will say, I'm comfortable. And I will say what am I afraid of. I'm not afraid of her belonging in the situation. I'm afraid I will get there and not feel like I belong.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: How do you feel about the urge to craft at story that you think people want to hear instead of the true story?
>> BRENE BROWN: Well, to do that is to be human, I think, but I think, again, it goes back to perfectionism and owning our story. I have a quote in "The Gifts of Imperfection" that I have on my wall that's about this big in my study that says owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do. And I think letting ourselves be seen and be vulnerable is an active courage and when we do it, it has a huge ripple effect, you know, it gives everyone else permission to be a little bit more courageous. So for me, I don't want to read anything that you all think I want to read. I want to read who you are. Just so I know I'm not alone and crazy.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: You want to do that exercise?
>> BRENE BROWN: I was going to do this quick exercise to show you something about vulnerability and perfectionism. So stand up real quick. It's really kind of fun and it's a good way to start the morning.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: You will not make us take off our clothes, will you?
>> BRENE BROWN: Because naked is the ultimate form of vulnerability. And I'm from Texas so I would have to kill you all before you left. So what I want to do is I will start a song and you are extras in my movie, okay, so when I say, action, you just have to follow me for a few seconds. So the first time I need to sing when I say action, ready. Bye bye ...
>> AUDIENCE: Miss American pie, I drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry, and good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye singing this will be the day that I die.
>> BRENE BROWN: Cut it. You are extras. When I say action, I want you to laugh, belly laugh for just a couple of seconds. Ready, action. (Laughter) Okay. Great. Last one, I will say action. The most vulnerable of the three, when I say action, I want you to dance for just a couple of seconds. I know it's awkward, but just for a couple all of the guys are like action.
>> BRENE BROWN: Cut. Okay. When I say action, you are my extras, I want you to maintain a pose of absolute control and coolness. Get serious. You are totally cool, and in control. And I want you to face each other. Look in the middle of the room. Ready? Don't look at somebody who is going to make you laugh like at church. Ready. Action. Just don't move, but kind of look around at everybody. Okay. Sit down for a second and I will share why I do this. I just did it with the U.S. Army, which was really fun. They dance like this. Neurobiologically, you know, what we know is laughing, singing, dancing are incredibly vulnerable. I think when we write, if you are writing from a place where I'm in control, I'm really cool, I mean, this is what most of you all look like. Do you want to read this? When we take that pose, it's exactly what happens neurobiologically and emotionally, cool, in control, perfect are neurobiological straitjackets. They freeze us. When we write from a place where there is no laughter, there is no song, there is no dance, metaphorically, physically, where we are just cool and in control, it's an emotional straitjacket. It's hard to read. It's painful to look at, and it's just not inviting. So for me, when I'm writing, if it doesn't feel uncomfortable, it's probably not worth writing, like dancing in front of you, you know what I mean. So that's it for me.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: I want to open it up for questions. We have a mic wrangler.
>> MR. LADY: We only have one. So be gentle to her.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Hold up your hand and stand up.
>> AUDIENCE: Hello. I wanted to ask you there is this impulse to own our stories, this impulse to share. Could you talk more about why do we want to go public with that? Why is it not just enough to sit around with our girlfriends over a cup of tea or martini, why go broad?
>> BRENE BROWN: I would argue against going broad 50%, 70% of the time. One of my, one of the things that happened was interesting when I thought it was just me, the book came out, the media was the media that were interested were shows that wanted me to come on, talk about shame while someone unveiled their shame story for the public. And I was like oh, my God, did you read the book. One of my really strong, strong things that emerged from my research that I live by is you share your most vulnerable stories with people who have earned the right to hear them, period. I would share some shame stories with you right now, but not my most vulnerable, most tender ones because I don't know you and I come from a place where it's a privilege to hear my struggle. And you haven't earned the right to hear it. I don't know you. And I also share within relationships that can bear the weight of the story. Does that make sense? And so to me, my and I know Gretchen will get to this in terms of leading us through this. I will share what's vulnerable on my blog to some degree. I will never share what's intimate. The stuff that brings me to my knees, the stuff that makes me cry, the stuff that I might share what makes me cry, but the stuff that's really intimate for me that I'm really struggling with, the gremlins that live in my heart, that's my stuff. And I feel like if you have one or two friends with whom you can share that, you are incredibly blessed. It's unfortunate that most of us spend our lives steam rolling over one or two to gain the acceptance of 40 blog commenters. So I think the martini and tea is a good idea.
>> AUDIENCE: I lead Sacred Circles where people share their stories and restory them through art. So my own story is how art has changed my life, and I found those vulnerable stories and make friends and sort of walked my path of shame and changed my life. Now I'm starting to blog. Blogging is really new. I have built this family, and, you know, global circle translating it into the blog world, you know. I want to do it. I don't quite know how to do it. It's like a whole different language. I'm used to this sort of one on one thing, this teleconferencing thing, so I'm writing to, I don't know who. And I don't I have all of this writing I have done. I have all of these stories. I have these parts of my life, and not all of them are current. Do you go back and, like, recapture stuff that you have experienced and then bring it back into kind of how does this apply to my life now? What do you do with things in sort of a chronology? And how do you pull that in? Is it important to be talking in the present? Or do you leave it in the past?
>> BRENE BROWN: I think people have different blogs that work different ways. For me it's the value of a story as a metaphor for what's happening in my life. Unfortunately, I have to dip back into like middle school and tell a story about something. So to me, chronology is not as important as story as metaphor, for me.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: I think we have one more.
>> AUDIENCE: I just wanted to back up and ask you something related to the first person's question. So about two or three weeks ago I wrote on my blog the story of my most vulnerable experience, and it was something that happened to me a year and a half or two years ago, and until a few weeks before that, I thought I would never tell anyone, anyone that story. I had told my mother, that's different. And then through the course of discussing things with the community that I am part of, I realized that there were other people that needed to hear that story. So I shared that story, and I got a huge amount of support for it. I wasn't looking for acceptance because I had accepted that about myself, but what I got from it was an unbelievable amount of empowerment. I hit publish and I looked at my husband and said I'm going to throw up. I was going please God don't crucify me. So I would be interested in your thoughts around that. I take your point about the permission and the relationships, but I think over the course I have only been blogging for eight months. Over the course of that, I have shared all of my crap, and it's been hugely cathartic and therapeutic for me so I would be interested in your thoughts around the benefits and merit in that.
>> BRENE BROWN: It's a really great important question. It's a nuanced and complex question too. From me, I'm ready, and what I have learned from the research, I'm ready to tell a story when the healing is in the telling of the story, not in the response that I will get. Does that make sense? So I will tell a story
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: That's a good kind of framework.
>> BRENE BROWN: It's like the classic, you know, I teach master’s and doctoral level social workers. I'm a professor at "U" of "H", so I teach people who will be therapists. And one of the things we tell them is let's say they are having the university doesn't want me to share this information with you. Let's say someone is having an issue with a parent, and they want to confront this parent, and one of the things that we talk about even in terms of ethics is a client is ready to have this conversation with a parent when the conversation is the healing piece, not the parent's response. So we can't tie our healing, our value, our self worth up in a response to the sharing of a story, only in what we can control, which is the sharing. So I think it's a beautiful question, and I think it doesn't fly in the face of the answer to the other question. When we need healing through storytelling, when we need that story to be held and space to be held for it, we should share with people with whom we have built a relationship that can do that. When we need self actualization and healing and worthiness checks through storytelling, then it doesn't matter. I have told the story.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: It sounds like that was your experience. You weren't waiting for the response.
>> AUDIENCE: I was worried about the response, but I said, bring on the haters, I was like, okay, I said something that I expect people to respond to.
>> MR. LADY: That situation had resolved itself by the time you put it on your blog as well, because I heard you talk about this yesterday. I personally find, I personally find that once something has resolved itself, no matter how vulnerable it is, once I have resolved it, then I can share it. Until I have a resolution, I need to keep it.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: This is a perfect segue to the, sort of our next segment which is for Shannon because as we have been talking about self disclosure can be very powerful, it can help create connections and in the sense of healing, but it's important to know where you feel comfortable, you meaning anyone that's blogging, what the limits of self disclosure are for in an individual. And some people have practically no boundaries and some people have boundaries very close in. So this has been an issue for you. And I want to ask all of the panelists because I think this is a critical question, but just to dive deep, how do you think about it in terms of what you feel, like, you will how far you will go or what you won't what you will do and what you won't do and how do you how did you figure that out for yourself?
>> MR. LADY: I played with it for a lot of years and I said nothing and then I said everything and then I kind of found a middle. It's definitely changed the course of my blog. I have had my blog for 6.5 years, and I started thinking about when I started my blog as me when I wore the short skirt and the cropped top. And now I wear this because I understand that people look at me. So my barriers have come up a little bit more.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: What happened? Are there specific things that happened where you felt like, okay, wow, I passed a wall that I didn't know was there? Are there things that you can point to?
>> MR. LADY: The more people were reading my stories and the more people were responding to not just me, but my family, the more people were identifying with my children and identifying with my husband and I kind of started to realize that I was sharing a lot of people's information without consent because my blog was private for two years. My husband didn't even know about it for two years. So the more people saw it, the more I kind of pulled back and stopped sharing things, and then one day I had a moment of screw it, I'm going to put something really big out there.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: How long ago was that?
>> MR. LADY: That was 2009, 2008 maybe, bigger than I had ever put, something vulnerable and personal and private, and I had never written anything like that on my blog before, but I had resolved it. I had resolved my issue, and it had to do with starting to take antianxiety medication and antidepressants, and I wrote a post and it was really well received. And then I read it at the BlogHer community keynote and a lot of people responded to it and a lot of people emailed me privately and said I never read anything on the internet like that before and thank God you said it. And that's when I started to play with the line of do I share nothing? What can and what can't I share? That's where I form the line, once I have resolved it, I will tell it.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: How do you feel about it in terms of using real names, identifiable situation or where you are telling a story where you are not the only one involved, but that there are other people, stories, you are telling a story that involved more than just you, how do you think through it? How do you make decisions for yourself about
>> MR. LADY: I ask people a lot of times. A lot of people in my real life have said I don't want you to write about me on the blog. My husband is very clear, please don't write about me on the blog. You will never see him on my blog because he doesn't like it and a lot of the reason for that is I wrote a lot about him, and that was when he found my blog was in the middle of me writing about leaving him, and he was a little upset.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: How did he find it?
>> MR. LADY: I don't know how he found it. He said from here on out you don't talk about Josh. I'm a pseudonym blogger. I go by Mr. Lady. My real name is Shannon. I am more comfortable not using my children's names. My oldest son is 13 and he asked me two or three years ago, he said, if one of my friends Googles your name, are they going to find your blog? And I was like, no, Buddy, they will never know I wrote about the tube sock. They will never know. But I try to guard their stories and respect their stories and I try to share what's funny but not what's intimate.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Do you find that as your children get older, you have a different sense of their privacy?
>> MR. LADY: I think we all do. Anybody that writes about children on a regular basis, the older your kids get, A, they can read the blog, and they do. And B, they can say don't you put this on your blog, woman. But it stops being cute they stop being your children and they start being their own people and I have to just let them be their own people. Ten is kind of my cutoff. Once they hit ten, I try not to talk about them unless they say put this on the blog, this is really funny, tell people. But my blog has evolved so much. It's less about my children and more about me because my children have grown and I have resolved the fact that I'm a mother and I'm okay with saying I'm a good mom and I don't need to validate that anymore.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Is there any mistake you made? Was there anything like, whoa, I wish I hadn't done that?
>> MR. LADY: Don't live blog a breakup. That was a mistake. I definitely wouldn't if I knew now what I knew then, I wouldn't have been so private with who I am. I kind of branded myself to Mr. Lady. There is a million Shannons in the world, but I'm the only Mr. Lady. I'm stuck with this for the rest of my life.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Pick your pseudonym with care.
>> MR. LADY: Somebody wrote a song called Whiskey in My Sippy Cup. I thought it was funny, and I didn't know anybody would read my blog. And they do, so I'm stuck with that too. I think I would have owned it a little bit more in the beginning. It took me six years to be comfortable and love my story, but thankfully I had six years of blogging that let me love my story. I have told it so many times in different ways that I have worked through it. And in the beginning I was very ashamed of my own story and really vulnerable and there are still things I won't talk about on my blog ever, but I love my story and I love telling it. I just wish it hadn't taken me six years to love it.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Before we open it up for the questions for Shannon, because I think it is a critical question because people, everybody has to come to it in their own minds. How do you think about using real people's names, pictures of real people, cursing is something too? She curses.
>> MR. LADY: A lot. Sorry.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: These are all decisions that it's helpful to think about them instead of making a choice and wishing you had done something different. So what's sort of the rubric you use to think about those?
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: What's important for me is to remember that the entire thing is a process. We have such a human need to make rules, and it's a perfectionist thing. I know what I'm going to write. I have let go of all of that. I write a food blog and in a lot of ways I'm lucky because that lends a much more specific narrow lens which allows me to open to the entire world. So I think that having some kind of focus, you know, it really, really helps. But in terms of what
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: You have pictures of the chef.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: Yes, and I call Danny the chef when I first met him. It was kind of fun, but then I had to change because our daughter was born and she stopped breathing and she was in the I.C.U. and we didn't know if she was going to live or die, and I wrote a blog post about it because I had this urgency. And that's a really big word for me, this huge urgency to try to get out of that little tiny room and to try to reach out to people who had been, who had knew that she was about to be born and who were sending us emails saying is everything okay. And I also needed to hear other people's stories. I needed to hear that other people had been through this and their kids were okay. So I put up a blog post about it, and, you know, I still feel like it's one of the most courageous pieces of writing I have ever written. And it's the only one I never went back and checked it or reedited, just huge stream of urgency. And then a few weeks later when we were back home and everything was okay I went back to look at it and it just seemed so jarring that there we were in the ICU with the chef. It was ridiculous. So I started calling him Danny.
We called Lucy little bean for awhile because that's what we called her when I was pregnant with her and when she became a real person and not a little bean it was clear that we needed to call her Lucy or Lu which we call her nickname. So for me as a writer, I sit down every single time when I go to write a piece for a magazine, part of a book or a blog post, and I have to start with I don't know. It's really difficult. It's really rigorous, but it's incredibly important because if I go into a blog post with, well, this is about these lovely vegetarian enchiladas we came up with corn tortillas and I will tell everyone they don't take fewer than 30 minutes. Quit using that as a template for good food. Otherwise, but if I knew going in what this blog post was about, then I would be going in to write this piece to impress you. I would be going into it so you would read it, feel like, gosh, she is such a good writer. I am so moved by what she wrote and now I want to make those enchiladas. I want to vomit if that's why I'm writing. If I'm writing to gather hits and stats, I don't care about hits. I want readers. And if there are visitors on the blog, fine, maybe you will stay. If you don't because you looked up kale chips and then you thought gluten free go away, that's fine.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: What about you, BRENE, how do you think about the boundaries of self disclosure yourself?
>> BRENE BROWN: I will tell them if you tell your rules.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: I will tell my rules.
>> BRENE BROWN: I think of Shauna I haven't said this publicly but to be honest with you since the TED talk happened it was rice a real life changing thing for me. I started getting hundreds of emails a day, and I wasn't blogging for a community I thought I knew. People were coming onto my blog that didn't know me and I got skittish to be honest with you. And I have a 12 year old daughter and she vets anything that goes on the blog. Because at some point I disagree with you, Shannon, that those are her stories and can you imagine, I mean, I'm 45, could you imagine that if my mother would have had my blog that you Google BRENE Brown and it said wet her pants at sleepover. You know, I don't know that there are stories to tell, at some point so I'm careful about that. And
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Do you use real names?
>> BRENE BROWN: Yes, I do, but, you know, I have to tell you honestly I'm not a very emotional person, but this makes me emotional. What is hard for me is I will talk about Ellen and Charlie, but it's very hard because when my work became kind of international, if people disagree with my research, they will comment using my kids' names like I feel sorry for Ellen and Charlie. So then I feel like I won't say what I feel like. I am a cusser actually. I don't cuss when I write. You will know me for two seconds.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: People's cuss level on their blog does not necessarily reflect their cuss level in life.
>> BRENE BROWN: I don't know. I'm figuring it out every day. There are days I feel extremely private and there are days I feel extremely excited to show that Charlie got a worm, but as access to me becomes broader, it's hurtful when you put yourself out there, and people use what was vulnerable that you shared against you. And I don't think there is anything that makes me feel more vulnerable than being a mom probably. So every day is different.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: I love that you said I'm figuring it out every day, and I really feel like that's where we all need to stay in that place. I mean, as soon as we try to figure out this is my blog, it's dead. It's not a real living thing anymore. It's this inert thing we are putting out into the world. I have written posts and then later thought, I won't go there again. And that's okay. There are no mistakes. So if we go into this thinking, well, that was a mistake, I'm not doing that, well, then what are you going to learn from it. So I feel like now blogging has become a thing, we are at a blogging conference, there are a lot of you in this room. So a lot of people go into blogging now thinking it will get me a book deal, it will get get me this, get me that. But if we stick to the point of I don't know and I'm doing this every day figuring it out, that is a path to acceptance.
>> BRENE BROWN: It is also the seat of uncertainty and discomfort.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: I have one more question for Shannon and then we will open it up for questions until we turn to Shauna. But Shannon, what BRENE said is something you happened to you are used to writing for your peeps and you have a sense of the way they will behave and you go out to a broader audience and people are reacting to you in a very different way. And a lot of times when it happens those people are much more negative than the kind of people who would naturally come to your blog. How did you deal with that?
>> MR. LADY: So I threw a party and a whole bunch of people came that I didn't invite. So I grabbed all of the China and hid it. I had my blog went from kind of small read to widely read kind of overnight and I completely freaked out, and I kind of stopped blogging for a long time. Because I was afraid I was afraid. I was afraid of what people would think of my story. I was afraid of my story. I was afraid of what it meant that other people understood my story. And so I had to pull back, and I had to reassess everything, what do I want to do, why am I writing this blog, why am I telling these things? And I slowly one by one started putting China back on the cupboards. And I crept my way back into it, and I started letting a couple more people come to the party again. And then one day I was just comfortable with it, but it was a process of this is not five libertarian political bloggers that I'm friends with reading my blog anymore. This is women and mothers. Because my blog started being read not by women at all. I had five libertarian blogger friends so having women read it and friends read it and people in my situation read it, there is a lot more scrutiny in that. So I had to accept, okay, there is scrutiny and be less fearful. That was a process.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Okay. Questions? Where is our handy mic? Yes, here she comes across the room.
>> BRENE BROWN: The China metaphor is great.
>> AUDIENCE: I write a blog called the Bad Ass Mama chronicles. I started my blog after my second son was born. And I remember you told a story about your daughter being in the NICU and I have a son that has a form of sickle cell anemia and my blog was light hearted and irreverent and I curse a lot in it. But he had his first pain crisis actually in San Diego a year ago. I came here for a race, and he went into a pain crisis, and I felt the need to write about it because I had to get it out. It wasn't about anyone else. It was about for me. It wasn't resolved. But it was the most raw, personal and cathartic thing I had ever done. And I just want to thank you for sharing your story and giving me the confidence to share mine. I think that's what blogging is about. I'm not completely comfortable sharing all parts of my story, but I'm getting there, and this panel is helping me. So thank you.
>> MR. LADY: I don't know that you ever should be completely comfortable sharing every part of your story. If you give away everything, what do you have left? Keep some.
>> AUDIENCE: Hello. I'm Jessica Ashley from Yahoo Shane and the blog Sassafrass. I love all of you. Thank you so much. This is a topic my friend Charlene and I have been talking for the last day, about being mindful of your audience and still being vulnerable. I would love to hear what you have to say. I feel personally, my journey as a writer has opened up so much by being vulnerable, and those are my favorite posts and those are how people find me. Those are the ones I look back and I think, I'm really proud I wrote that. And then the first grade teacher says, oh, you are the blogger, and my dentist says, and I read your blog post. And all of a sudden when I'm about to be vulnerable, I'm remembering the P.T.A. and I'm remembering my ex husband's divorce attorney and I'm remembering my former mother in law and, shit! How do I write about them? So maybe you can talk a little bit about those people, obviously I have a huge audience, but those little people out there in the top of your head and how they creep in and change or don't change what you write about.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Anonymous strangers are easier, yes.
>> MR. LADY: I tell people in life as I meet them because my mother in law just found my blog a year ago and I found out two weeks ago that my mother reads my blog because I don't know if any of you know me, that's bad. I haven't seen my mother or spoken to her in 19 years and she found my blog. So now I'm officially out to everybody, but I tell people in real life as I meet them and they say you read my blog and I said, yes, you are never allowed to talk to me about it. I don't want to hear that you liked it, that you didn't like it. We are going to pretend this never happened, and that's worked, but I had to lay out a line. I had to say here is my line, don't cross it. I'm not going to stop writing this blog for you and I'm not going to change my story to make it what you want it to be. This is me. Sorry. I'm good with me.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: I'm the opposite. For me, as soon as I put something into writing and I put it into the world, I have let it go. So for me writing is really an act of letting go. It's really a, you know, and I think it's important to remember too that you have to be conscious constantly that when you are writing on a blog or whatever you want to call it I hate the word by the way, blog, blog, blog, it's really bizarre. But we are stuck with it, so whenever I'm writing a piece, it's not a journal entry. It's not like when I was 13 and I had the puffy journal with the Teddy bears on.
>> MR. LADY: Awesome.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: I'm conscious of audience and as soon as you put a word on a page, even if it's a digital page, you are asking for a reader. You may not know that you are, but you are. So for me, the process itself is about waiting and waiting for that urgency and feeling what is coming up, and I think it's important too, being vulnerable doesn't mean sharing the deepest darkest secrets of our lives. For me it's about being in the moment and sharing in the moment what feels urgent. It might be my standing at the kitchen counter shucking corn while my husband and daughter are out in the front yard and she is helping him wash the car for the first time, and there is sunlight falling through the trees, and it's a special moment so I need to put it into words. And as soon as I have, I let it go. So when people come up to me and say I read your blog, Gluten Free Girl is a separate person. I turn 45 tomorrow and I'm going to be a girl the rest of my life. I'm fine with that too. Yea middle age! For me it's a rigorous act of letting go, and it's a way of really fully living something that I have lived by writing about it. And then it's as though it's somebody else's story. I go back sometimes, people will remind me about old blog posts and I will say, that's right, I wrote that. It's gone and if somebody else wants to react to something else to something I have read and they have a different reaction, that's their reaction. As writers we have no control over how people react to us at all. That's very important to remember every single time you write a word.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: One more question in this segment.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, I'm A.J., my blog is called confessions of a fat girl. I write about what you just said struck a chord with me, I write about dating a lot, about accepting myself and how it interprets into dating. I do write about people in my life, but I give them nicknames to maintain their anonymity. I don't give a shit about mine, but my roommate brought home his girlfriend to meet me for the first time, and we were talking and it came out that I had a blog. And she went, oh, my God, are you confessions of a fat girl? And I said, yes. And she goes, so the roommate you write about is.
>> AUDIENCE: Oops! What do you say to that, right? So my roommate and I had to agree I don't write about my roommate anymore.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Did your roommate know you were writing about him?
>> AUDIENCE: Knew I had a blog and that I occasionally wrote about him and never anything mean, but he would leave dishes in the sink for several days and I would bitch about it or comment on some of his hygiene habits. I'm a single girl and I happen to live with a single guy. So it's a lot of humorous fodder for my blog. It just ends up that way. So I guess this really isn't a question, it's just I related to what you were talking. And also when I go on dates now, what I feel like I have to do is I kind of tell them up front, like I'm a blogger and if they make a mention, please don't write about me, I just don't or I try really hard not to until they blow it; and then as far as I'm concerned all of that's okay.
>> MR. LADY: That's fair really.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: You saved that girl so much time. She likes this guy, he is still in the first couple of months in the perfect stage where he is tidying his room to make sure he is dressed and then he will devolve into the crottin that he is. So it's better she knows it right away.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Shauna, let's turn to you. How do you think that blogging has led you to greater self acceptance? What role has it played in your trajectory?
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: Enormous. I wanted to be a writer from the time I was 2 years old. My 3 year old daughter asked me a question. And she said, mama, who wrote this book. And I get teary because that's the age in which I realized. Somebody writes a book and I want to be one of those somebodies. So for a long time, for me I think about the dichotomy of whether or not we are working to connect or to impress. For me they are opposites of each other the way fear and love are. So when I was trying to be a writer with a capital W in my early 20s, I was trying to impress. I'm mortified about the packet of terrible short stories I sent off to the New Yorker. Oh, they were so bad. They were unfortunate and my poems were worse, but I had to write all of those bad short stories. There is a saying and I think it's true that you have to do something for 10,000 hours before you will master it, so I had to write a lot of really bad short stories in order to become the writer that I am, but in terms of knowing your own story, it started when I was diagnosed with celiac in 2005.
And I had been a kid who all of my life had a lot of energy and excitement, and caught every cold that went through town. I had pneumonia five times before I was 25. I was always spraining wrists. I had ovarian cysts and fibroid tumors and kept thinking what's wrong with me. And so there would be this sense of shame of that too. People would say why is Shauna always sick, as if somehow I had done something wrong. So when I was diagnosed with celiac and I understood, I had the through line of my entire life, and I knew my story for the first time in my life and it was liberation. And knowing that story, I started to write for two reasons, one, I felt this incredible joy at finally feeling well for the first time in my life. Raise your hand if you got over something and you finally felt well. There is no happiness like it. If I get criticism on my blog, they will be like, oh, she is so damn happy all of the time. I am, thanks. Because I feel good finally. I was 38 years old before I was finally diagnosed and I had felt low level lousy all of my life without knowing why. And I didn't know I felt low level lousy because that was what my life was. When I was finally well, I had this immediate urge to write because that is what I did, but instead of writing for something or to be published and to become a writer with a capital W, I just started writing. And I wanted to share the joy and the discovery I had about these incredible foods and amaranth leaves and peaches broiled with brown butter, but I was also pissed off. I was really angry that I was 38 years old and no one had told me this was going on. That's where I started writing from. I also started writing because my dear friends to whom I was sending emails about this, about four of them sent me the same email without knowing it saying, you are a really good writer and we love hearing this, your emails are too long. I can't keep up with this. Can't you just put them somewhere? When I have time I will go read them. For me I tried to remember that. I also tried to remember that people started leaving comments, I thought who are these people, how did they find me. And then more people left comments and I got a site meter. I was so excited to find there were 56 people coming a day. Who are these 56 people a day? And then I realized that a third of them were men from the Middle East searching for free girl. I really don't think I was what they were looking for. Except, I will never forget there was one IP address from Iran and I assume it was a guy came back every day for seven days, and I thought either he likes my face, and yuck! Or he came to search for it and then he has celiac. He is like, wow, gluten free recipes, I will stick around. So all of this for me has arrived as a surprise. I could never have imagined I would be sitting here. I could never have imagined knowing these people. I could never have imagined the absolute joy for me of finally doing what it is I wanted to do all of my life. And instead of doing it to win accolades and have cookbook deals and have people tell me what a great writer I am is to have this community and the fact that every day I sit down to write, somebody in the world wants to hear it is still an astonishment. So for me it came from knowing my story and wanting to tell that story. And like I said, rigorously sticking with I don't know what my story is today.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: You have such a joy of it that you just love it so much and that comes through so clearly. How do you think about how to keep that joy and do what you want, but then also to have a proper sense of strategy and thinking about goals that you have identified for yourself or how to think about opportunities that might come up. How do you not become total opportunistic and driven by what other people want or what you think they want, but be mindful and be thinking, you know, how could I make the most of my opportunities? How can I think about it that way?
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: Being mindful for me is very much read. I'm a Buddhist. I have breathe tattooed on my arm. You have no idea how useful this is especially with toddlers. I have breathe tattooed on my wrist and with toddlers I can say what does mommy's tattoo say, remember, breathe. But for me it is very much in the moment. And I have to remind myself. I think it's great to have goals. It's absolutely wonderful to have an idea in line with your values. I feel very lucky that I write the web site with my husband so we keep each other in check and we are a team. But I also just have to rigorously keep myself open and surprised. So it comes down to I have, yes I'm like a walking tattoo, but both of these inform me. My first impulse is yes, and then I look at breathe, and say, yes, but is this the real yes. To what do you want to say yes? People joke, you need no on the other wrist, like I will walk around with no on my wrist. But the breathe reminds me to what are you saying yes. Are you saying yes because it's a quick fix and it will earn you money? Forget about it. Say yes to your values instead.
>> BRENE BROWN: That's huge.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Let's open it up for questions.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, I'm Dana from this year's designs by Dana. My question is kind of twofold. My blog can be very negative because I do a lot with special needs. And I kind of stopped blogging because I'm like it's so negative. And I always, I will put the negative, and there is positives as much as there is negative, I always find the positive. So I always back it up with the positive, but I always feel like every post is so negative. So I just stopped and I was like, okay, but now my therapy is gone. So where is the line of, like, I guess you worry are people thinking I'm positive all of the time, are people thinking I'm positive and then people get this persona about you and it comes back to self acceptance, where do you draw the line of how much is too much, I guess? I don't know. When it's negative, is that bad?
>> MR. LADY: No. No, especially as a special needs mother, no. Like you need that space.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: Why are you writing the blog?
>> AUDIENCE: Therapy.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: Then write whatever you dam well feel like. It's when we start thinking about what will other people think? Will this get me an audience? Will people turn me away? You are not writing it for that reason.
>> I don't have sponsors, I don't have anything. I don't care about that. That wasn't about what it was for me. I saw Julia and Julia and she was writing a post and a blog, and I'm like that's cool. So that's how it started.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: By the way, Julie Powell is the most consistently negative person I have ever encountered in my life. That's her shtick. It works for her. I see the tears in your eyes and I imagine, and tell me if I'm wrong, part of this is because you stopped yourself. You told yourself that you weren't good enough and you were aware of audience and you weren't pleasing those people and that's what we do as people.
>> AUDIENCE: I guess it draws the line of the family and I like what Shannon is saying. I would write a post and my mother in law would call me up and say what's wrong. I don't want that call. If you want to say something, comment, because I can't handle the face. That's why it went to the blog, because I don't have to deal with that. I don't have to get like this. And my other question is kind of when you do have a blog that is kind of negative, and it is very self acceptance, it's very out there, very vulnerable, I also run an online business, and I have the two together. And I'm being told by people that are in business and blog, oh, don't do that. I just feel like is there a line that I need to draw between the two things?
>> MR. LADY: I work on line. I write on line not blogging, my work is on line. I write internet marketing and SEO and stuff, and I don't mix church and state personally because my blog is so personal, really deep and personal, and it's negative a lot. Sometimes it feels really good to right, fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Shit! Send. It feels good and you need to do it. I do it a lot and I will come back later when I have resolved it and be like, okay, I got through that, I resolved that. But sometimes you need to just go, personally me, I'm deeply personal. I talk a lot about childhood abuse because I was really badly abused as a kid so I can't mix my work. I can't tell anybody I work with that I have a blog, but I have a pseudonym so it's easy for me. That's a personal call you have to make, I think.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Hello. I'm Australian. When I start talking everyone is like. My name is Eden and I blog at Eden Land. It's a personal blog about I have blogged about my father's suicide, my drug addiction, my alcoholism, my husband's cancer, my bad childhood, and I'm comfortable with that obviously, but I'm funny as well, you know, because you have to be. And I don't care what people think, and I tell myself like a mantra, especially when I do care. Like I don't care how people think. I care what my children think now, and my oldest son is about to turn ten this year and I'm sitting in this awesome session freaking. I do use my children's names on the internet, but I have to shine my truth in my life in such a way to keep walking forward through the hard shoes. He is going to know anyway. He is going to know who I am. So a part of me not being ashamed of who I am is being quite open with my children about who I am. So I wanted to ask some advice around more about what you said, BRENE, about your kids and stuff because I'm freaking out.
>> BRENE BROWN: It's funny that you ask that, because I'm working on a new book coming out next year with Penguin. It's a parenting book and like writing a parenting book is like issuing a mating call for the haters. But it's not a how to book. It's more about this really hard research finding that came out for me that really sparked a breakdown for me in my own life that was really about we can't give our children what we don't have, very controversial findings for me personally. I don't know that we can love our children more than we love ourselves. I don't know that we can teach our children to be more open and vulnerable than they see us being. So in many important ways I think that allowing our children to know our story at times and places where they have the intellectual and emotional ability to process it, you know, is really critically important, and it defines a generation. It really separates us from our parents. You know, I thought my parents were perfect. I thought my parents were, you know, the people from Greece. I thought my parents broke into dance that was choreographed in high school. But that wasn't the case. My parents both had really hard stories. It would have been helpful to see those stories being lived out growing up, not like find out about them as a social work graduate project when I was in my late 20s. And so I think letting our children know that we are vulnerable and imperfect and what their family stories are is counter intuitively how they become not defined by the hard stories that come down from their families. We have a better chance of becoming defined by tragic and sorrowful stories from our family history if we are not told them and they are not integrated into who we are being. And I think one thing that goes back to earlier questions, the biggest fear about sharing a story, and I'm thinking about this, Shannon, with what you have shared the biggest fear about sharing a story is that we will be reduced down to a single thing. I am a this. I am a survivor of this. And that’s a crushing weight that we are defined by a single story.
And I think the way to get around that is to make sure that we tell different multiple stories about ourselves and that we don't allow ourselves to be owned. No one sitting in here I'm a shame researcher. I have talked to thousands of people. No one sitting in here wants to be defined by the hardest thing that's ever happened to them, the hardest thing they have ever survived or the worst thing they have ever done. We are people of multiple stories, so to weave those into our lives and children's lives, it's important. But it's important to know when they have the neurobiology and emotional and cognitive ability to share that space.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: One more question and then we will do our lightning round of delivery of quick tips.
>> AUDIENCE: I'm Jory Fortman, real mom in the media. I'm shaking at the thought of this and I'm so glad I'm in a session. This is awesome. On air, I'm a radio, TV personality. I'm in Philadelphia, my life is an open book. It has 15 years been that way. So what I do on air reflects to what I do on line. And in the on air community, I didn't get backlash because it was just, you know, I got married and everything was just normal. But in the online community, I have been really, really hurt by emotionally by some of how the women that are in my community have, I guess how do I phrase this? I have been hurt by the way that they have taken things that I have done and perceived within each other and so my question is: How do you handle that? Do you respond to it? Or do you just keep pushing forward? Because it really hurts me. So it's always in my head. My husband is like you need to relax.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: They are really substantively different or is this driven by ugliness?
>> AUDIENCE: Ugliness.
>> MR. LADY: I cry is what I do.
>> BRENE BROWN: I cry too.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: I want to talk about this because I have consistently endured five years of nasty trolls, every single post I write.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Which is so weird if you look at her blog.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: I write a gluten free blog. What the hell! I'm little Miss Sunshine.
>> MR. LADY: It's the wheat industry. Don't tell her.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: It's because they are eating wheat and they are grumpy.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: I know exactly why people must hate your guts.
>> MR. LADY: Why?
>> BRENE BROWN: Because you are joyful.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: And I have endured a lot of shit and I love it still.
>> BRENE BROWN: Yes, who do you think you are?
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: And I write a cookbook and I'm not a size 4. Thank you.
>> BRENE BROWN: When I cried the hardest, the first person I emailed, and I didn't know her well, but I had heard through the blogging grapevine that she had a lot of haters, so I had a really hard thing happen that was, crossed the line between hateful and threatening, and you were the first person I emailed.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: Just sort of like how do you deal with this?
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: How I deal with it is I cry. I used to cry a lot more. Now, I try to think about the life that person must lead. So the life of someone who is probably listening right now, it may be in this room for right now, but certainly is tuning into every single thing I say on Twitter. The blog post of everything I write, uses everything I use on Twitter, not just looks at conversations but goes to my Twitter feed page and then write a blog dedicated to mocking it for a post for every post I write, has multiple Twitter feeds to hating everything I do, making fun of everything I do, including one that was in my 10 month old daughter's voice before her skull surgery, making fun of the shape of her head. And for awhile I thought I'm done. I hid every picture of Lucy. I was determined not to write about her. I was just going to write a gluten free bread recipe, here is the flours you use and then here is your bread. And about three minutes later I thought, fuck that!
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: The online world is incredibly cruel sometimes and it's because of the anonymity. People would not sit in your living room and tell you these things. They might think it, but they wouldn't have the guts. So what they are going to do is also on top of it to reduce it to something bizarre, my husband and I love South Park and there is one episode where the boys play this online game, and there is this image of this guy who is enormous and he has tortilla chips down his chest and he is playing for 18 hours, that's my troll. That's my person. They don't have anything better to do. How small and sad does your life have to be for you to spend time on line finding people to write shit about?
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: So it's a chance to toughen up your skin and realize you are in public and it's going to happen, but it's also a chance to practice compassion. And I think honestly the best thing I can do for the trolls and if you are reading, I do feel sorry for you. I'm sorry that your life is so small and sad, but I'm not going to stop saying my story.
>> BRENE BROWN: It's really, I do, I think it's you know, I see your emotion in your question, and so what I hope you heard really is that even though I think we have all been through it a lot, I still can cry. I still you know, one of the things that, again, I think I learned from the research that has made it very difficult for me as a writer and a blogger is that when you don't give a shit at all what people think, you absolutely lose your capacity for connection. When you become defined by what people think, you lose your willingness to be vulnerable. And so to be out there in the public is like walking a tight rope and you have to be really clear about whose opinions matter and whose don't. Because you can't operate from a place where I don't care, because if you don't care, you are not connected. And so it's a risky, it's a risky walk every time you put something out there. You know, but in this culture where everyone feels like their back is against the wall and there is a knife to their throat because they are imperfect and vulnerable and uncertain, it's so easy to be mean. It's chicken shit, but it's easy. I could tear everyone down in five seconds or less in here. Say one thing. You could do the same to us. Easy. And so I think when you are taking a risk and putting your work out there, it's that Theodore Roosevelt quote. The man in the arena. And also Scott Statton's quote, it is one of the best quotes I have heard in my life, and I'm a quote junky. At unmarketting, but he has a quote that really because there is humor really saves me and it's above my laptop when I write. It says don't try to win over the haters. You are not the jackass whisperer. And so now when I'm spending 14 hours trying to hack into Amazon to get the back IP address of someone who left a crappy review.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: I didn't know you could do that.
>> BRENE BROWN: Like I'm a coder and I don't even do html. My husband will walk by and go e u.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: It's also helpful to go to Amazon book reviews. There is one for Crime and Punishment. This is so boring. Or there is one for the Diary of Anne Frank, it was like this book was so boring I wanted to kill myself. Like oh.
>> BRENE BROWN: Sweet and safe, after I had kind of a little meanness streak, I decided to go sweet and safe on my blog so I posted a picture of Charlie that was four. And I told this story about I came home and he had a baby sitter named Rita and when I came home he said I gave all of my pennies to Rita. And I said why. He said she lives in Haiti. And I said Rita lives here, Sweety. She lives in Haiti because he was doing a drive at school. And I said, baby, I promise you, Rita lives right here in Houston. She lives right down I 10 in Katey. I'm like, Katey, which is a suburb of Houston. So I wrote that funny story, and the first response, it's even on my blog right now, said I feel sorry for Charlie, I feel sorry for the family, I feel sorry for him being raised in a family like yours where you have taught him that other people's sorrows are his responsibility at a young age and it went on and on ,and it was signed president Boston Area Ann Ran Club. So I was just like it was a great wink from God for me that, like, don't go sweet and soft on us because you think that's going to get things easier.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: We are almost out of time. I love quick tips for blogging. So everybody has gotten three quick tips they are going to share and that will be the last thing. Slightly off topic.
>> MR. LADY: I'm working.
>> SHAUNA JAMES AHERN: Get off line as much as you can. This is a beautiful community, almost all of my best friends are people I have met through blogs. It cracks me up when I go to dinner with people who don't have Twitter handles. I can't put you in. And I love them. If you spend too much time on line, you will start to think this is real. So I take every Saturday and Sunday off from Twitter and Facebook and any social media. I have set hours in which I will work. I have tried to quit my, you know, looking at Twitter one more time before I go to sleep. That one is done too. Get off line as much as you can. Say yes to it. I have yes tattooed on my wrist. Say yes to it. If you are doing this, do it completely. Yes, there are going to be haters. There are going to be moments when your mother is reading your blog. There will be moments when you cringe. Say yes to every single part of it. You are alive. That's why we write. There was a story that moved me the other day from a woman who has a blog and she has a strained relationship with her mom. She hasn't seen her mom in 20 years and they never talked and her mom died last weekend and she intended to go see her mom one more time before she died and didn't get to see her. And she got this bright yellow envelope and inside was in her mother's handwriting is you know the person who comments on your blog, that's been me. I have been reading your life all of this time. And I want you to know that I love you. So like the immediacy of somebody said something mean to me or I said the wrong thing, it's amazing how people have invited us into their homes. They want to read our stories. They want to make our food. They want to hear what we have to say. It is such an incredible gift. So say yes to it. And I think the third thing there if you are writing from that place to create community, to make connections, to be of service. It is a completely different experience than if you are trying to write with SEO words because it will get you bigger hits and on the home page. That's all about goal, goal, goal, and that's all about perfection and that's about you being better than you think you are right now. So instead do it for the love of the work itself.
>> BRENE BROWN: I tied all three of mine into a quote that I share with my graduate students every year. It's Howard Thurman and it is don't ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and go do it, because what the world needs is more of us who have come alive. So I think all three of mine are in there. Don't ask what the readers need. Don't ask whether will get you the most hits. Figure out what makes you come alive, write about it and do it because what the world really needs is to connect with more people who feel alive. That's it.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: That puts it all together.
>> MR. LADY: Okay. I would say that the biggest thing I learned, so my favorite tip is to remember that people don't read your blog for your neighbor or your husband or your children or your dogs. They read your blog for you. So when you write your stories, bring them back to you. And that actually makes it a lot easier to decide what you say about who and when you say it. I do that a lot. If I can't tell a story about my child that doesn't come back to me in the end, then I probably shouldn't be telling that story. He should be. I always come back to myself. That's a little bit of knowing your audience and a little bit of knowing why you write a blog. I'm supposed to have three tips, but I don't have three tips. That would be mine.
>> GRETCHEN RUBIN: That's a great last comment because when we were talking about this before, we were saying really the critical question in the end is what do you want from your blog, and once you know what you want and what you want to get out of it, and where you are going and how you want to connect with people, then a lot of questions like should you use the real names of your children kind of fall into line more easily and once you have the clarity of vision, then a lot of details become clear too. Thank you all so much. You can rate the panel on your mobile app. Ironically, last comment, but thanks so much. This was so fun. I feel like I want to just sit here and ply you guys with questions all day long. But great talk.

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