Finding the Line: When Life Gives You Lemons, Blog About Lemonade
An online friend of mine started a new blog a few months ago and shot me a link to one of her posts, asking for my opinion. I dutifully pulled the page up and gave it a read.
Oh, boy. This girl hates her ex-husband. A lot. A whole, awful lot. And I get that, I really do. My ex isn't always my favorite person, either. That's why he's my ex, right? I clicked over expecting a blog post about being a single mom or dating after divorce or maybe even coping with divorce and co-parenting. What I got was a long diatribe about how her ex showed up late to get the kids and refused to buy her son a new backpack.
One of the hardest parts about being a blogger is finding where you draw the line between venting and sharing. We all use our blogs in a cathartic way. It's the nature of who we are and what we do. Bloggers tell their story, and sometimes, your story is about the people who piss you off, or the people who hurt you, or the people who've taken advantage of you. How do we address that without crossing the line into self-indulgence?
Here are a few pointers that I've found helpful:
- Take out a LOT of the personal drama and embrace a wider theme - Yes, your husband left you and he's a dirty rat and his girlfriend is a whore. We don't need to know that. We need to know that you're afraid you'll never stop being angry, that you worry for your kids, that you secretly hate yourself because you still love him, or maybe just the memory of him. That we can relate to. Don't make us spectators to your drama. Use personal stories anecdotally to illustrate a point about something that affects us all. Find the message behind that anger and hurt, and let us feel it with you.
- Don't beat a dead horse - How many times have you repeated the same point? If the answer is "More than twice, and the second time was not a recap near the end reiterating what I've learned from this," then you're probably overdoing.
- Think before you blog - Can it get you in trouble? Are you saying things that can be termed libelous? Or disrupt another person's life in a hurtful way? It might feel good to use your platform to strike out at them, but it can come back to bite you in the ass. It also makes you look mean and petty and out of control – characteristics that aren't helpful when you're trying to build an audience.
- Ask yourself "What Did I Learn Here?" – It's OK to tell us about your horrible, no good, very bad day, but how do you turn it around? How do you make it something we can sink our teeth into? If every appliance in your house broke down at the same time and the dog ate an entire pack of PEZ and is vomiting little pink bricks all over your carpet, you have my sympathy. If you tell me that all this broken down stuff is just a perfect analogy for how you feel about your life in general right now, you have my interest. If you tell me that you're on a quest to fix what's broken – literally and figuratively and like the rest of PEZ that didn't end up on your carpet, this too shall pass… well, now you've won me over.
- Don't be afraid to admit something – What painful or hopeful or enlightening truths can you tell us about yourself? Instead of telling us all that's wrong or pissing you off, tell us what your reaction to it reveals about you.
There's a fine line between commentary and vitriol. Make sure your posts stay on the right side of the boundary and you'll not only entertain and enlighten, but I guarantee you'll learn a lot more about yourself in the process.