I started my first blog back in 2007, when almost nobody knew what the word meant. I was drained and hungry, just waking up from that physical, all-consuming fog of early parenthood. I’d also discovered freelance writing the year before (after ten years of advertising sales) and had been instantly, utterly all-in. It was the first time my professional world made complete sense to me and I was a happy little workhorse, insatiable and obsessed. I’d already made a Contributing Writer place for myself on the Madison Magazine masthead and my editor, Brennan Nardi, was repeatedly asking me why I wasn’t trying my hand at this new blogging thing yet. That’s how OkayFineDammit.com was born; a tongue-in-cheek response to her. But it quickly became so much more.
As much as I love and adore my children, those beginning parenting years were very isolating for me, especially because I lived in a rural area at the time. “Mommy Blogger” was not yet a condescending stereotype and the network of mothers I found through my laptop was comforting, supportive, and somehow intimate, despite the vast geographical distance between us. We read each other’s posts and commented religiously, forging friendships I still have to this day, in some cases. At the same time, I got to practice writing for an audience, learning through trial and error what worked and what didn’t. It gave me the creative outlet I craved while covering town board meetings for the local newspaper or Best Burgers/Workplaces/YouNameIt for the city magazine. Even though I only ever blogged anonymously, I felt like online I could just be myself, and I liked it. Until I didn’t.
Eventually, it became too much for someone like me—an introvert, like so many other writers. The larger my online audience became, the more exposed and vulnerable I felt. Many, many good things came from my blogging years—I was published in an anthology, signed on for a nonfiction book idea with a New York City literary agent, performed in the inaugural Listen to Your Mother show, and created a national platform for abuse survivors—but when my personal life began to unravel in 2010, I pulled the plug on blogging entirely. If I’d known how to do it then, I would have wiped my entire online existence from the Internet completely.
Six years later, I’m only just beginning to dip my toe in essay-style writing in my published work. With the exception of a 2009 piece that detailed my elective eye surgery (featuring my awesome bespectacled fifth grade school portrait), I’m pretty sure my upcoming profile of John Gottman for the Summer 2016 edition of On Wisconsin Magazine marks the first time I’ve shared any real personal anecdotes from my life. I still go by my middle name on Facebook. I only just yesterday unlocked my private Instagram feed. When my friend Matt Nelson helped me set up this beautiful new website, he created a blog feed for me without asking, and certainly without knowing the history. I don’t yet know if or how I will use the blogging feature, but I couldn’t resist the blinking cursor this morning. Although I have no intention of going back to those tell-all days of personal blogging, something about this space feels like home.
For every article I publish, there’s so much that doesn’t make it into print. And for each piece that does, there are a half dozen other projects I work on, or experiences I have, that never show up publicly anywhere. For now, I intend to use this space as a catch-all for those sorts of things. I have friends who use newsletter email services to deliver blog style writing, both on their thoughts and with links to their recent work; I could see using this space for something similar.
As the online world continues to evolve and media continues to mix, I’ll continue to watch with equal parts reluctance and interest. These days, to my surprise, interest is tipping the scales just a bit more.