We’re at number nine in our weekly series that focuses on ways to make blogging (and other things) seem a little less intimidating.
(If you don’t blog and don’t plan to, you can use this “working-on-your-stucknesses” approach for whatever else that’s feeling a bit scary.)
The other posts in the series, just so you have them. No pressure!
Part 1. What if people are mean to me?
Part 2. What if I throw a party and no one shows up?
Part 3. Why even bother when there are already other people doing it better?
Part 4. What do I saaaaaaaaaaaaaaay?
Part 5. Help! Perfectionism! Gaaaaak!
Part 6. But I’m not an EXPERT!
Part 7. Don’t make me be vulnerable!
Part 8. I just don’t have the time!
Whoah. Change of plans!
Yes, we were planning on talking today about “how to get in the zone”.
We’re going to postpone that for a while. Turns out I was way jumping the gun, as evidenced by all the email I’ve been getting listing all sorts of additional reasons for not even getting started.
So before “getting in the zone” even becomes an issue, I want to give some more attention to some of the things that are keeping us from being able to put something out there to the world.
Or whatever, not even necessarily to the world — maybe only to a few people. This particular fear is in direct opposition to what if I throw a party and no one shows up.
And this fear says that it could be dangerous for people to read what we write. That we need to stay hidden to stay safe.
Scary, right? And if this is your fear, this is what’s true for you right now. So we want to give that some love.
What we’re going to do is look at two different people who are dealing with this “Agh! Don’t look at me!” thing, and see what we might be able to do with it.
Two people. At least two different fears.
Issue #1: Fear of being found (anonymity and how to keep it).
This issue probably isn’t that surprising, especially given yesterday’s post about writing, healing and abuse.
A lot of us have stuff to say — stuff to put out there — and we know that reading it might help other people. But we may also have very good reasons for not wanting to be found out.
Like this person who wrote to me a couple of weeks ago:
“I am so terrified of losing my anonymity that I have to give myself a pep talk before I post. If I do post.
I’m a recovering addict who relapsed last year, and in the process of re-recovering I started dating another addict whose recovery is a little more unstable than my own. And only a couple people know I relapsed in the first place.
And other privacy issues that I won’t get into here. I don’t know if I’m supposed to get over my issues, or if I’m supposed to do extra stuff to secure my anonymity in blogland. If you have time, you can be the 2nd person on planet earth to see my blog, but please don’t share it.
Okay, I did read this person’s blog. And I thought it was terrific. Poignant and powerful.
I also think a lot of people might really identify with it or find it reassuring to know that they’re not alone. Or just appreciate the perspective.
At the same time, I get that you would be feeling vulnerable and anxious at the thought that someone could find this, and what the possible repercussions might be.
Obviously the technical stuff is not really my area.
I mean, yes, you could password protect your blog.
You can also make sure when you register your domain that you’ve paid extra to have a hidden or secure WHOIS set-up so that people can’t find out who you are.
More than that, I don’t really know what to do to secure anonymity. I’d ask someone like Nathan Bowers. Heck, even the Google Gods. They can tell you way more about this stuff than I ever could.
My thoughts …
The fact that you’re asking me though … that suggests to me that your question isn’t really a technical one at all, and that it’s probably more about the fear.
Not so much the fear of being discovered as the disconnect between the part of you that wants people to read this, and the part of you that is afraid of being judged or pushed away.
You want people to read it because it could be useful for them in so many ways. And because these other people are a reminder that you’re not alone in your pain.
It’s about connection. And intimacy. And fear.
It’s always about fear. Anonymity, specifically, is about the deep need that we all have to feel safe. Hiding is one of the ways we create that sense of safety.
Blogging about the process of learning about your fears and meeting your fears — even under complete anonymity — is a strong way to explore coming out of that hiding and creating something new.
I don’t mean to imply that hiding isn’t legitimate. There are times when hibernating and cocoon-ing away from the world is absolutely part of what you need to do to take care of yourself. It’s part of the healing process (insert your own less cheesy phrase here) and all that.
But hiding isn’t the only way.
I’d say more about that, but the next example kind of makes my point for me. This one is more about the fear but still kind of about the anonymity thing.
Issue #2: Fear of being seen (protection)
A woman named Rachael wrote this in the comments recently:
“… Fears: 1) that a current or future employer discovers my blog and it hurts my career and/or 2) some creep engages in cyberstalking or otherwise invades my privacy through the information I put in a blog because I was too vulnerable.
I’m not talking about someone who makes insensitive comments, but more than that. Now, as I write this, I see how silly it is to let these fears stop me. But I thought I’d bring up for the sake of discussion, nonetheless.”
Yes. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is something that every blogger deals with, at least at the beginning.
When I launched this website three years ago, I was scared of everything. Scared to put up a picture or a phone number on the site or a gazillion other things.
Also, I apologized profusely (and to anyone who would listen) for being a corporate whore and a pathetic sell-out who was disgusting enough to have a website. Oh, it was charming being around me.
So yes, this is normal.
My suggestions …
Go ahead and take whatever precautions you need to help yourself feel safe, and then — from within that safe place — you might feel better about experimenting a little. Just see how it feels.
See what it’s like to build a community of friends and people who care about you, and maybe your safety level will change. In fact, your perception of comfort may change, as you begin to recognize the support systems you’re building.
But whether one person or a thousand are reading your words, this is really all about you creating space for yourself. The blog is a way for you to build that container where this work happens.
So each post — whoever the audience — is an exercise.
You build a small, safe place for yourself to feel loved and supported, and then you work on gradually expanding the walls. That’s what all self-work is about anyway, when you get right down to it, right?
You’re applying gentle, conscious pressure to those walls to see what it will feel like if you move them a couple inches.
If it’s too much, you’ll retreat again. You’ll delete a post or two. You’ll regroup. You’ll check in.
And then you’ll try again.
But the question is not “How much can I push?”. Because we’re not trying to drag you out of your comfort zone or anything. Heaven forbid.
The question is this:
How can I get better at creating a safe, comfortable, supportive space for myself? How can I help myself feel safe while still making room for creative self-expression and stuff like that?
And as you practice this whole “hi, this is me being a real live human being” thing, you’ll get better at figuring out what helps you feel safe as opposed to what challenges that sense of safety.
One more point.
Something else that really helps with this whole “feeling safe and getting comfortable” thing: readers.
If you write like yourself you will inevitably attract people who get it.*
*And if you don’t attract people who get it, you’re not spending enough time on Twitter!
Look at Amy’s blog. Look at Steph’s blog.
The people who hang out there are, for the most part, reflecting back the personal style of the writers. These blogs are cozy, comfortable places to be.
Or this blog. It tends to speak to people who are sweet, thoughtful and insightful with some bonus eccentric goofball qualities. Oh, and more specifically, people like that who are interested in working on their stuff.
Also, they like to read. 🙂
So if you’re out there, actively practicing being yourself — and letting yourself feel safe and supported while doing so — you’re going to end up with some great people cheering you on.
As for potential employers … well, I’ll let Andy Wibbels’ short and elegant post entitled Bastard speak to that one.
Let’s stop here.
It really is about practicing. So go at your own speed. Take your time. Remember that blogging is really just therapy that you don’t have to pay for.
And find ways to make it a little playful.
If the only thing that comes out of this is that you decide you want to work on feeling safe and supported in various parts of your life, then yay. The blogging can wait.
If you’ve got non-blogging ways try to help yourself feel safe and supported so that you can work on your stuff, rock on. It’s not the method — it’s the patterns that are important.
Next week: more blogging therapy.
Havi (and Selma), Blogging Therapy leaves all the old-codger-therapies in its very elegant dust. 🙂 It’s a Movement . . . no, a Phenomenon . . . uhhh . . . some word that denotes down-to-earth and heart-filled and radiant and playful and profoundly healing, all at once.
Lovely to gather around your warm fire and hear tales of wisdom from you and Ms Duck.
Hiro Bogas last blog post..Happy Thanksgiving, Baby
Oh yes, this is some blogging therapy that’s right up my alley. I’m a bisexual lesbian polyamorous transsexual unschooler pagan, and to top it all off, Kyeli and I have an 11-year-old son. And to top off the top-off, we live in TEXAS. So in addition to the fears of criticism, hate mail, creeps, and just generally feeling unsafe and uncomfortable, we’ve also got the fear of CPS banging down our door and trying to take our son away.
But we’ve worked out some safeguards and worst-case scenarios, and we’re working through our fears. And we’re blogging anyway. Openly and out of the closet. ALL the closets.
And it’s okay. Nothing bad has happened. There have been a few uncomfortable situations, but we’ve worked through them.
And as for potential employers, along the lines of “Bastard”, here’s an XKCD comic that helps me overcome my fear of putting myself out there: http://xkcd.com/137/
So I want to put myself out here to show that you can be a blogger and a freak (of various different flavors) and that it can be okay. Not just okay, but amazing! The support and acceptance I’ve experienced from some lovely bloggers I’ve met (winks at Havi) has touched me deeply.
If anyone else relates to what I’m talking about, I want to let you know that it’s possible to get through the fear and to put yourself out there anyway, and that it can be okay. (Or even awesome!) It may not be easy, but it’s definitely possible. And for what it’s worth, Kyeli and I are here for you.
Paces last blog post..We’re giving away the e-book and audio book for free!
I would also say that although some people’s blogs are related to their business and thus they have to be kind of not anonymous, some people just blog and then you can do that more anonymously and have a community of folks that are like you and also blogging. Which is cool. So, through blogging, I actually know other unschooling parents in Austin, Texas (check out Redneck Mother, if you haven’t already, Pace). And I also know that a lot of homeschooling bloggers remain a bit anonymous because of their kids not themselves sometimes at the request of their kids (if those kids are older).
I used to worry that my business clients would find my blog, which is about knitting and homeschooling mostly. I thought I’d made it so that wouldn’t happen but then one client contacted me through the e-mail connected to that blog. And she hired me. And she thought that being a knitter indicated a whole bunch of things that probably made me good at the (completely different) thing I do for work. She isn’t even a knitter and she gets it. And that REALLY helped.
It looks like I might have a business blog in the new year. My fears about that are totally different.
JoVEs last blog post..Suggestions please…
This is one I can’t relate with. I really want to be discovered and become popular. But it’s not for the fame. I don’t care about fame. What I really want — and it’s intimidating to reveal this and risk being vulnerable — is so much money that it makes Jesus cry.
On a side note, having realized that I associate mainly with straight white males, I keep trying to collect different types of acquaintances. So far, I’ve collected some black, Mexican, Portuguese, and gay friends. It’s cool to realize that finally… FINALLY… I know a bisexual lesbian polyamorous transsexual unschooler pagan.
(Can you be bisexual and lesbian? I thought bisexual covered the gamut.)
Johnny Truants last blog post..Unfortunately, pants
Another fabulous post, Havi. I love this series.
I completely relate to these fears. I’ve had them, and they recur in small doses from time to time still. I’ve got several unmarked blogs out there filled with content that I didn’t feel safe attaching to my name. What is someone found out I believed X or called me a Y? What if that someone was a client or a potential client? I learned to compartmentalize myself (as best I could) to protect myself from all sorts of real but mostly imagined threats.
It has taken me some time and some serious hard work to break down the walls I created to feel safe. I was motivated to do this work because I began feeling trapped in a prison of my own making. I just wanted to be ME in all of my unruly, unorthodox ways. I wanted to “announce my presence with authority” to quote Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh in Bull Durham.
If only I could have read this post years ago when I was shivering in my fears and starting to place large orders for cinder blocks to construct my prison walls, I would have avoided most of my jail time. I hope others lucky enough to read this today are spared from their own actions motivated by fears through your wise words and their wise realization that they need to pay attention to your wise words.
Charlene Kingstons last blog post..Twitter For Beginners: The Basics (Part 1)
Havi & Sockless Selma, you guys rock! http://xkcd.com/137/ rocks (thanks Pace!). I think it’s possible to have a little of both the what-if-i-throw-a-party-and-no-one-shows-up fear (as in, your right peeps) AND the what-if-someone-sees-me fear (your wrong peeps), but I am grateful to see them increasingly turn to swiss cheese. Thank you!
Another kick ass ( but in the nicest way) blogging therapy post! I agree with Hiro that you are onto something here that is a badly needed innovation not only in the world of therapy but also blogging! Yes, safety for bloggers everywhere. I love your idea about starting to cultivate a small group of fans and supporters and compadres who just adore you to pieces and allow you to feel safe enough to take risks that are comfortable to you.
We are all so afraid to be who we really are and we all come by that fear honestly. And it’s just way too overwhelming to throw ourselves into the big, wide world by revealing who we are without some sense of support and love. No wonder people get paralyzed and just don’t want to do it! That is a totally sane response!!!
But being invited and coaxed and cheered into the world by a friendly community of your favorite folks. Now, that sounds like a heap of fun!!!
Have I told you yet today that you rock?
chris zydels last blog post..PAIN FREE CREATIVITY: YOU DON’T REALLY NEED TO SUFFER FOR YOUR ART
The thing I used to tell my students when I taught high school theater was this: you’ve begun to do it right when you feel like someone is going to make fun (or be angry or whatever). I know that’s true of being on stage. I believe it’s true of everything else, too.
They probably won’t make fun or whatever, but if they do, it’s almost always because your power in putting yourself out there frightens them. Let them be frightened. Beyond that, let them be inspired by your courage, yeah? We could all stand being a little braver, don’t you think?
Justins last blog post..Life is Improv: The Meaning of Life
To anonymous, I send you hugs, and comfort and love.
@Havi I LOVE these blogging therapy posts. I just started, but reading these for the past weeks, (and re-reading them often) have really helped me in my little fledgling blog. I hear you in my head, and Selma too (isn’t that a little frightening?) and it makes it easier to keep typing, using the delete key and yes, pushing that publish key.
Each of the issues you have tackled so far is something I find myself feeling or thinking each morning as I sit down to write. It’s like you are sitting next to me with that smile, telling me I’m fabulous and since I work all by my lonesome in my house, hearing voices is a good thing.
To repeat all the abundant love above, Thank you!!
Thank you for mentioning me, and in such a positive light. 🙂 The way you described my blog, and me, makes me very happy. The way I see it, if I can’t be true, then no one who reads my blog will benefit. Nor will I, for that matter. In that case, it would be an utter waste of time and brain power!
I have tons of fears, but not about blogging, oddly enough. Blogging is where I get to be myself, get to talk about my fears, to work them out, talk to them, about them, and then let others in to share their perspective as well.
I haven’t been able to blog for a while now, and I miss it. It’s one of my favourite places, because while I do have readers, many of whom have even become friends, there’s still a sense for me of total freedom. I can let myself go and say exactly what I feel or think.
stephs last blog post..Worker Bee
I am definately the what if no one shows up fear. Not because I want to be famous, not because I want to make money, but because (stepping out of the comfort zone) I’m lonely.
Melissas last blog post..Happy Birthday, New Self.
Worrying about people reading me? Ha! I’m such an exhibitionist, I could never have too many people reading me.
I might be an introvert when it comes to one-on-one interactions but me up on a stage performing? The bigger the crowd the better!
(Ain’t self-awareness great? 😉 )
Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..Success Comes from Slow Change: Leo Babauta Interview
I just wanted to say I’ve been reading for awhile now, and lovin’ all your posts. I can relate to being afraid of being found out. I had a blog that was very much therapy-for-free, talking about an extremely personal topic, and I found out that someone found the blog who I didn’t want to find it. In this case, it wasn’t because they found me through the blog world, but they had used my computer and found the link. In other words, my own stupidity.
Still, it stopped me from blogging on that blog. I abandoned it, and all my readers, b/c I couldn’t deal with the fear. This post, though, is making me think about starting that blog up again, maybe with a different link, or maybe with a “screw you, don’t read my blog” post.
However, I’m not sure. And I can totally relate to the fear. To those readers who wrote to Chavi about the whole fear thing — I hear you! And I’ve been there! But for those years when I *did* blog at this secret blog, I got email from people who I helped, who felt less alone reading my words. If you can get past the fear, just know it will make a difference for people out there.
Rachels last blog post..Show and Tell: The Acacia Tree
I’m just going back through your posts on blogging and I have to say this is about the most helpful thing I’ve ever read on the internet. It’s not so much the blogging – I kept an online diary for six years in a space where I could control who saw it (I’m quite a private person – but the whole writing thing.
I’m 30 years old, and in the past five years I’ve written 17 books. Not little books, huge books. Fiction books. I used to talk about them with people, shared some of the writing in a safe space, but what’s really held me back from taking any of it forward in an official way is the utter terror of being seen and having people read what for me is the most precious thing in the whole universe. “What if they think it’s rubbish?” I think over and over.
As a consequence, friends have pushed me to submit to publishers, and other friends take over the whole operation themselves. I’ve come extremely close twice with big publishers, but I’m always secretly relieved that nothing comes of it. It’s been my dream since I was, well, born, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else (I’m no good at anything else!) but the fear has been too much for me to cope with. Every submission tangles me up so I can’t write a decent synopsis or get anywhere. I have a friend who produces the first book as a podcast for me and I get terrified every time a new person even shows up on the site.
I’m using this as a confessional space, I guess, because in a way it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one. In a world where I’m constantly bombarded with people trying to sell me tools for selling me, it’s good to know it’s not just me who feels this fear.
Reading these posts on blogging has also helped me with my public blog, and opening up about sharing the journey I’m on right now.
Just wanted to say all that to say thank you really. Long-winded, but then that’s what I do.
Joely Blacks last blog post..Amnar Podcast – Amnar Special Edition 2
Seriously, blogging therapy is good for my soul too. And it’s so great to see people (gently) pushing on their own walls too.
@Dana – I love where you’ve been taking your blog. It’s amazing how in just a week or so the whole space has kind of blossomed into this really fun, kinda goofy safe place. Really beautiful.
@Charlene – Bull Durham! One of my favorites. And yeah, that’s a really powerful description of what it’s like, to build prisons, recognize them, tear them down and create new, comfortable cozy spaces in their place.
I find all of this very reassuring. Especially that you’re all with me in this screwy process. Writing, thinking about writing, wondering which parts of our patterns are keeping us from ourselves. The safety thing is a big deal.
You’re all giving me good stuff to read too — appreciated.