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.

Tomorrow: goofiness.
Next week: more blogging therapy.

The Fluent Self