Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I must not be an #AmericanBlogger

Apparently some documentary filmmaker is releasing a movie about what he has deemed and titled, the American Blogger. The very pretentious trailer shows several magnificently beautiful people in magnificently beautiful places and spaces talking about how they communicate their love of all things (mostly fashion, their equally beautiful children and throw pillows from what I can tell) to the masses through this platform of blogging.

American Blogger Official Trailer from Chris Wiegand on Vimeo.

He claims that they, these women he profiled who almost all look almost identical, are supposed to represent this universe of bloggers, that the film is giving insight into this platform that will change the world. While I'm absolutely certain that he is right for a small percentage of the bloggers out there, namely the ones like his wife, he is missing so much more.

Like men, for instance. I'll get to that in a minute.

First, I must tell you that any trailer that talks about how gorgeous the cinematography of a film is makes me a little nauseous. It could just be the fact that I actually took classes in the USC Cinema School back when I was in college. Statements like that one could literally launch a thousand lectures about the intractable egos of directors.

I wanted to talk a little bit about what being a blogger really is, at least from this world that I dwell in now, one that happens to include a fairly large circle of other bloggers.

P.S. not all of us refer to ourselves as bloggers.

Some of us, myself included, consider ourselves to be writers that happen to utilize the blogging platform as one type of media. I am published in actual books. I am working on writing more actual books. I've been published in scholarly journals before, back when I lived in the world of academia. I've had posts picked up by several other websites as well, and I have been a contributing writer to two collaborative sites. My writing exists in far more places than this blog you are reading here.

Over the years I have developed relationships, friendships, kinships and in some cases deep spiritual connections with these people like me, these bloggers. He seeks to categorize us, seeming to want to proclaim that most of the bloggers are just like the ones he films, but I can honestly tell you that I don't know too many out there who are like the women profiled.

Are there some? Women who lounge in hammocks with fedoras and write about fashion and crafts and how connected they are to their children? I'm sure there must be for the simple fact that he found several of them.

When I first started blogging, I followed a few of those blogs. The ones beautifully photographed with fancy recipes and DIY projects and scarves. Lots of scarves these blogs have.

Which is fine, honestly. Truly, I don't mean to diminish the contributions of those blogs in the least. They see a need, fill a need.

The advent of Pinterest has transformed this social media universe into one that is far more visual and highly conducive to lifestyle and fashion blogs. My Pinterest page, on the other hand, is full of wildly inappropriate jokes, pictures of Norman Reedus and geeky things.

I don't do niches. Honestly, most of the writers I know don't either.

I have formed these relationships I speak of with almost as many male writers as female ones. They are somehow missing from the documentary entirely, as though men don't write at all. Men do write, they write a lot, and they lend a different voice, a different perspective, a different experience to almost every topic out there. I'd definitely make the argument that some of their most important contributions of the blogging world are in the areas of relationships, marriage and family for the exact reason that our world needs to hear their voices in these areas more than any other. In this film, they don't even exist.

I have come to know writers who focus on social justice issues almost entirely. They are some of the most intelligent writers I've had the pleasure of knowing. They don't write about scarves and hammocks, they write about food stamps and privilege.

I know writers who have documented the journey of their child through cancer. Their photographic essays are a bit different than the ones in this trailer.

I know writers who focus on health and spirituality, others who have carved out a comedic voice, still others who explore grief and loss. I know motivational writers, I know musicians, I know artists. I know natural birth advocates and crafters, I know gamers and fiction writers.

None of them is very much like any of the rest, so how could we ever be grouped together at all?

Some bloggers focus almost exclusively on writing about parenting or their children or the specific challenges that their family faces. My blog started out that way, as a chronicle of the things that happened around here in a format that family and friends far away could keep up with.

It didn't stay that way for very long, though.

I hardly ever write about my kids these days and the posts I write about parenting are just different now.

As my writing has evolved and my children have aged, I have realized that my responsibility to protect them has to be paramount to whatever else I do. I have to be a mother first, a writer second. It's a moral imperative. I have to be conscious of the effect that the words I write might have on them someday. I have to honor their individuality, their privacy, their personal space.

I'm not going to sacrifice any of that for a few views. I never will.

I write about mental health, specifically about the fact that I endured post partum depression, PTSD and live with anxiety every single day. I have written about ADHD, allergies, asthma and diabetes as they pertain to my family. I was writing through my father's entire journey with cancer, from before he was diagnosed until the aftermath of his death. I have written about losing my mother, not just to the diseases that took her, but I've written a little bit about how I lost her long before she died.

I've written about losing my own child, about how much cancer changes everything, about infertility, about what happens when your marriage falls apart and you will do anything in the world to put it back together. I write about politics and news and international stories. I write about crime and the Constitution and equal rights and poverty and the law. I write about science and medicine and ethics and morality and addiction. I write about empathy and compassion, both how they are lacking in our world and how to foster their development in children and adults.

I stare at blank screens a lot. I stare out windows a lot. I sit by the river a lot. I don't write the words I want to more often than I write them. I write on napkins in my car. I send myself text messages when I run out of napkins. I do my best thinking in the shower and run an almost constant dialogue while I'm in there. I think about blog posts at 2am, then find myself moderating comments at 3am. There are times that I cannot focus on anything else in the world until I let the words out of my head. I write because I have to.

Sometimes that means I don't clean the house. Sometimes that means that the kids eat cereal. Sometimes it means that my hands cramp up. Sometimes that means that I sit in front of this screen and cry until there are no more tears left.

Sometimes it means that the words that I write are never put out there into the world for you to see.

One of the things that bothered me the very most about the trailer is the part where one of the women interviewed says something to the effect that if we don't put our writing out there, what are we doing it for? As if to say that the only value inherent in writing is that someone else reads it.

I challenge this statement on its face, and I question if she's actually figured out what it means to be a writer yet. I don't think she has, and it makes me sad for her a little.

A person who is just a blogger writes for an audience, particularly if they are doing it in some attempt to make a living which necessitates a loyal audience.

A writer just writes.

I write for myself more than anyone else. I do this because my brain and my fingers require it of me. I do it because it keeps me sane, it helps me put things into words that my mouth could never manipulate properly. I do it because I can't not write. It is a part of who I am. I am more articulate and can get my point across here than I ever can in conversations. I am socially awkward, but here the awkwardness fades away into the lines between the words.

I write for me.

What am I doing it for?

I'll tell you what I'm not doing it for....

I'm not doing it to fit in. I'm not doing it just to get views. I'm not doing it to hang with the popular kids. I'm not doing it because I'm following some formula. I'm not doing it because everyone else is doing it.

I'm doing it for me, and I've been doing it a very long time.

You all, my readers, are a beautiful bonus.

I'm not the #americanblogger.

I'm Kelly.

I'm a writer, a mom, a superhero. I'm a nerd, an intellectual, an over analyzer of all things. I'm a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter who lost both of her parents. I'm a doula, a photographer, a hater of pants. I'm funny, I'm serious, and then I'm everything in between.

I'm more than all that, even. And a bag of chips.

So are all the other writers I know.

Don't let some movie tell you otherwise.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. Beautiful words from a beautiful soul. Perfection.

  2. Making a movie about writing/blogging is pointless and impossible.

    This is why writers write. Because you can't watch it in under 2 hours with cinematography and a voice of God.

    This bad joke of a documentary just shows what we do is really special. Because no one will ever point a camera at us.

  3. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

    You are a brilliant person and writer. You at a different level from most of us. Just keep writing about the topics you choose. Always be YOURSELF.

  4. The thing I love about blogging is anyone can do it. It's not "just" the beautiful people. Blogging is an equal opportunity platform where what you look like doesn't matter. I've always found that appealing and it makes me sad that even bloggers are expected (or portrayed) to be only beautiful people. I remember when musicians just had to be good musicians and radio personalities just had to have a good voice and something funny or interesting to say. There is such an emphasis on beauty now that I worry we will miss out on some serious talent. I don't want blogging to be only for beautiful people. I don't want all of the blogs to look the same and write about the same topics. I hope that doesn't happen.

  5. You are more than all that, plus a bag of chips. This post just gives me one more example of why you and I "get" each other. We write because otherwise, we'd die.

    And you hate pants?

  6. I also write because I have to. I have to put my thoughts into words on a page or I will go crazy. You said it well. And I thank you for making me feel less alone. The writing life chose me. I didn't choose it.

  7. I started my blog to write for myself, a way of keeping my mind active because I can no longer work. I have written stories that have turned out to be comedic because I just wrote, I didn't try. I have also written about our daughter's depression (with her permission). I am all over the map, because I just write.

    Everything you have said is true, I will not be watching "American Blogger", it would just frustrate the hell out of me.

  8. I don't do niches either. I can't. If I had to write on the same thing all the time, I would get bored really quickly. I'd written a post awhile back about how I missed the "good old days" of blogging, before giveaways and niches and SEO and "rules".

    Great post.

  9. I write because I can't not write. I blog to showcase my writing.

  10. I heart this so hard. Beautifully written.

  11. Yes to all of this. xoxo

  12. First and daughter in law is in the documentary. She, too, writes about pain and guilt and joy and accomplishment and many other vulnerable feelings of a mother who has been given the responsibility of raising a sweet four year old who has Downs Syndrome. She began her blog to work through all that comes with that gigantic responsibility. She has grown to where she has become compelled to share her story and journey to come alongside others who wrestle with and celebrate all that comes with loving the special child whom they have been entrusted with. A critique should only come after one has viewed the entire documentary. And second...Wow...why is his photography and cinematography not as valuable as your writing? Both are an art. By sharing your writing, you also write for an audience, otherwise, you would write in a diary. And I value those who write for an audience. Have you asked him for a list of the women he invited to be in the documentary and those who did not respond who would fit the profile you believe should be represented. Oh, and by the way, my daughter-in-law is a redhead!

    1. A trailer is supposed to make someone want to watch a movie and I'd be far more interested in seeing it if he'd ever said what your daughter in law writes about. Instead, he glossed over any real element of interest instead proclaiming that it's just interesting because he says so. Perhaps it is just bad marketing.

      I write here and many other places as I mentioned in this post. I also have many places I write just for me. I've never done it for views, nor have the vast majority of writers I know.

      Any film, or anything held out to the public for that matter, that seeks to categorize an entire industry should be more representative of the individuals it is attempting to define.


Some of My Most Popular Posts