Identity Crisis: What Is A Blogger?

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“And this is Tara, she’s…A BLOGGER.”

My introduction within our small group came as a bit of a shock. I’ve been described as many things in my time but these days I usually go by “freelance journalist” and while I am obviously a blogger (it says so in my Twitter profile) am I A BLOGGER?

I felt pretty cool at first, like I was going to be the next Tanya Burr. I thought perhaps I should break out my camera and start talking to myself but then I moved into feeling like a bit of a fraud (especially as I have never vlogged in my life). I mean, I was at the event so I could write about it for the blog, so I’m not sure why I was so surprised, but as blogging isn’t my main source of income I wondered whether I could really get away with calling myself one?

Is money what makes a blogger A BLOGGER?

My blog isn’t a secret. I link to it from my professional site, some of my family and real life friends read it (Hello!) and if people ask about it I will happily ramble on until the cows come home but I don’t go out of my way to talk about it. It’s not that I’m embarrassed, more that it feels like a bit of a hobby like taking photos, running or reading.

I blog for the joy of writing and the connection with other (lovely) people in what can sometimes be a lonely old world.

The trouble is, I think people in the outside world associate blogging and being A BLOGGER with trying to find fame and fortune when that’s really only a minority of people (and good luck to them because it seems like a lot of hard work).

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I don’t think it’s just me having a bit of an identity crisis either. It feels a bit like blogging, or parent blogging, anyway, is also being redefined. I’ve seen several people going back to basics, turning away from all the extra stuff and reconnecting with the reason they started writing in the first place.

Of course there is nothing wrong with making money from your blog or reviewing products you like. It’s fantastic industry, especially for parents. I have always been a bit uneasy about that side of things. I turn down far more than I accept simply because my lifestyle is about needing less, not wanting more, but I am more than happy to get on board with a brand if the product is right.

While I’ve had this blog for two and a bit years, I started my original anonymous blog in the early noughties, when brands had yet to catch on to the fact that blogs were a great advertising opportunity. Obviously then it was all about the stories people told and to a degree it still is for the majority but while that means you’re blogging, does it make you (or me) A BLOGGER?

Am I overthinking it? 

I’m confused.

Any thoughts?

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Why Blog?

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It’s an age-old question. Or it would be if “age” described the 20-odd years that take us back to the 1990s when blogging began, which seems like only last week to me. 

Anyway, it’s a question that appears to unite all bloggers at one point or another, no matter how big or small their audience. It is asked at the start, probably many times in the middle and one last time at the end. 

Why blog?

I imagine there is more of a list when you are a pro-blogger; hopefully there is still a love of writing but also income, readership, contracts signed etc. What about for us folks for whom blogging is a more of a hobby? Why do we start and, perhaps more importantly, keep going?

My story.

While I’ve consistently kept a paper journal since I was 18, I found it was a lot easier to grip a phone and type one handed while holding a finally sleeping baby than to attempt to write with a pen in a notebook and still keep said baby from rolling on to the floor.

Blogs had also kept me company in the lonely wee hours of those early months of motherhood when I felt like I was drowning. They helped me find the energy to kick my legs and get my head back above water.

So when I was feeling a little less overwhelmed, I thought I’d have a go at telling my story too. 

It wasn’t completely new to me, I had blogged anonymously in the early noughties (full of angst following a nasty breakup) but much has changed in the online (and offline) world since then  – not least the advent of social media.

As it happens it was thanks to social media that I got a reminder of why I blog. 

A Twitter friend kindly re-shared an old post of mine from more than two years ago, which I clicked on to re-read.

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Freya had just turned one and, as well as celebrating, I was also reflecting on what a hard year it had been and why it didn’t seem like the “done thing” to say so.

Amid my ramble was this paragraph:

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At first I thought: “Wow, did I really include that?” I shocked myself! Maybe I should have edited that out? It’s hardly ideal to admit I was so low that I thought about harming her or me, even if I didn’t do it.

Then I realised, this was a huge moment in our lives – one I had all but forgotten until now.

As I read it again, I was back there, standing at that junction with the pram, the bus coming towards us. I can still feel the deep-down despair, the absolute certainty that I was a terrible mother for not being able to ease her reflux and stop her suffering and that this could be a way to stop all our pain. And I can still feel the whoosh of cool air hitting my face, blowing my hair back, as the bus drove by.

It was a turning point.

I was at my lowest but I decided to fight on.

Look at us now, how far we have come.

Yes, reading it again was like a hug for me, a “you got through it, you survived” but it was more than that. I continued to read and discovered a couple of comments on the post (including from the lovely Jenni, who I remain in touch with). To this day I am still surprised and delighted when people take the time to comment and especially if they can relate in some way to my experiences. I also remembered a couple of emails I’d received from other mums who were struggling, possibly even as low as I was. They said the post made them feel less alone, more able to keep going  – exactly as those blogs that I read when Freya was tiny did.

It’s that connection, along with preserving the memories (good and bad) and the fact I love to write that keeps me blogging and reading blogs (so please don’t stop writing).

I’m not suggesting that every post will hit the mark, especially when I write about falling in love with a lemur, but sharing our stories – the joyful moments as well as the tougher times – matters on a personal front but also on a wider level, possibly more than we think.

Why do you blog? I’d love to know.

My new friend thinks I am a stalker.

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We recently made some new friends at the park who, as it happens, live just around the corner. Ok, ok, when I say “we” I mean Freya did all the leg work, I was just there in a supporting role the same as the other little girl’s mum.

They got on so well and as we lived so close together a playdate was arranged at their house. When no one fell-out or made anyone else cry (and that was just the adults) it was our turn to host.

About three minutes before they arrived I had a frantic tidy up. It takes Freya a good four minutes to make the living room look like a bomb has gone off so when they came in it looked, what my mum calls, “lived in”. The only trouble was, in my haste to clean up all her stuff I had left my notebook (if this is your first time here you might want to read this) on the dining table, closed but with the page I was writing on marked with a pen.

Everything was going really well until the small ones decided they wanted to do some colouring at the table. I let my new friend put her child in the booster seat as Freya is suddenly all grown-up and likes to sit on a normal seat. I thought it best to remove the cups and plates from the refreshments we’d had mid date (I am the hostess with the mostess) so while they settled in I popped into the kitchen.

I came out just in time to see her pick up my notebook to move to a safer spot away from Picasso and Monet and…take a quick peek inside.  Her eyes widened in confusion followed by a look that said: “We need to leave. NOW.” She quickly put it down as if it was suddenly burning her fingers.

Oh dear.

I keep that notebook in the living room so I can jot things down during the day when I don’t have access to the laptop, otherwise I end up scribbling on anything to hand, but it also contains pages and pages of photographs.

Of faces.

They are mainly famous, as they tend to have more photos available, and either torn from magazines or printed. I use them when I’m writing because I struggle a bit with descriptions (is that cheating?). When a character pops into my head, I then search for a face that fits to help me visualise them on the page (isn’t the Internet wonderful?). I don’t know anything about them in real life other than their name because they become my character. I once had to convince a hairdresser to let me rip out a page of her magazine for a face I liked – although I told her it was because I wanted to keep the story.

On the opposite page to the photos I write all the character development stuff the creative writing books say are necessary. That day my pen was bookmarking the photos and details for the character of Alex, although the lady above is Emma and I could tell you all about her, right down to her shoe size, if you wanted (I’m a lot of fun at parties).

But my new friend? She doesn’t know any of this and I accept, on the surface, that having lots of photos of random peoples’ faces stuck in a book might seem a bit…strange, bordering on weird, maybe. Hence her reaction.

I stood there for a couple of seconds and pondered what to do. Do I let her know that I had spotted her being nosy which is potentially embarrassing or ignore it and hope she didn’t hold it against me? And if I did call her out there was then the question of how to explain what was in the notebook.

Is it better to be considered a stalker or seem pretentious by announcing to someone I don’t know all that well “I’m a writer, dahling”?

I went with stalker.

She knows I am a journalist but I still struggle with saying the words “I’m writing a book” out loud (clearly I have no trouble telling you over and over again). I’m hoping it might come up in conversation, you know, if she doesn’t start blocking my calls and avoiding me in the street.

And if she finds out the truth and that doesn’t put her off… wait till I tell her I’m a blogger!