Thoughts on a Decade of Blogging

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This June I’m coming up on ten years of writing this blog. I can’t think of many things I’ve done for an entire decade. I’ve never lived in the same house for ten years, my average is four. The longest relationship I’ve been in is six years. I’ve only been a parent for three years. I  do have a pair of running shorts that have weirdly lasted close to twenty years. And friendships, I’ve had some of those for decades.

Still it’s interesting to think about how I’ve been blogging for almost a solid decade.

Recently someone asked me why I do this. Why I put my thoughts and my stories, my intimate moments and feelings, out there for everyone to see. It’s not the first time someone has asked, and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve thought about it. But it was the first time I found myself feeling self conscious about it.

Maybe I’ve become too comfortable, I thought to myself. Maybe it’s not such a good thing to pour myself out like this all the time, although I do indeed keep certain parts of my life private.

So I’ve been thinking about it, and thinking about it. Why do I do this?

The answer is both complicated and simple.

I began blogging a few months before my father died. It was 2003 and I was twenty-five years old. I had been living in Los Angeles for almost a year and most of my time was occupied by a failing relationship, career struggles, and my dying father. It was a lonely time. I felt isolated, if only because my experiences were so far out of the scope of my peers.

One day during that time I read an article in the LA Times about a woman named Julie Powell who was writing a blog about her year spent cooking Julia Child’s recipes. I’d been reading blogs for a couple of years already, and I’d toyed with the idea of starting one myself, but something about this moment, perhaps just about where I was in my life combined with a reminder about blogging from this article, prompted me to open an account that very day.

I entitled the blog Life in LA (lame, I know) and I began typing away. God, it was liberating. The words just poured out of me. I had so much to say, and back then it felt so anonymous. It was as though I could spill out all my biggest secrets and then fling them out into the world. I’d always kept a journal, but this was different. There was some new weight to what I was writing. No one I knew personally was reading, but nonetheless, someone somewhere was reading, and that changed things. It made me write harder, better, and with more intent.

The entries were tentative at first. I wrote about my life in Los Angeles, about my father, about changing bedpans in the middle of the night, about the fear I had about saying goodbye to him, and it wasn’t long before strangers began to comment, and at first I wasn’t sure how to react. In some ways knowing that other people were reading what I was writing was scary, but mostly it felt comforting.

I began to write more and more. I wrote about my isolation, my fear, and about my grief. And then people wrote back. They told me that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t wrong. Mostly they told me that they heard me, they saw me. They gave me reassurance and solace. They made me feel like the world wasn’t such a big and lonely place.

I blogged the night my father died. Just a short post to say that he was gone. I had called my friends and family too, but something about writing inside this tiny space was different. I could say things here that I couldn’t say to anyone else. I wrote the words that didn’t come up in conversation, the soft sentences, the sad moments, the hard parts.

In the fall of that year my blog was written up in the Sydney Morning Herald and I was flooded with readers. So many people wrote to tell me that they understood the things I wrote about. They told me about their own losses, about their inner lives, their grief and the regrets that kept them up at night.

After a while I began to rely on this community for support. When I had a question, they had an answer(s). When I felt sad, they had kind words. When I accomplished something but had no parents to show off to, they were proud of me.

And so it went. This June marks ten years of it all, and I can happily say that it’s consistently been a really positive force in my life. I’ve showed people a side of myself I might never have been able to otherwise, I’ve met so many amazing people, connected with so many readers and bloggers, made real friends, learned about different ways of seeing the world, and felt an incredible amount of love from people I’ve never met.

Writing here is often a way for me to figure things out, to understand myself better, and I’ve found that in doing so, I’ve helped some of you figure things out too. But after  a decade, I suppose I truly have  become very comfortable putting it all out there. If it was once a release and then a compulsion, it’s since become just a habit. I experience something and then I write about it. And then you write back. How’s that for positive reinforcement?

Either way, I’m incredibly grateful for this place. I’m grateful for the space, the reflection, the demand, the return. I’m even grateful to question it. I have no idea if there’s another decade of it ahead of me, but for now I’m happy to be here.

7 comments

6 Comments

  • Hanna
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Ten years of blogging! That IS an accomplishment! I’m so glad youve kept at it. Yours is one of my favorites!

  • Karen
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for at least 4 years. I always look forward to a new post and enjoy your perspective on things. Of course, the adorable pictures of the your girls are awesome too! Cheers to many more years of writing your blog and other books!

  • Posted January 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I know a number of former bloggers who eventually caved because of the demand, despite the return. So very glad and grateful that you have held on to your momentum here, Claire. What an amazing journey for you since those early
    Salon days!

  • Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    Claire, I started reading Life in LA back in 2006. Over the years I’ve come to think of you as a friend and I often have to remind myself that even though I love finding out how you and your family are going, we aren’t actually friends and you don’t know me! There are have been lots of times I’ve gone to start a conversation with, “My friend Claire…’, only to catch myself just in time!.

    I just went back and had a look at Life in LA because I remember posting a comment asking if you were really everything you said you were (it was on 22 Feb 2007 and I used a different name). I was feeling lost at the time and I got so much comfort from knowing I wasn’t the only one feeling like that. You have done so much since back then and it’s been such a privilege to have you share it with your readers.

    Thank you for your honesty, your generosity of spirit and for putting life’s highs, lows and questions into words so beautifully. May there be many more posts (and books!).

  • Eloise Connelly
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I too am very grateful for the three years I have been a Claire Bidwell Smith devotee. I read your blog on the train in the morning and it gives me strength to embrace the day.

  • Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    As an older man who never really understood emotional things (my daughter works providing mental health services to aborigines and reckons I am somewhere in the autism spectrum), it has been very interesting getting some understanding of how emotional people feel.
    Your blog has been honest and revealing. It puzzles me somewhat that you have tortured yourself with feelings that I would simply delete as unproductive, like guilt. My logic lets me accept the consequences of my actions, or inactions, learn from mistakes for future improvements, and skip the guilt thing entirely as only dealing with the past which is useless and unchangeable.
    Grief, your specialty, is a little harder to deal with, but I can trim it to size with logic.
    I do realize that I am in the tiny oddball minority, and you are much more representative of the human race particularly those of the female persuasion.
    Your achievements in the blogosphere are as counselor, comforter, communicator, friend, and shoulder to cry on for some. You can add tutor to the emotionally challenged to those accomplishments. I will e-mail separately an amusing pic to illustrate what I have yet to learn.

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  • By Blog It | Melanie Thorne on February 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    [...] read this piece from Claire Bidwell Smith on blogging for ten years (!) and I realized that I love her blog, like so many others do, for her voice. It’s not just her [...]

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