My boyfriend had been trying to convince me to start a blog for a year. “You love to write,” he’d say, “this is the perfect venue to practice and self-publish your stories. What are you waiting for?”
I was waiting for the intense fear to subside; the fear that disguised itself as fluttering butterflies in my stomach and made it impossible for me to string together intelligent and grammatically correct sentences. The fear that made it impossible to string together any sentences at all.
Call it what you will — writer’s block, performance anxiety — I had it. I could open my diary and write for hours on end, but the moment I thought about someone else reading my words, I panicked.
And then we broke up.
I needed an outlet to vent. Sure, I had my dear diary, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to publicly emote, a.k.a. decry him to the online community at large. And what better a reason than vengeance to finally confront your fears head on? So, I took a deep breath, went to blogger.com and created my very own blog.
“How hard could this be?” I thought to myself, “No one’s going to read the darn thing anyway.”
And so I made my first blogging rule: I will not censor myself.
I promised myself I would write whatever I wanted, even if it included tales of wild, debauchery-filled nights my parents would hate reading about and unflattering, sordid stories about friends, family and a certain ex-boyfriend.
Hey, it’s all good. No one was reading it but me...right?
About a month after my unrestrained Internet journal went live, I received a nasty email from none other than Mr. Ex himself. We hadn’t spoken to one another since our breakup, so I was shocked when I saw his name in my inbox. I was even more shocked when I read what he had written:
“How dare you trash me on the Internet? How could you do such a cruel and heartless thing? Did you really think I wouldn’t find it?! It’s on the Web for God’s sake!”
I was mortified! Shocked! Guilt-ridden! I never meant to hurt him; I was merely chronicling the journey of my heartbreak. And so maybe I’d said a few unkind things in the process, but hey, that’s the nature of a breakup, isn’t it? To loathe he who breaks thy heart?
I never thought anyone would find my blog on the Internet. After all, the World Wide Web is just that — worldly and wide. Surely my measly, self-indulgent blog would be invisibly buried under all the actually important and worthy Web sites. So how, and why, would anyone ever find my site?
But, as my ex can attest, they did. They ALL did.
I quickly retraced my keystrokes. With or without naming names, how many other people had I written about since the inception of my blog? It wasn’t looking good. Since the only way I felt I could write fearlessly was to pretend I was simply jotting notes in my journal, many of my blog posts unabashedly spoke of all the players in my life: bad dates, love prospects, family members. You name it, they were all there.
And then I did the thing I said I’d never do. I began to censor myself. I went back into my blog archives and edited meticulously.
I’m not a hurtful or malicious person, and despite my post breakup bitterness entries, I truly never intended to defame anyone’s character. But that’s just it – it’s so easy for members of the self-publishing community to accidentally (or, perhaps, deliberately?) do the exact same thing. If we don’t become a little more conscientious and follow at least a smidgen of etiquette – such as, say, not trashing all our loved ones and exes on the Internet – I worry our brazen, spill-it-all, blog-crazed world is in for a tragic state of affairs: billions of busted relationships.
I believe the answer lies in setting down the Blackberries, turning off the iPhones, stepping away from our computers and talking to, rather than about, one another.
Of course, I occasionally still write about other people on my blog because, let’s face it, I’m not the only person in my life. But, unless I know that person is okay with being publicly discussed, I ask permission before I write about him or her. And I always pay special attention to what I say because it’s most certainly not my style to trash talk or hurt people purposely. Even my exes.
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Marissa Kristal is a New York-based writer who has written for various print and online publications such as Psychology Today, Time Out New York, Chicken Soup for the Soul Magazine and Beauty Addict, to name a few. Read more from Marissa on her website: marissakristal.com, and her blog: mariskris.blogspot.com.