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Trying to Look Good Limits My Life

May 21, 2012

Thank you all for the incredible amount of feedback I received through your comments and e-mail. I appreciate it so much. I had this moment after I started getting the feedback that I realized I might have sounded like I was saying PLEASE SHOWER ME WITH COMPLIMENTS. That’s not what I meant–I just have been feeling a bit lost as to what it is that keeps people reading, when I myself am a little lost about what this space is for me. I feel like there is A LOT I want to say about this dynamic. I have felt reluctant to talk about that because I think there is something inherently eye rolling on the subject of BLOGGING ABOUT BLOGGING, but after this last week I had SO MANY light bulbs go off about this topic. Your feedback has made me feel braver about being (uh, what was that word you called me again?) HONEST.

For years this was a space to loyally write about my life, my process, and to try out new ideas. Then it became about all those things, with a side affect of promoting those ideas for larger projects. It became A PLATFORM as they say in the publishing world. I got lucky with some of those ideas and got to publish two books. Then as I was chugging along, thinking those books would become the beginning of a JOB that might include blogging, I found out that it wasn’t to be. Lucky me, I had FAILED as a self-help guru. As a result, I started to think about “my job” differently and the feelings of ambivalence around the blog increased.

Meanwhile, the blogging world has changed significantly since I started blogging in 2005. The people who started blogs around the same time I did, and who still blog today, have either made an industry out of themselves and their blogs, or they have launched something that allows them to treat it as a hobby or sometime missive. I haven’t been able to do EITHER and it has left me confused and frustrated and tethered to an island of ambivalent questions, namely: What the HECK AM I DOING HERE? If it was a hobby, I could just quit it or write as I wanted, but it isn’t quite a hobby. It’s also not quite a job either—it’s at most the POSSIBILITY of a job—but that has its costs too. For one thing, it costs TIME, something that is in short supply to me since Gus arrived on the scene.

In a desire to answer this question, I told a few people I was quitting this blog in January and I meant it. I even wrote the post. Then I couldn’t do it. Why not? What’s so hard to QUIT anyway? What’s hard to quit is my own need for this space, which includes sharing the life stuff I find interesting, and liking the feeling of connection I get from it. Those are genuinely good parts about keeping this blog. The parts that I don’t like and want to quit: feeling I HAVE to keep something up regularly, in order to keep that connection going; feeling I HAVE to keep covering the same things I always have in order to feed that connection; feeling like if I don’t do these things I am somehow failing, losing the race, becoming less interesting, less relevant, etc.

And still I ask: what am I doing here? How is this helping me? How is this hurting me?

I am in a huge place of transition right now. I feel that the chapter of New York closing is also a larger chapter of my life closing. My desires and needs for blogging have changed. I still love to run to the blog with big ideas about the nature of life (this post is EXHIBIT A), but I don’t feel as continually interested in sharing all the details of my life as I used to here. It’s not that I have tired from writing and creating autobiographical material, but what’s coming out right now is a bit deeper and less appropriate for the blog. The closest I have been able to come to marrying the blog and the material that I am working on are the one-page stories. I have worried that they also weren’t appropriate or to the general liking of my readers. The truth is though that they are the purest things I make right now. Like everyone else, I sometimes get lost in IDEAS about things, which can cause confusion and panic. I realized this week that I have a small list of things that continually fuck me up when it comes to trusting myself. It may look familiar to you:

Questions that confuse me or muddy the water of direction:

*How does this make me look?

*What will my audience, agent, person I admire think?

*But if I’ve had success in the past with something, shouldn’t I continue doing that thing even if it doesn’t feel right?

(Which are all really just one thing: HOW DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK?)

HOW DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK is the blog medium’s big anthem. That’s why it can be so confusing when it’s time to change and your changes aren’t MARKETABLE. Then I remember one of my all time favorite truisms from Stefan Sagmeister: TRYING TO LOOK GOOD LIMITS MY LIFE. This is so true.

The majority of you said that you liked my honesty and vulnerability. A lot of you said it helped you feel understood and less alone. Amen, people! This is what I look for myself in non-fiction venues, such as blogs and books. When I can’t find something specific elsewhere, I share it in here. I know that I feel MOST ALIVE in this space when I am sharing what I most need to find. That’s why I talk about things like money and failure and struggle. That’s also why I talk about hopeful things and tender things and nostalgic things. That’s why I blog about BLOGGING. Maybe that’s why you and I are BOTH here—because we’re interested in an authentic story of life. If I am to remain authentic, I need to admit that I have changed and it may not look good. I still need to try and live out my little life–and sometimes I might share it and sometimes I won’t. Which brings me to the blog medium’s other anthem: I don’t know if this even matters to anyone else out there, but it felt important for me to share it. So here’s to that.

Thanks again for everyone’s feedback and for the stories that you have shared with me. Thank goodness for your readership, but most of all thank you for being here with me. Reading all your e-mails and comments was overwhelming and it was good to see you all and know that you are here. Your company is something I honestly treasure. Thank you thank you thank you.

  1. May 21, 2012 7:05 am

    You KNOW I feel you on this topic something fierce. Personal public blogging was an amazing thing for me for almost a decade, but there was a certain point when I did not want my personal ME-ness to be a product. It started feeling inauthentic — even to a massive attention whore (just ask my trolls!) like me.

    While I still love the medium of blogging, I’m so beyond happy to have my personal writing happen behind a login. Even my public, non-personal writing has shifted pretty dramatically — it used to be that the feedback loop was my daily crack. At this point, however, I’m so fucking exhausted from having to deal with thousands upon thousands of blog comments that I just want every to shut the fuck up and be nice to each other.

    No advice, but I will say that *for me* it felt very important to separate my personal and professional writing.

    Whatever you end up doing, I’ll be keeping in touch.

  2. Audrey permalink
    May 21, 2012 2:54 pm

    “an authentic story of life” — YES. and an authentic story of life that values creativity and art and is in regular conversation with HOW that fits in with life’s other pieces and what surfaces on the journey.

  3. May 21, 2012 4:35 pm

    This blog feeds lots of people great nourishment. I love it when you examine the interfaces between your art, authenticity, privacy, fame, success, failure, and the internet. It resonates with so many people; you are a pioneer. I keep thinking that the best blogging is personally relevant, like a notebook of thoughts that actually is relevant or transforming to the author, not tailored to the readers. That’s what you’re reaching for with the one-page stories, the marriage of blog and the art itself. Of course that minimizes the blog’s role of reaching out to fans, important people, authors, large media sites, publishers, and so on. Like it or not, your ” little life ” may be larger than you think; you may have a calling to the public. I can appreciate your wanting to nurture in privacy details of your family and creative life. What has been most injured by blogging and other forms of internet use is containment, the notion that it is good and need to nurture things in silence and privacy. I see you as having a Big Little Life, like the Big Little Books of my childhood, and as inviting and lovable as those fat little volumes were.

  4. summer permalink*
    May 21, 2012 4:42 pm

    This one made me cry, Suzanne. Thanks.

  5. mareh674 permalink
    May 21, 2012 5:37 pm

    I love your blog. I love your voice and your honesty. I think I covered it pretty well in my looong comment on the previous post. That said, if you feel you need to take a break, or post less often, DO IT. We, your faithful readers, will still be here when you get back (and pleeeaaase come back). I know you gotta “live out your little life.” Here’s the thing – I don’t think your life is as little as you see it. I think its BIG and BEAUTIFUL and ONLY GETTING BETTER!!!! So, get your shit in order, girl! Take your time, make your art, and when you’re ready – show us. I’ll be here, waiting patiently. Missing you, but waiting. Thanks, Summer. Keep living your little life. 😉

  6. dangerouscake permalink
    May 23, 2012 11:25 pm

    Summer! I read the Artist in the Office over and over again. When I feel down about work, or where I’m going as an artist, I pick up your book. It is so sunny and positive, and it makes me feel like things are going to pick up. It puts me in a good state of mind.

    You are wonderful, and I appreciate every effort you are making. A good book is a good book, regardless of the numbers. Thank you for being you! Keep on keeping on 🙂

    Love from Melbourne, Australia!

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