What Would Your Life Look Like Now If You Hadn't Started Blogging?

What Would Your Life Look Like Now If You Hadn't Started Blogging?

Ten years ago, I was two years out of my graduate writing program and just returning from maternity leave (I came back the week after the fourth of July holiday, come to think of it) to my product management job in corporate America. If I hadn't started blogging on maternity leave, I would not have written anything new in almost a year.

If I hadn't started blogging, I might have returned to the short stories and poetry I was working so hard on before my baby changed the flow of my life. Eventually. Motherhood gave me a lot of material, but most of it was either awful or funny because it was so awful in the way of hand, foot and mouth disease and three-diaper blow-outs. I don't think I could've turned any of that into iambic pentameter. I probably would've picked back up my first unpublished novel and tried to make it work again like I had for my thesis. I might have made it work, but more likely I would've decided I just couldn't write novels.

never started blogging

In my cube at work, I had a little figure of Hermey from the claymation Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Hermey was an elf who wanted to be a dentist, and I was a product manager who wanted to be a novelist, a writer, an editor. I kept Hermey because in my mind he was the patron saint of those stuck in the wrong career, and I joked about it, but my heart hurt. I wanted to write books, not business requirements.

If I hadn't started blogging, I would definitely not have thought of editing a parenting blogging anthology, because I would have had no posts to contribute to it. I might have still read the posts that I included in SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK, and I might still have known the bloggers who contributed to it since I did read blogs before I started writing one, but I wouldn't have done that book. It wouldn't have occurred to me. If I hadn't done SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK, I wouldn't have known the publishing landscape at all, and the path of my young adult novel THE OBVIOUS GAME would've been different. I'm pretty sure I would've still written that book, but maybe it would've come out earlier if all I'd done was focus on the novel and not spent time on social media and blogging. Certainly it would've had a different sort of reach, though bigger or smaller, I can't say.

If I hadn't started blogging, I wouldn't work for BlogHer now. I might still be back at my same job in corporate America—I did eventually move into editorial at that company, and I could've continued in that vein. I had good friends there, though the work didn't always fulfill me creatively. I know I wouldn't have taught myself HTML. I know I wouldn't have been on Twitter as early as I was, because I learned about it from Liz Gumbinner at BlogHer Business just moments before I met Stacy Morrison for the first time. In fact, if I hadn't started blogging, I wouldn't have met Stacy or Julie or Karen or Jenna or Denise or Diane or any of the people who make me laugh so hard almost every day.

I'm not going to say my life would be worse if I hadn't started blogging, because I only know how the story worked out this way. But I wonder ... blogging introduced me to my narrative nonfiction voice, which I didn't truly develop until about two years into Surrender, Dorothy. I was always afraid to write fiction in first person before I found my narrative nonfiction voice, and I think that's why my first unpublished novel fell so flat. Now I write fiction exclusively in first person, whether I identify with the main character or not. Blogging made first person my wheelhouse.

I would be married to my husband and be mother to my daughter whether or not I had started blogging. I am confident I would be writing something or other if I hadn't started blogging, but I have no idea how different that something would be. I do know one thing for sure: I wouldn't be as compassionate as I am now. I wouldn't think as hard about how my words affect others as I do now. (Not that it always stops me from writing whatever I damn well please, but I'm more aware of what I'm getting myself into after being on the receiving end of some scathing comments over the years.) I wouldn't have anorexics or people who love them emailing me three or four times a week in response to one of my posts about eating disorders like I do now. I wouldn't feel that I actually do know thousands of people the way I do now. And I guarantee I would've forgotten so many of my daughter's childhood moments that are now encased as if in amber for us to look back on and enjoy together.

Ten years ago, I was a thirty-year-old new mom with a corporate job I didn't really like. Now I'm a forty-year-old, still-feels-new-sometimes mom who gets paid full-time with health insurance and everything to write posts like this and read posts like yours. I don't have a Hermey figurine on my desk any more. I'm right where I belong.

I'm pretty glad I started blogging. How about you?

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com. Find more at www.ritaarens.com.

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