Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I can't be myself here in this small town

I grew up in a small town in North Florida, and though that small town ain't so small anymore, it's still small enough for my surname to be recognized. Or at least so I fear, in my self-involved, self-aggrandizing manner. Hence my complete and total anonymity on the web. Well, almost complete and total. There are a select few who know the details of my identity, like Love Bites and a couple others. But I generally guard my name fiercely, for fear that the revelation of who I am will stifle my ability to write expressively, honestly, and with all those delightful, nasty bits. Because the minute folks know who I am, the instant people from my past start bobbing their heads in to take a gander at my deep, dark, dirties, well, I'll either stop writing or stop writing authentically. And that defeats the whole purpose of a blog. At least in my world.

Which is exactly what Love Bites and I discussed over drinks on Friday. Because here's where my world gets really, really small. My reviewee today: Sayre Smiles? I kinda know her brother.

I assume that Sayre found her way here through normal channels. Saw a review of a friend's blog or stumbled on us somehow and got hooked and gathered up the gumption to submit her site for a good, long reaming. So it is perhaps the perversion of the world to drop her site in my lap, out of all the reviewers at Ask.

I debated whether I should let that little tidbit out, whether it was opening myself up to intrusion and revelation that I'm just not ready for, will likely never be ready for. But I felt I owed it to posterity to come clean, since this will likely color my review. Or maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, 'cause here it comes over the horizon. Watch. Someone's gonna find me and I'm gonna be embarrassed to all hell and have to close up shop.

Ah, shit.

Anyway. My paranoia aside, on to the review.

I typically read an entire blog when I review, but I couldn't with this one. Hello, prolific. Sayre has been blogging consistently since 2006. The template is blah, blah, blah, and for someone who's been blogging as long as Sayre has, I expect better. It's a standard Blogger template, and not one of their good ones, if such a thing exists. There's absolutely no personality, no individuality. Sayre, check out our FAQ for some links to resources for better templates. And don't tell me you don't know how 'cause surely someone can help you snazz the place up a bit.

I don't like the extra info that goes along with the blogroll -- it's overload. Sayre, put your blogroll on another page if you're going to do that; or, really, just put your blogroll on another page regardless. And since you have been blogging for so long, include months and years in your archives, and make them a drop down list. I had to keep clicking "Older Posts," which is a drag. There's no other navigation. Otherwise, good job on the lack of clutter. But we could use an About page, something to let us know up front who you are, who the people in your life are, and what you're blogging for.

Sayre is an entirely competent writer, good even. Everything is in its place, there's no stumbling or hiccups or overwriting or any of that. She has touching posts that are nicely written but long-ish, and mature, kind, and thoughtful posts. But there are too many memes and quizzes and Fun Monday hoo-ha crap.

Some posts make me think Sayre could write about anything, when maybe she shouldn't. Not that she doesn't write about roofing exceedingly well, but, I mean, who cares? These types of posts are good for family and friends to get updated, and a good record of what's going on in your life, but for the rest of the world, the rest of your audience? It's just white noise. Decently written white noise, but noise nonetheless.

There are lots of posts on the kid, which, ok, I don't get into because I'm a heartless non-breeder. And there are lots of pics that don't mean that much to me (although they did clue me into the fact that I know Matt) and lots of we did this and that and such and so. The reason for this is clear -- Sayre isn't writing for us. She's writing for herself and for her family and for posterity. And so the rest of us are on our own. We'll either deal with the log of her life because of the good stuff, or we'll go away. And I sense she doesn't much mind either way.

Her parents read her blog, and maybe that explains the very innocuous nature of it. It's extremely family-friendly, which I'm kind of not. Well, not online anyway. But there are nice things to be found here, and Sayre is a neat lady with interesting hobbies and a side gig that I've always, always wanted to try.

Bottom line, I like Sayre. Could be because I know so much of what she lives day-to-day because I live it, too -- I breathe the same air. But it's also because she is a dedicated writer, talented if a bit muffled. I get the feeling that, in spite of the acres and acres of posts, there's more to know. And I'd like to know these things. I'd like Sayre to get raw, to get creative, to show us more than the daily litany of activities and observances. There's lots of commentary but not a lot of exposition.

Sayre obviously blogs because she loves it, because she can't help it, and, for me, that is the best reason to blog. Because readers can tell when it's a chore, when a writer is struggling to get words up on the screen. But I can't shake the feeling that this dogged determination to write is hampered by who you let in. And I wonder what you might tell us, what you might show us, if we didn't know your details, if the people in your every day life didn't have a window on your world. It's a great irony, but by letting us know your identity perhaps you've stopped us from knowing you.

I open it up to the peanut gallery -- who do you let read your blog, and does it color your writing?


  1. Pretty much my whole family knows about my blog... and yes, it has a huge effect on my writing. But, it also lets them learn things about me that they wouldn't know otherwise (sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes not).
    I do wish I was anonymous sometimes, but oh well. It is what it is.

  2. My shit is private, so I pick my readers. I pretty much only allow access to other bloggers. Non bloggers don't seem to understand my blog, so I felt that going private would be a good thing. I was censoring myself because of my paranoia and now I don't have to.

  3. Yeah, I don't like the whole, "everyone I know in real life reads my blog" thing. Makes you way too careful about what you put out there.

    Which is also why I had to go private recently. My baby daddy found my blog and I am NOT OK WITH THAT!

    I fucking hate being private too.

    This blog was meh for me. But very good review Cal.

  4. The more people that read my blog, the more guarded I get. No coworkers read it, but friends do. And the friends I don't mind, I tell them everything, but now there's like, friends' siblings and their co-workers, and people emailing me asking me to write about certain things they heard I did this one time, "and don't forget to say this."

    That pisses me off, so I don't write about it just out of spite, and tell them to get their own fucking blog.


  5. My exwife was spending entirely too much time on DPH's blog. And mine. It was a little creepy to say the least. Its nice to not have her peeping anymore.

  6. Oh Christ on a crutch, if my family found my blog? Forget it. I'd be g-o-n-e gone.

  7. I let just about anyone read my blog, mother, mother in law, even my husband's last employer's wife. Everyone knows we're horndogs, and I suffer from say anything disease so no one's surprised when I say inappropriate things. Every once in awhile I want to unleash on a relative, I just refrain. And when I want to talk about something like anal sex, I just go to Gok's blog :)

  8. Yes, FF, you do. You don't, however, like to comment.

  9. Just about all my dirt shows up on the blog, except social security number, but even that may pop up if you search long enough.

    It absolutely colors the writing. You could be the world's most uninhibited, it's still a filter. There will always be moments when you block yourself because what you're about to write doesn't fit others' impression of you. The irony of which being a real bummer.

    But there's hope. Just keep a separate, annonymous blog or journal. You know, the old fashioned way. Exercise the demons there and do what you like elsewhere.

    Also, not so much digging Sayre's blog, but love the title reference to Sara Smile. That shit is the cut. Oh, and I guess the glamour shot isn't half bad, either.

  10. Yeah, I'd rather do it all on one blog.

  11. Funny this should come up.

    I used to be extremely guarded on my blog because my husband's cousin reads it.

    Then one day I decided I just didn't give a shit anymore.

    And just today at lunch my husband pointed out that I have now lost all my tact. He said, "You used to have some tact, now you have no tact."

    And I guess that's just the price you pay when you finally make the choice to lose your shit online.

  12. I have a horrendous fear of being discovered. It's making me antsy just thinking about it, and I kinda want to go wipe out about 3/4 of this review. But I won't. Because I'm strong. And batshit crazy.

    Praise be I don't link to my actual blog here.

  13. You know when it was the worst? When I started thinking that invisible internet people cared about what I wrote. Stop that. Stop it now. Stupid me.

  14. Oh but Rassles, I do care what you write. And since I JUST commented on your blog, this makes me look like an invisible blog stalker. Stop it.

    But yeah, I had to quit caring what invisible thought they.

    Mostly because if they care that I just said Mother Fucker they deserve to be invisible.

  15. "But yeah, I had to quit caring what invisible thought they."

    That made no fucking sense at all. So go ahead and pretend that it says whatever you want to think it says.

    Again, losing my shit online.

    Like you care.

  16. Don't you call my sweet Tits Magee an idiot!

  17. I should rephrase: caring about what I.I.Ppl. thought, not thinking they cared.

  18. Thanks for getting my back, DPH.

    And you got it, Rassles.

    Ghost? Suck it.

  19. I don't mind that most of my friends/family know I blog. Most of them are too lazy to actually read it, I think.

    What really drives me nuts is when somebody is perpetually saying "You know what would make a good blog? Yadda yadda yadda."

    I just want to say "Great! Go start one and write about it!"

  20. Tell me about it. My dad keeps telling me about this great idea he has for a murder/mystery novel. 'If I had a way with words like you do, I would write about...'. Fuck.

  21. Yeah, Ghost. Your dad totally sucks for paying you a compliment like that.

    Sucky ass Dad!

  22. Idiot, here: he keeps trying to sell me on it. I appreciate the compliment but when he starts telling me how it should start, that's when he loses me.

  23. Ghost - You know when you say Idiot, that's where you lose me.

    It stopped being funny like a month ago.

  24. My wife reads my blog, and my sister knows the url but only occasionally stops in for a read. Everyone else is a stranger, save for the few friends of my wife who stop in from time to time.

    I too guard my secret identity with my life. If you knew who I was I'd have to kill you.

  25. Tits: and all this time I thought you liked it.

  26. First, Calamity... Matt knows A LOT of people. No one would figure out who you are just with that one clue.

    Second, I agree with much of what you've said. The template is kind of blah, and I might look into something more stimulating - but it sort of reflects where I live and frankly, I hated everything else Blogger had to offer. I suppose I could look out of house though.

    I can tell you that the fact that I do have readers who are mostly family and friends turns this blog into a journal. In effect, it is. My son was born when I was 37. His father was 46. That seems young, but by the time he's an adult of a certain age (the one where there is interest in family history), I don't know that we'll be able to give it to him. So he'll have this.

    Would I be more forthcoming in a private blog? You betcha. I am one angry woman. I'm learning to be content but the volcano lurks just below the surface. I take it out in murder, mostly. I have no idea how many people I've killed off on paper. I do have a separate blog where I mull over things like figuring out my husband is an alcoholic. It's over on Xanga but I haven't been there in a while.

    Thanks for the feedback, though. You've given me a few things to think about and perhaps change. And maybe I should visit my Xanga more often...

  27. I don't want people I know knowing me, particularly family.


    Sayre, that template, itself, is beyond horrid. I would expect white house to wallpaper their bathrooms with that. Sorry, it's that bad. You can do way better. I know you can. for a few bucks you can get some great code.

  28. I see its been changed. Good.

  29. There have been a few things I had to WORK to blog about because of who knows about it. On one hand, I felt frustrated. On the other hand, it actually helped me find creative ways to write about certain situations.
    It has even helped me work through a few personal things. Except for that fucker I still want to blow in half with a sawed off shot gun.
    ha ha ha! Just kidding. Really.

  30. The new one sucks, too.

  31. ! of my friends knows about my blog...and I wish I hadn't told him. He offers a LOT of constructive criticism (bless his heart), but I find myself editing for him. My wife knows about it as does my son but they aren't all that interested. Besides, I don't feel a need to pull any punches for them.

  32. I'm with anonymous on this one, holy shit, the new template is actually worse. Way worse. And I have a season pass to that particular state park. Offensive.

  33. I'm still not quite happy with this template... more messing around with it to come.

    Kind of surprised I got two stars. I was sort of expecting a "meh" when I got to the end of the review. Thank you.

    I'll take all you've said into consideration and make a few changes. This has been an interesting experience.

  34. Since the template we use seems of such great interest, I would like to know how to get a btter one. I have been to the FAQ section and tried every site. I found a really great template that I loved so I downloaded it, only to get an error. I tried another site, fell in love with a template, downloaded, and, yes, got a different error. I have done this on about 5 sites. I am pretty savvy when it comes to software and computers but I am totally baffled. Since I submitted my blog for review I would like to WOW the reviewers with something in case I get a "finger" for my writing! Anyone have any ideas/suggestions?

  35. Mtn, if your content is good enough, your template won't matter.

    Also, you could check out suckmylolly or leelou for templates

  36. I'm always a day late around here, dammit.

    I regret letting certain family members know about my blog. My parents don't know, and if they discover it, I'll be closing up shop FER SURE.

    The thing I hate about people reading it that aren't bloggers is that even though I gave them the link, the fact that they never comment freaks me out and makes me think they are spying on me. I know they read it cause they bring it up when I see them in person and it makes me want to shrivel up in a corner.

    The idea of starting over seems exhausting but I know I'm fucking muzzled by this shit.

  37. Calamity: SMALL freaking world right?? ha.ha.ha.. I know Sayre because I dated one of her other brothers(the one with the fascination for midgets)!

    And she has the right of it, Matt is such a social butterfly that I don't think anyone will hunt you down.

  38. Sayre, oy. I wish I could help with the template stuff, but I'm a Wordpress girl now and Blogger is a foreign entity. I will offer up LB's services when she returns from parts unknown. Surely we can find you something more appropriate.

    And I definitely understand about journal vs. blog. What you're doing now isn't bad at all, for what it is. It's just not that fascinating for the masses, you know? Maybe if you directed me to your Xanga... (I'm a nosy little twat).

    Say hi to Matt from the mysterious person who went to school with him for 12 years. Possibly more, now that I think of it.

    As for the rating, I give a lot of credit for consistency and determination, really. And you do write well. And I gotta be supportive of hometown girls.

    The world is entirely too damn small, Pink. And getting smaller every day.

  39. There are people I know in real life who read my blog, but having said that, I wish they didn't. I don't mind bloggers I know in person reading my blog though.

    Having real life friends read really stifles my shit sometimes. I mean, how can you blog about that old friend of yours who is whacked out, if she's reading?

    Not to mention, I blog about some really personal stuff, stuff I don't necessarily want a client or my MOM to read.

    You' be surprised how easy it can be for someone to stumble across your blog.

  40. Oh god, my mom?? Reading my blog?? Oh, hell no. I'd have to go into therapy. Again.

  41. Cal, I had all three of my moms and one of my dads reading my shit.

  42. i have dipshit family members that can't shut up about my blog despite my repeated attempts to tell them that I don't want the whole fucking family reading it. My brother in law calls me bluestreak now in front of other family members that then start asking questions. but in the end i'm the biggest idiot for not keeping my mouth shut.

  43. This is where I scream, "Run away!!!!"

    Seriously. Get a new blog and do your real blogging there. Keep the old blog but only update sporadically until it dies a miserable, lonely death and then lie your pants off -- "Blog? Oh, I got tired of it."

    Meanwhile, we'll all be reading your brilliance at your super secret and yet inherently fabulous blog.

  44. there is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving your roots, and starting over. My original blog was called Dubious Wonder, and I loved it, and that's how Cal and I happened upon each other. But then, people started reading it, and it got out, and I went into hiding. Now, my blog is private, and that's the way I like it. I don't need to whore myself out, I don't worry about how many blogs link to me, or how many comments I get. When I need to write, I write. When I don't need to write, I don't.

    I've done the whole "building a readership" thing, and even posted pictures of my naked ass online.

    Never again.

    Although, I DO have a great ass.

  45. Love Bites -

    You're making me want to ask for a link to those naked pictures, but I know there's no class in doing that and it sounds like you've removed them from wherever they were anyway.

    The question of anonymity is an interesting one. I've found that anonymity really doesn't do much for me. On one hand, I guess I might feel free to talk about really embarrassing stuff or post naked pictures but then again, I'm not anonymous to myself. I know the truth, even if no one else does, and that's enough. Also, as far as I'm concerned, if you create a written record of something you'd better assume everyone's going to find out. If you've got a secret that really needs to remain secret then don't tell anyone. On the other hand, I could probably go ahead and reveal everything without consequence because no one really cares anyway. People who I know who know about my blog don't bother to read it.

  46. You should have just asked, like I did, Dick. There's even less class in 'beating around the bush'. Class? In this joint? Seriously.

  47. Too many people who know me know about my blog, and their knowing definitely affects what I write sometimes. I've thought about starting an anonymous blog, but I really don't have the time or energy to think about sustaining two. I imagine this all balancing itself out eventually, with me becoming bitchier and more depressed in print so that blog-me more closely resembles real-me.

  48. I'm kind of like Betsy. I recently just gave up. Having a book come out has sort of forced me to be way more public than I wanted to be. I know my parents are reading it now. I know my brother and sisters are reading. Family members, co-workers, everyone.

    So what, though? You know? I'm honest and I know not everyone's going to like it, but I'm still going to be honest.

  49. I'm sorry. Betsey. I love her, but I can't spell for shit tonight.

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Grow a pair.