Blogging & Authenticity

Last week I went a little meta by writing a blog post about me blogging. Today I’m gonna double-down on that and write a blog post about a blog post about me blogging.

Don’t worry, I promise it makes sense. I won’t keep doing this ad infinitum. It’s just that after reviewing my last post, it occurred to me that I might have raised a few questions worth answering.

I’m pretty happy with the piece itself. I didn’t realize until after it was finished how much I needed to write it. The whole thing felt like coming up for air after being submerged underwater for a long time. The words came quickly, everything felt natural, and by the end I didn’t feel in the least bit tired. It felt like my first real blog post in ages.

In the post I discussed how I’d grown somewhat dissatisfied with the state of my blog. In short, I wasn’t enjoying it, I wasn’t happy with the content itself, I didn’t feel connected to my readers, and the process of writing was slow, exhausting, and depressing. I hadn’t asked myself the question “Why do I write this blog?” in a long time. I just blogged out of habit. Now I realize the importance of asking myself that question with regularity going forward. And not just with blogging. If you repeat any activity long enough, it becomes a routine. And when something becomes a routine, it’s easy to lose sight of why you started doing it in the first place. The fervor that drives you to begin a project won’t be enough to last you very long; mission statements need to be renewed like vows of marriage. Think of it as an oath of allegiance you have to swear to yourself, one that needs to be reaffirmed at regular intervals in order to prove you take the commitment seriously.

In my last post I attempted to explore why I fell out of love with my blog and how I might learn to love it again. The answer, I was convinced, lay in authenticity. But what do we mean by authenticity in writing? The more I thought about this, the more I realized I needed to write a follow-up post on the topic.

When we think of authenticity, we think of truth in the literal sense. Is this painting of the Houston skyline authentic to the reality of the Houston skyline? Is the TV drama set in Ancient Rome authentic to the reality of Ancient Rome? Is my behavior authentic to the reality of my beliefs?

Authenticity is about alignment. Are these two things congruent with each other? So when it comes to writing blog posts, I have to ask myself: does this piece of writing accurately reflect the reality of my personality and my values, or is it performative in some way? Even if the facts in my post are true, can it really be called authentic if it conveniently omits other facts? This is why the subject of authenticity is brought up a lot today; in the digital world of social media, we can carefully curate and edit our image. We form ideas about the kind of lives other people lead based on what they choose to show us online.

So being authentic in my writing isn’t as simple as just writing the truth. I think it’s more about the way I might choose to write about something.  It’s not so much writing the truth as it is writing truthfully. As I said last week, we can often tell when someone is being authentic or not. If they talk or write about their experiences in a way that aligns with our own, we tend to believe them. Not only do we tend to believe them- but we build empathy with them. We become more invested in what they are saying or doing. That’s how you create user engagement. Of course, we can’t tell if someone is being authentic to themselves or not, but we can gauge whether they are being authentic to the human experience. For example, when I tell people about the time I got lost in a hedge maze as a kid and started crying, people tend to believe me. When I go into detail about how scared I was, how I felt like I was never going to find the way out, they become invested in the story. They weren’t there to witness it, and they’re not interested verifying it with photographic evidence of me crying my eyes out. They believe it because crying is a very believable response for a child that’s lost. Even if the listener to my story hasn’t had a comparable experience of their own, they can likely either imagine themselves having that reaction, or indeed other children they know. It resonates with them on a human level. It’s universal.

When planning future content for this blog that would fulfill the commitment to authenticity, I thought about where the line might be drawn between being authentic and self-indulgent. And I think the answer is much the same as the previous paragraph- it’s about whether your truth is relevant to others in some way. For example, when I went on a cruise around the Caribbean with my friends, I came back with lots of funny stories from our time together. Those anecdotes are only relevant to me, my friends, and those that know us personally. They wouldn’t make sense in the context of a blog post. When I blogged about the cruise, I tried to focus on things that would be universally-relevant, whether it’s the experience of trying new things, the amount of privacy and/or freedom you get with a cruise, the nature of long-distance friendships, impressions of the ports of call, or the way the onset of the global pandemic affected the trip. You get the idea. It involved sharing the personal experiences I had that I thought would resonate with other people. It’s about building bridges through common areas of interest. You have to ask yourself: am I writing this with the reader in mind, or is it purely for myself? If you’re only writing for yourself, then the piece isn’t really suited to the medium of blogging. It’s better off in a diary.

A diary is beholden only to the person that writes it. Its only standard is the one it sets for itself. Writing in a public space- be it in a blog, a book, or a magazine- is different. It’s neither wholly for the reader or the writer. It’s a synthesis. Neglect the reader and the piece becomes alienating and self-indulgent, but neglect yourself and the piece becomes trivial and anodyne. Going forward I hope to maintain this balance. That’s not to say that every post from now on is going to be super-meta like this one. I will still write about books, movies, games et cetera, but I’ll try to do so in a way that’s authentic, succinct, and appropriate to the medium. When I say appropriate, I just mean something that fits. For example, a review of a video game written in the style of industry standards would be better suited to either a mainstream media outlet or a blog that maintains that style. It doesn’t gel with my usual posts or the blog as a whole.

I’ll write about almost anything, but there are some definite no-go areas. Firstly, I won’t write someone else’s story. If something traumatic happened to someone I knew, I wouldn’t then harness that as material for a piece of writing. Aside from being unethical, it’s just not authentic. It’s someone else’s experience. Secondly, I won’t overshare for the sake of clicks. Writing about something that’s shocking or taboo on a surface level is just cheap. It might be true, but it’s not authentic. The content has to be relevant and worth writing about in some way. You don’t win friends at work by confessing your crippling porn addiction at the water cooler. People will just think you’re insecure and desperate for attention. The same holds true for blogging. I don’t mind tapping into my vulnerabilities or sharing something embarrassing, just so long as it’s not for the sake of it.

That’s it for today. Just a few reflections I had on the blogging process. Let me know if you have any thoughts on the subject! I’ll be back real soon.

2 Replies to “Blogging & Authenticity”

  1. Lol, this reminds me of the pics of people holding pics of them holding pics of them which they take annually. Anyway, it seems that you’re clear on where you want to go with your blogging, so I’m wishing you all the best!

    Liked by 1 person

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