Why I Took a Vacation From Blogging

I didn’t expect the break to stretch for months. Usually, blogging is a great pleasure for me, especially when I’m not beset by other writing deadlines and family obligations.

Yet, I’ve since realized that it’s never simply about recording the events of my life. Some bloggers are wonderful narrators of the day-to-day, but that’s not my strength. And as I discovered this summer, coming to terms with the loss of a parent requires more than public acknowledgment. It requires internal quiet.

Earlier this year, I did blog a bit about my mother’s death. Blogging also felt necessary to me during the Boston Marathon bombing. Writing about such an event unfolding near my hometown became a form of first-person documentation. It was a way to get a grip on my own anxieties, too, particularly regarding my eleven-year-old son’s reaction.

“I assumed it would be a relief to write in a lighter key”

In June, after his school year ended, we left for London and Asia—and I thought I’d continue blogging while we traveled. I’ll put out a series of quirky anecdotes with iPhone photos, I told myself. I’ll let everyone know I’m all right, that I’ve moved on. I assumed it would be a relief to write in a lighter key after a sad, sad spring.

On the Sunday my son and I spent at the Victoria & Albert Museum, attending the “David Bowie Is Here” show, I was certain I’d write about that. I even snapped photos in preparation for such a post, just as I did the next day when we waited with the crowds around Buckingham Palace or went to the Tower.

But suddenly, fingers poised over my laptop, I felt no desire to put a public frame around these experiences. My son was full of irrepressible glee, and I found myself basking in the days he and I spent together while my husband attended a conference. I did write in my journal, but I stayed away from shaping any of it for an audience.

I’ve had a lot of time ponder my response since then—time that I haven’t been blogging—and it’s now obvious I needed solitude. In retrospect, my desire to shun a social forum like a blog makes complete sense. It’s my own surprise that seems ridiculous, as if my head and heart were disconnected, bobbing away from each other like balloons.

Of course, that’s one thing grief does: It makes you feel disconnected from the person you were before the loss. Long before I understood this shift in perspective, I was already living in a new world, an altered landscape so suddenly strange that traveling as a tourist through foreign cities paled in comparison.

“Grief makes you feel disconnected from the person you were before the loss”

But more important, I hadn’t moved on, and to pretend otherwise would have been a lie. I would have been deceiving myself. So, I came to rely on other forms of writing—a novel I’m revising; magazine features that I knew would go through editing, that wouldn’t publish right away.

I relied on my husband and son, my immediate family, to keep me connected to all that I still love. My son seemed to be growing and changing every day, and he matched my desire to live in the moment for months at a time.

Blogging, no matter how personal, is public. My knowledge that others will read what I write can temper how I experience something like the very mixed emotions generated by my mother’s death. Even months ago, I knew that was wrong. My head told me one thing—just write! what are you waiting for? everyone will be sympathetic, you owe it to everyone—but my heart knew I didn’t owe anyone an explanation.

This isn’t a new realization. Since I began to blog five years ago, I’ve experimented with various topics and moods and degrees of personal revelation. But all along, I’ve known my defenses were up—and needed to be up. I’ve never been a daily blogger. I’ve long stopped believing that frequent blogging is necessary for a working writer.

Instead, I’ve come to see that sometimes the only way to write honestly is to silence the noise inside my head—and to stay quiet. Far too often, that noise is determined by what others want or what I think they want, and it can overflow into something like a blog post. I hit “publish,” and it’s ephemeral—but still, I should have waited.

“This form of writer’s block isn’t a bad thing”

This form of writer’s block isn’t a bad thing. Indeed, it’s been good for my grieving soul, an antidote to all the words I might otherwise have erected as a barrier to feeling.

These days, I wait more often, allowing the surface words to settle like sediment. It can be lonely, but I bless the sense of internal quiet I’ve regained. After this difficult year, it’s a gift I never expected to receive.

4 thoughts on “Why I Took a Vacation From Blogging

  1. I resonate with this: “Of course, that’s one thing grief does: It makes you feel disconnected from the person you were before the loss.” Illness also has this effect, I’ve found, which contains its own grief. Thank you for articulating the need for silence, a need that has no deadline to meet, requires no audience to be understood or made real.

  2. Sarah, yes, any major life event or crisis feels like a loss of self and includes the attendant grief; we’re just not very good at acknowledging all these dimensions of loss in American culture. And metaphorically as much as actually, our social surroundings are so noisy these days! Online interaction makes it harder than ever to maintain personal boundaries and a sense of internal quiet.

    I’ve been thinking about this for months, because the theme of the next issue of TW is “Distraction,” and my Editor’s Note will address the need for quiet space. The new issue launches next week….

  3. I feel you. I look at what I’m going through these days and I ask myself “Do I want to put this out there where total strangers can stumble across it? Nah.” Puts me in mind of an ancient Doonesbury strip. Jimmy Thudpucker, Trudeau’s fictional rock star, is informed by his agent that he is contractually obligated to put out a “dues song” even though, as a 19-year-old overnight success, he hasn’t actually paid any dues. As an aid to creativity, the agent throws out a topic suggestion: “Woman ever hurt you?”

    Thudpucker’s reply” “Nothing I want to share with fifty million teeny boppers.”

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