Silence and the Ethics of Blogging

From the frequency (or lack thereof) of blog posts I publish, you may think that I’ve forgotten about the blog or that my heart really isn’t in it or I’m too lazy to make time to write.

This isn’t true. I think about my blog all the time.

I compose entire posts in my head on my way to campus. When something interesting or poignant or hilarious happens, I think that would make a great blog post. Sometimes I even write entire posts, only to save them in draft form to be published at some magical future date. And that time never comes.

Why is this? How did I go from I Am Writer, Read My Words to, well, silence?

In Tillie Olsen’s book, Silences, she describes lots of different types of silence. One: the absence of books written by women in the canon (keep in mind Silences was originally published in 1978). Another: long gaps in a single writer’s literary production. Olsen examines the conditions for these gaps: fear of criticism, inability to make time to write, political silencing.

How, then, can I account for my own silences, at least on the blog?

The biggest factor, I think, is that I don’t have a job. To be more accurate, I currently have four jobs (student, writer, editor, and administrative junkie), but none of them pay very well (or at all) and none are sustainable. In a few months/years, I will have to go out on the job market and find a career, something with maybe a retirement plan and insurance. No matter what type of job I find, I’m terrified that the blog will become a liability, not an asset, despite reassurances to the contrary.

You can’t measure, rank, or quantify the usefulness of a blog. You can’t measure, rank, or quantify any of the things I do, really, but somehow the blog has come to stand as that thing that makes me feel like a round peg trying to fit into a square hole. Nobody else I know IRL who isn’t already established has a blog, so there’s no one I can really talk to who can say how a blog fits into their larger professional vision, if there is such a thing. There’s also no one to tell me to relax and do what I want, because the only information I hear are the horror stories of trying to find a job.

And so, I’ve become the ultimate censor of my work. Is this interesting? What am I trying to say, exactly? Do I really want to publish this? How will this read if someone finds it in five years?

In addition, the readership of my blog has increased in an inverse relationship to the number of posts I write. People are coming up to me at events and saying, “I read your blog!” This produces all sorts of weird associations in my head. For the past few years, I’ve joked to Husband that I want to be famous. Except I’m only half-joking. I really do want to be famous, not necessarily in a Bloggess sort of way, but famous in a way that people will want to read my work and take me sort of seriously.

But now that people are finally reading my work, instead of rejoicing (“Yay I’m famous!”), I’m terrified. Who are these people and why do they care what I say? Don’t they know I’m making most of this up as I go along?

And aside from the usual Impostor Syndrome symptoms, there’s also the fear that Someone Important will read my work, become offended, and I will get in very real trouble. You see, in March I was elected to be the Graduate Student Association president at Rice. It’s a very cool title with very annoying responsibilities. For the past six months, I have been working on planning and executing events for Rice’s Centennial celebration. Most of it has been fun, if working 12 hour days every day for four months can be fun. It has also put me into contact with a lot of 1%-ers in ways that make me feel like I need a shower afterwards. I have seen the underbelly of higher education, and I don’t like it.

I have a lot of opinions about these sort of things. But I don’t want to write about that because I can’t. I benefit from a lot of the things I don’t like. And I like working in administration, and you don’t get a job in administration by biting the hand that feeds you. Still, in this political climate, it has put me in the odd position of smiling-and-nodding when I really want to be shoving a picket sign in someone’s face.

I am silent because there are things that can’t be said, at least by me. I’m silent because I’m scared. I’m silent because I’m tired, to be frank. I can’t be silent anymore—but I don’t know how I’m going to fix it, at least not right away.

I’m here. I’m still reading your blogs. I’m always on Twitter. If I haven’t written in a while, it’s only because I can’t figure out how to say what I want to say yet. In the meantime, keep writing, my friends. Always keep writing.

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5 thoughts on “Silence and the Ethics of Blogging

  1. L.G.Smith says:

    It's funny, I recently applied for a job at a library and I thought what the hell. I put my novel writing and blog down as interests/hobbies on the app. I figure it's better they know now. 😛 Of course, I don't live in the world of academia, so no harm no foul, really.

  2. Libby says:

    Anna, that was actually quite beautiful. I read this earlier, and had to come back to read it again. You are quite eloquent and I found myself tearing up a little at the end. Academia can be extremely political and I hope you're able to resolve your issues with blogging/academia. I do miss you when you're not posting. Good luck young lady. You're clearly intelligent and caring and I'm sure things will work out well for you. It will just suck a bunch until it does.

  3. Anna says:

    Honestly, you guys are the ones who keep me going when I want to throw in the towel. Whenever I start thinking about the politics of blogging, I keep the Rejectionist in my head—she's somehow able to negotiate the weirdness without losing her mind.I had a great conversation about books with one of Rice's librarians. She had just come back from a Steampunk convention and wore the most rockin' Steamy owl necklace I have ever seen. We started talking about the book she's writing, Victorian clothing, and Etsy, and I left thinking, why can't I have *that* job?

  4. Christine says:

    As a public high school teacher I often wonder what would happen if one of my students or administrators found my blog. I don't intend to every be offensive, but I understand how my style could be. So far, so good- I have a few colleagues that read it but they respect my privacy. It's tough- you want to be honest, you want to be genuine, but you also want to protect yourself.

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