Amit Gawande digs a bit into finding one’s writing voice, wanting to do so “without the added pressure of anticipating the reader’s reaction” by blogging in such a way that “none of these posts reaches a place where responding is easy—a timeline with some way to reply”.
In an earlier post indicating he’s seeking interaction not reaction, Gawande ties some of this concern to the matter of how open a blogger should or shouldn’t be about their own lives.
But then there are those words that don't deserve hot takes or quick thoughts when I share something extremely personal. Or when I write something pretty close to my heart. When I am the most vulnerable.
This made me think of a recent Jessica Smith post expressly about vulnerability, a post which by necessity required exactly that. It’s interesting that as his most vulnerable Gawande wants to restrict the ease of reacting to what he writes, while there’s a very supportive conversation thread on Smith’s post worth reading in its own right.
That’s not me saying it’s “correct” to do it Smith’s way over Gawande’s: the only correct way is the way that provides the blogger themselves the most comfort.
I don’t include any means of reacting or interacting directly here, primarily as part of managing my cognitive and psychological resources. As I’ve indicated before, other bloggers can send webmentions to any of my posts, but I use that just as an internal notification system.
The upside of providing nothing beyond a
mailto: link on posts is that if someone really feels they have something to say, they need to fire up their email program and say it to me directly and without a public performance. They always can be performative on their own blogs, if they wish, but I’m not interested in having to manage any form of public conversation.
Smith notes that being vulnerable in the past has meant “creat[ing] a piece of writing that’s going to make me wince when I go back and reread it later”. There’s going to be plenty of that here as my blog restoration project continues (I’ve spotted some of it already during early work organizing old sources), and mostly I won’t know for sure how I feel about it until I get there.
She also mentions “a bunch of really thoughtful and personal blog posts in recent days” that make her “wish I had something that didn’t make me feel utterly exposed that I could write like that about”. Here’s the thing about blogging vulnerability, though: it isn’t required, and no one’s somehow a lesser blogger or writer if they do less of it.
It’s important to note, too, at least in passing, that vulnerability can be mediated by identity and privilege.
As it says on my homepage, I am a straight, celibate, aromantic, agnostic, autistic, introverted, antifascist, middle-aged, cisgender white guy of Italian, Lithuanian, and Polish descent. Arguably there’s more in there that protects me from exploitation of my vulnerability than would make me vulnerable to such exploitation.
Vulnerability is of less worth if it just makes you not want to write or share anything at all. I’ve said it before, but the moment I write with (per Gawande) “what others might think” in mind is the moment I should rethink what I’m doing here. Is it good if some reader, somewhere, takes away something from what you wrote? Of course.
Blogging, though (IMHO), is meant to about about the blogger, not about the reader. That means the blogger gets to decide for themselves how it’s going to be on, and for, their blog.
“Voice,” as I’ve often quoted Christopher Locke as saying, “is what happens when you shitcan the cover-up.” It’s not a cover-up, though, to protect yourself. The amount of vulnerability in your voice entirely is up to you.