I attended a book signing for my friend, Jen, author of the wildly popular blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, and author/publisher of Amazon's newest #1 humor book "I Just Want to Pee Alone."
Jen read a hilarious piece about moms' night out at the gun range, one I'd had the privilege and pleasure of hearing while performing with her in Kansas City's "Listen to Your Mother" this past May. She and one of her "Pee Alone" writing partners, Stacey Hatton, then took questions from the audience.
One question in particular has stuck with me: "How come so many bloggers kind of... burn out... or maybe... go off the deep end after they develop a following?"
The audience member was sincere, though I was surprised she asked it. I just thought everyone knew the answer.
Writers, by nature, are a different breed. We are people with more internal monologues than a Cathy cartoon. We are people who are far too hyper-observant and, if we are not careful, can be bothered by every sensation around us to a debilitating degree. We are not all necessarily introverts any more than we are necessarily extroverts, but we do all share a sense of mental cleansing - and stimulation - by allowing our endless thoughts to land on a page... or a computer screen.
And writers write.
Bloggers, though, are a unique breed of writer. Kind of like graffiti artists or subway performers or marathoners (usually without the tight asses... sigh) put themselves out there unsolicited (seriously, who ever tells someone to run 26 miles?).
Pull out the bloggers who fall into the money-generating marketer or reporter category, and you are left with writers who are looking for attention.
Those of us who have accepted it proudly wear our "Attention Whore" label on both sleeves. Others - those who might believe they aren't in it for attention, as they prefer to remain anonymous, or those who do it solely "as a venue to express personal thoughts" - may not be ready to admit that opting for a public website over an old-fashioned Hello Kitty journal with a built-in lock for privacy is, indeed, looking for some sort of spotlight.
On some level, every blogger believes she has something soooooo important to say, she must publicize it. Otherwise she would simply jot it down in that dusty Hello Kitty journal.
Ask any mom blogger if she is looking for a newspaper column or a book deal or a job at O Magazine, and 99% of the time the answer is yes, whether she says it out loud or not.
And there's nothing at all wrong with that.
Now ask any newspaper columnist or published author or contributor to O Magazine if there are any drawbacks to her dream job she had not seen coming and she will scream from the top of the NYT Bestseller list, "HOLY SHIT, THAT IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT!"
Trying to gain an audience of 100 is nothing compared to trying to please an audience of 1,000,000. And an editor. And a publisher. And a family that, at times, liked it a lot better when writing only took up a couple hours of "me time" each week.
And then there is the creeping fear of the idea well running dry or an editor telling you to compromise your message for ratings or - worst and most prevalent of all fears (besides spellcheck being taken away) - what if everyone finds out the truth: You don't really know what you're doing.
True story... every successful writer with whom I have ever talked has confessed to harboring at some level - from short-lived to chronic - a fear of being discovered as a fraud. Every writer. From the community newsletter to network television script writers, all have expressed this same fear at every level of notoriety.
So back to the question...
The reason so many bloggers flake out, freak out or check out after hitting a mark of notoriety is usually either because the art of writing becomes unwanted work (Deadlines? Who wants to worry about a deadline? All my friends are by a pool drinking margaritas!) or because success itself arrives with all sorts of confidence-rattling fears that serve - in the end - to strengthen the most determined and weaken the less resolved.
Either way, it does not matter.
Slipping off the internet is as easy as it is to slip on. And if a person decides the blogging life is not for her (or him), then hitting "Delete" is the best thing she (or he) can do. After all, a big, beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime sort of world is waiting just beyond the computer screen to be experienced without necessarily being chronicled.
(Um, notice I didn't write anything all summer on this blog until now. But I got a lot of shit done, loaded up my iPhone camera roll and have an awesome tan.)
And if a person has the support and confidence and drive to ride the waves of success, then that is exactly what she (or he) should do.
(Mother%$!#Hood runs again at Lawrence Arts Center August 30/31 and September 6/7... buy your tickets today!)
So sometimes bloggers quit. Sometimes they land awesome book deals (congratulations, Jen!!). It's all good ---- no, it's all great. We're all born to do different things, and we cannot know what they are until we try. But most of all, we all need to do those things that make us feel alive. Life's too short to do it any other way.