I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

Out Into The Bloglight?

Do we really want to meet the flesh behind the blogs we love? Do we really want to put our real selves out there? Have you met your blogging fraternity in person? Were you happy or disappointed when you met your very own version of MadHenGoesBananas? Are an increasing number of blogs choosing not to be anonymous? Or will it remain the trend to stay, as I am, a shadow in cyberspace?


I ask all of these questions as I draw your attention to two 'in-the-flesh' blogging events taking place in London this Saturday. Are we in the middle of some kind of transformation in blogland? The British Blog Directory/Britblog has announced a Christmas Blogmeet . But that's not all! There's also another literary Blogmoot taking place in London on the same day - married up with the London launch of Kate Bousfield's book A Coven of One (Kate is also known as the inimitable Inner Minx).

This is all wonderful news, which gives you the sense that blogs are branching out, organising their own events, giving people the chance to hook up, share ideas and promote blogging solidarity. These events could become huge, with a new era of the information age developing before our eyes.

The problem with this - and I'm not in any way wanting to pour cold water on these events, as I think they are great initiatives - is that it is making anonymous bloggers reassess why their sites maintain their black cloaks. It makes us ask ourselves whether we should be ready to go and let people match our faces up with our blogs. For me, this is a good question to be asking right now. I've already been busted a few times: by an old friend, a workmate, a fellow blogger. So far though, I've kept myself shameless and nameless. I have been weighing up the pros and the cons for months. I have almost let loose with my real identity on several occasions, usually late at night when I'm feeling rash, but then something always holds me back. Of course, I have to remember that a blog could be a complication when it comes to my main job in journalism. Or maybe it wouldn't pose a problem. I haven't worked that one out yet.

(It's the mask here that makes my head look bigger than it is, by the way! I love the message though: anonymous freedom!)

What I do know is that one of the reasons why I wanted to blog was to get my creative writing out there - and yes, it is very different to news writing and journalism! (It's amazing how many people think that a journalist should automatically be good at creative writing. We are taught from day one to boil everything down. Prune. Trim. Simplify. Unless we're writing features, daily news is all fact and no "frills".) However, at the end of the day, if I ever manage to get my first or second book published, I would want to get my name out there, and it would make sense to make my blog public, to shed the mysterious black cloak. So, why not do that now? Why not already start building up a profile?

I think many writers who are blogging are probably facing exactly the same questions. Many will happily go along to the events like those being organised in London this weekend, and they will benefit massively from the exposure to others who are like-minded. There are many more, however, who will prefer to keep their names secret, who will prefer to take things nice and slowly, until the day when they feel they are absolutely ready to come out into the bloglight.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

zorak163 is like my super hero costume. I'm not so sure I want to be like Spider-Man and announce to the world that my alter ego is Peter Parker.

One of my friends mentioned my real first name in a comment on my blog and has done the same thing on her blog. This makes me feel a bit queesy....

Shameless said...

I feel the same, Zorak. I think it's inevitable this will happen ... but Minx for example has shown that she can just keep her blog going as Minx, even though we now know she is Kate. I wouldn't dream of leaving comments for a Kate!

skint writer said...

Well put Shameless. It is a dilemma. It was easier for me to de-cloak after less time blogging anonymously and because I do not have to worry about my job or anything.

It was still weird and a bit scary for a while after coming out but now it's great fun being Skint Writer and me at the same time. It's a bit like acting, you can still put on your blogger mask when you blog. We're used to that duality after a hundred years of cinema and particularly soap-operas.

I suppose if you do more journalistic and opinion style blogging you might have to consider the ethics, being a proper journalist and all. But if you stick to fiction or reportage it probably doesn't matter.

Problem for you is that you've opened the box now. You won't be able to stop thinking about it.

Finally - Phew!

Meeting bloggers in the flesh is also a bit weird but only for a few seconds, it's a bit like when you see characters from The Archers on television - they never look like you imagined but you soon get used to it.

Shameless said...

Skint,
I can imagine how it would be strange to talk to a fellow blogger with a real voice! So many illusions must be busted when bloggers meet. There must also be some nice surprises. Gosh, Execution Man is not the sniffly nosed little prat I thought he was! And Sweet Angel is actually a mud wrestler who wears bicycle chains around her neck! And Skint, only you and a few others have discovered why Shameless Words falls into place so perfectly. Mum's the word though, right?!

Anonymous said...

Oi Skinty, who are you calling a 'bit weird'?
And as for you Mr Shameless - "I wouldn't dream of leaving comments for a Kate!" - hmmm, why not?

What does my blog identity give you that my real life persona doesn't? I am not much different - I think Skint will vouch for that. Minx sums me up (I think) and up until the book pushed me into the open (Coven of One by Minx Cheekycow? - maybe not.)I was quite happy with remaining anonymous. I had no work issues btw.
Now that I am 'out' I am faced with the strange phenomena of having a dual personality. Many people still have difficulty with using my real name. I met Debi back in the summer on a beach in Cornwall. She was the first blogger I had met, or spoken to. It was a great experience. I knew that we would get on but I didn't realise how much! I think that I have found a friend for life - something I didn't expect from blogging. She still calls me Minx and her children call me The Minsk. All is cool.

We all get to 'know' each other in this strange medium and meeting up is just another aspect. And yes Skint, it was a bit weird but something that I am looking forward to doing again on Saturday!

So when you're ready Shameless, we're here, and hopefully it will be when you get that book out!

Shameless said...

Kate,
All is forgiven! Come home!

Shameless said...

But actually, now you mention it, Minx Cheekycow does have a kind of ring to it? What does everyone else think? I think the next batch off the printers should have Minx Cheekycow on the front.
You're right though, Kate - er - Minx - er - Kate - you've been a great bunch to come across, and I probably will just jump in with all seven feet!

Jessica Schneider said...

I 'came out' (I was never 'in') but I use my real name because I can't fathom the thought of having something like 'writergirrl9' or something like that claim authorship of my work. I used to be worried about the whole photo thing, but I don't care now. It's more popular now, and the world is a big place. It freaked me out more when some guy in my neighborhood once recognized me from running- I was thinking to myself, 'does he know the paths I take too?'
But other than that I just carry a loaded gun at all times and flash it at anyone who gives me trouble.

Ha ha. No, I'm serious. But I've never had a co-worker claim to have seen my blog. I guess I'm too uneventful in person, that they have no reason to google me.

Shameless said...

Jessica,
Your lounging cat will need to be careful sitting on your precious cover if there's a loaded gun around! Lol.

It was a shock when someone sent a mail to say they'd worked out the blog was mine, just by stumbling across it and putting 2 and 5 together to get 35498!

moontopples said...

I keep a very thin veil of anonymity, and think from time to time about increasing to full-on kevlar as you have. When I linked to you in a post a while back, I had to pore through your blog in order to find clues that I was using the correct gender of pronoun.

I get hits from google searches for my real name, and it sends a chill down my spine. Because the searcher, of course, stays anonymous, while I'm standing there naked.

I suppose it's too late to scale back my identity, though. Too many cats got out of that bag already.

Anonymous said...

not enough time for proper response but just wanted to say:

a) thanks for publicity for coven/moot event

b) we'll be here waiting as soon as you're ready

c) weirdness lasts precisely 0.5 of a second. Then it's 'Of COURSE that's Minx/Skint/Sharon/Maxine etc!'

Saaleha said...

Well I'm not anynymous at all. Anyone who finds an article of mine on Islam Online and googles me will find my blog. BUt there isn't a single picture of me anywhere on the net. For this I am thankful. There shouldn't be, because I wear a veil when I leave the house, so a pic would defeat the purpose :)

I woudln't mind meeting fellow bloggers though. I'm sure that I'd find a few with whom I could instantly click. Even across the ether there is this bond that is formed and certain persons become interwoven into your life. And since there's no 'other' persona to get confused with, I'll just be good ole me.

btw, shameless, i think you're an awful tease. You've shown people your hands, your shadow and now a masked face. What next, you dressed up as spiderman?

Shameless said...

Moon/Maht, (see, I like moon!)
It's true that it's unnerving when we see just how open we make ourselves, even if we're "anonymous". It's also true that people have referred to me as a woman in posts, but I quite like the trip that gives me.

Debi, you know I will be at the blogmoot in spirit, and Minx knows that I am waving flags and blowing whistles for her. One day we will take off this cloak!

And Saaleha, I'm putting up a link to your blog today. So nice to have someone from a new part of the world! You're right that I am a tease ... that's where shameless comes into things! But you can see my soul, and that's the important part.

Cailleach said...

A thoughful piece, as ever Shameless, which leads me into thinking about writing per se and the duality of that life, as well as the blog thing.

I don't talk about what I do, mainly because of the funny looks I get when I say I write poetry, or write, full stop! So, for me there is always that keeping something back, just for me, in a way. But that is something that will change next year as I prepare for more exposure, and will have to do the rounds of reading in Ireland to get the first collection off the ground and onto people's bookcases.

And as for the blog, I originally started it as a way to wean myself off the message boards of the Open University, as I knew that after finishing the degree I would need another outlet.

I am very glad that I have started on the blog route, as it has opened new doors, alleviated the loneliness that I have experienced in the writing community and widened my horizons beyond the small town mentality that you can be subject to, when you live in a small town.

There's a whole wide world community out there: that feels as though it is shrinking the world. I have met many fine people, and read many pieces of fine writing, and sometimes been allowed to read the inner workings of many fine minds.

Anonymity is something I feel ambiguous about - sometimes I cherish it, sometimes I don't. Either way it doesn't really bother me. We all are something to everybody and their perceptions of what we are, ultimately do not figure in my own working out of who I think I am. I hope that doesn't come out all prima donnaish - it's more that I hope that I'm content with who I am... I guess!

Sorry, didn't mean to blab, and it's all probably been said already anyway ;)

Shameless said...

Thanks for your response here Cailleach, which I can totally relate to. I think many writers will have experienced unease when they tell people about their work ... when they get those funny looks you talk about. In New Zealand they call this Tall Poppy Syndrome, cutting people down when they get "too big for their boots". Writing a book, are you? Write poetry, do you? Oh, fancy yourself as a bit of a Shakespeare?
I just tell it like it is now. People can react how they like.

Jessica Schneider said...

I don't like those kinds of reactions from non-writing folk. I usually don't tell them I write, and when I do I never mention the poetry because from their pov it sounds so trite and so... pretentious maybe, or just emotional. Most have never heard of Wallace Stevens or Rilke or Hart Crane, so when I try to explain to them what I read I get a lot of blank expressions. Also, poetry is sort of equaled to being touchy-feely, sappy, mawkish, etc, and I don't like that, and nor am I like that in person. Most are surprised because I don't wear the whole artist thing on my sleeve, such as the clichéd wearing of all black and smoking over James Joyce in a coffee house. And also, I don't like the whole stigma of, 'oh, you do it for therapy?' Such a question drives me nuts to the point that I just leave the room or just shut up all together, and begin next sentence with, 'So, how 'bout those [insert name of irrelevant sports team]?'

Shameless said...

Jessica,
I also choose who I share my writing aspirations with ... generally people who are open to creativity. People in the media usually are, so I normally don't have problems at work. Elsewhere ... !

One of the problems I can have is being badgered about when I'm going to get a proper book published. Once you've let it be known that you're trying, there is then enormous pressure to give regular updates, which is painful. I shut up now, especially when in the company of those I wouldn't want to keep updating!

The blogland is good for this. We are free to let off steam about what we're up to. We can talk about our dreams with people who are in the same bubble. We can get honest feedback. Taking away the anonymity, and letting in the very people I wouldn't discuss this with, will be difficult.

Jessica Schneider said...

I know what you mean about the badgering. The painful thing is, that the 'lay person' (as in non-writer) really hasn't a clue how difficult it is to get published. I don't want to open a can of worms on this one, I vent enough on my blog, but they think it's just a matter of, 'oh you wrote a book? So why isn't it published?'

Also, I don't know if you've experienced this, but do you ever get any kind of jealousy/defensiveness from people when you tell them you write? I've had it happen on a # of occasions where, when I tell someone I write, they immediately turn it around on themselves and say, 'god, I can't do that...' in this self-pity mode. And what am I supposed to say? You're probably right, since I've read your emails and you can't even spell? It at times has made me feel awkward, and so that's why, like you, there are certain people I don't feel comfortable telling. I don't work with creative types, so at work the mystery about it does not come out much.

O and not to mention, when you say you write poetry, why does everyone assume Hallmark Cards or suicidal, I want to kill myself/I am a vampire/ blah blah blah? It's like there is only one or the other.

Shameless said...

Jessica,

I know what you mean about people not understanding what it means to get published. I've had this with close ones. I've stopped telling them that I've written a book ... I say, 'I've written a manuscript', otherwise, as you say, they leap to the conclusion that it's printed and available.

I almost kind of downplay the whole thing now (oh, it's not very good and will probably never get published), so as not to hear from people months down the track that they'd heard about my book getting published, and when can they read it?

One day I will take great pleasure in telling them in very minute detail about how the front cover was chosen and what it was like to organise my national tours! Until then though, this mouth is zipping up tighter and tighter - except on this blog, of course.

Beau Blue said...

Most people don't really care, do they?

It isn't even a 5 minute topic at a party full of people who don't know any more about the internet than ebay buying, and have only heard about internet blogging from cable news political shows. It's even less of a viable topic at parties full of people who don't write, who read Dan Brown type novels for recreation, and think poetry is something done by a guy named Service.

If you were truly shameless you wouldn't spend a second of time on this type of reflection. And since it's now obvious you ain't shameless, you might as well take the mask off, Kemosabe, it's not the ikon you think it is.

-blue

Shameless said...

Ah, Beau Blue, but that's what makes it all very interesting ... people do love mystery and suspense and being teased. The Lone Ranger had that appeal for me! The mask behind the mask behind the mask.

Does Shameless call himself that because he's shameless or is it because there's another mysterious reason? No one here cares about the five minute topics of conversations at parties ... people here in blogland care about the issues they're facing on the net, and I wonder how many thousands of bloggers choose to be nameless.

You yourself could increase your intrigue, Beau, my faithful friend, if you would just put up a cover and give us something more mysterious to deal with.

Jessica Schneider said...

Shameless:

You shouldn't downplay yourself, it just lets them think that publication and book sales = quality. Were that true then Dan Brown is one of the greatest writers ever. (I was asleep by page 34 and just gave up).

And saying 'Mss.' is easier than 'book'. But the 1st thing they usually ask is, 'how many pages is it?'

Lord.

It just takes time, it just takes time, it just takes time, time, time, minutes, hours, years, time, waiting, ever waiting...

I think the human species evolves faster than the publishing industry, unless you are a celebrity, where one goes from hairy ape to man in a single night.

Anonymous said...

From a not-mad hen... well, only sometimes...

What an interesting, thought provoking post. Hi Shameless, sent to your blog by my good mate, Saaleha.

For my part, since my blog is fictional, it seems inappropriate for the writer and creator of said blog to reveal him/herself, erm, as I'm kinda um...presently doing in this reply...

I, as writer/creator did reveal myself a few times before deciding that it just complicated things - people didn't know if they were talking to me or the Chicken. Moreover, in the spirit of the blog and its character, I felt should stick to the character I've created and give the Chicken the voice and "control" - I notice other fictional blogs to the same.

If faced with the possiblity of meeting other bloggers, I'd probably do so but not as Atyllah, just as "me" (finding a chicken suit could be problematic...).

I guess it has something to do with finding balance and purpose about what "you" whoever "you" happens to be, wants to say and be. I suppose for many there is also some consideration of not wanting to be spammed or hunted down by some of the Draconianlike creatures known to frequent cyberspace.

I think anonymous bloggers have to be quite clear about their reasons for maintaining anonymity and that poses a whole range of other interesting questions, some of which have been answered by yourself and your readers.

Anonymous said...

I can see you have brown eyes!

Shameless said...

Hi Atyllah,
I can just see you turning up to the London blogmoot in your chicken suit. Wow, that would be worth it!

But, seriously, you have brought up something interesting ... the whole thing about people becoming someone else, even fictional-type characters, and then the choice to stick with what that represents.

Sometimes I'm sure the real people behind the catchy names wouldn't be able to go through with all the antics they bring to their blogs if they ever had to meet other bloggers in real life. The bouncy, crazy, fun ones could be completely the opposite behind the mask.

And Chief Biscuit, I forgot that people can make the photo larger, to make the eyes more visible! Damn! But oh what lovely eyes they are when they are peeled back and the sunlight makes them sparkle! LOL

Jefferson Davis said...

Shameless, I met two blogging friends of mine in Northern Ireland back in June, and it was a bit weird to say the least. They were both nice and helpful, but I could feel the tension in the air. One of the fellows, opened up a bit and we became better friends, while the other never broke character.

I understand the hesitation in meeting people that he or she has never met before, but we have to take chances in life, in order to accomplish new goals. At least, that's my opinion.

Coming out from behind the mask, is a big step Shameless, and I certainly won't try to tell you what to do, except follow your heart. :) I would not know all of you fine people, if I didn't blog.

Thank you Shameless, for the thought provoking post. :)

Shameless said...

Jefferson,

I've heard that Madonna has an anoymous blog as she likes to sound out what her fans think without them knowing who they're talking to. Have you heard this in the states? An American told me while in New York, but only third hand kind of stuff.

This would be a very interesting development indeed. Famous people being able to tap into their fan bases to get to the heart of how their work is being perceived.

As for me, I think I will probably be forced out into the bloglight eventually. I will try to do it quietly though, not make it too much of a big deal.

Anonymous said...

Does that mean you'll be there tonight? You could stand in the shadows and not identify yourself until you check out what an awesome bunch of people we all are in Real Life!

Shameless said...

Wouldn't that be great, Debi, and to not even reveal that it's Shameless. Hello I'm Mr so and so from down the road, just thought I'd pop in and say hello. Good luck with the gathering ... and, of course, pass on a big hi to all!

Beau Blue said...

shameless,

How could anyone with a twenty year internet addiction have any mystery? Mystery is a forest walk in the light rain at dusk.

A hundred foot redwood hung with colored lights by bearded redneck tree climbers? Watching them on the ground afterward, smoking home grown from glass bowls and laughing. They laugh louder than the people at the last writers' party I attended. They do everything louder, come to think of it. But that's no mystery. They're chemically saturated most of the time when they're not in the trees. There's mystery why a man would climb up in a tree to make a living or a holiday statement. But what's to be mysterious about a mountain recluse with an internet connection? A guy would have to make stuff up to be mysterious, if he was such a being. The entire Blue clan might then dis-own him. And no one wants that, really.

-blue

Anonymous said...

I saw you! You look great. Didn't want to bust your cover, but did you feel the vibes I sent?

Shameless said...

You were all just smashing!

Anonymous said...

You were easy to spot.

There were only 3 people there dressed as the Statue of Liberty. One was 3' tall, one was 3' wide - and then there was you ...

Shameless said...

Well spotted, Debi ... And I tried so hard to blend in with the books!