Thursday, October 11, 2012

Seven Years of Solitude

In two days my blog will be seven. It would be in first grade if it were a kid. I started this blog before I even got married, before I started grad school. I was just a girl who worked at a country club who wanted to share the unbelievably ridiculous and funny and disturbing scenes she witnessed at work. And I did that, and for a very short time I had over two thousand visitors a day and lots of people linking to me and lots of people interested in what I was writing and people on other sites talking about what I was writing and it was mind blowing and pretty great and a little scary.

I got caught blogging at work. I don't know the real details and I know some of the people involved deliberately lied to me. What I think happened is that a co-worker, whom I was friends with, got mad at me because I said I couldn't bake her wedding cake. I didn't want to mess it up and ruin her wedding. She ended up avoiding me, never telling me she was mad and inexplicably not inviting me, yet inviting my sister to her wedding. I had introduced her to my sister because they lived in the same complex back then. I never understood this girl's anger. It seemed weird, immature, bratty and undeserved. It wasn't like I canceled at the last minute. She asked if I could do it and I politely declined and explained why. I am not a professional baker or cake decorator. My cakes are ugly and taste good. I was in grad school. I had just had radiation. I didn't want the responsibility. A friend would have understood, I think.

I believe that this girl, who knew about my blog, passed it on to some other people in her department. I think people couldn't keep secrets. Later someone told me that what happened was that the new IT guy was tracking sites visited and saw that someone in their department was reading my blog at work and that he read it and passed it on the to club's General Manager, who passed it on to the Club's board who passed it on to the HOA's board who passed it on to the club's law firm. I don't know if any of this is true.

My husband had appendicitis and I was out with him for a long weekend. During that time I received an anonymous comment on my blog saying that I had better watch out before I inadvertently offend a co-worker and that the club's law firm (with address listed) was watching every move I made and that I had better be careful. I don't know if this was a bluff or not, but it scared the hell out of me because I didn't want to get sued. I later learned there was never really a case because I changed names, fictionalized, never harmed anyone through my writing and had zero malicious intent, nor did I ever make any money. But the idea of a poor girl with nothing being sued by a bunch of rich white people with everything, petrified me and I took my posts about Wide Lawns Country Club down. Don't worry I saved them.

Even still, my employers did everything in their power to make me miserable and I needed a change anyway. I was offered a GTA position at my school, which is what I wanted anyway, so I could teach, and I took it and quit. The end.

But then I didn't have as much cool stuff to write about. I didn't have the sordid tales of rich people gone wild and my traffic gradually decreased and practically deceased. I tried writing a fictional novel about country clubs and it never worked. I am just not a fiction writer.

I started writing about my life and my family and things that happened to me but they were never the same and trust me, readers let me know. No agents contacted me. No famous bloggers linked to me anymore. TV producers were no longer interested in me. A possible deal had fallen through and I was too freaked out about getting sued to pursue it anyway.

But I kept writing and I found myself as a writer. I got better, but the terrible irony is that the better I got at writing, the less people actually wanted to read my blog. Comments waned. Traffic slowed even more. I was down to a couple hundred visitors per day, often less. It sucked. Still does.

I started blogging because I wanted to be famous. I read an article about Stephanie Klein in the New York Times and I thought, I could do that too. I could blog too. Most bizarre thing? Last year Stephanie Klein moved to Florida and lived in the very country club where I once worked. She'll probably write a best seller about her time there. I probably won't. I had lunch with her once, by the way. People say nasty stuff about her, but I found her to be extremely nice in person. I met another famous blogger several years back and I can't say the same thing. That person struck me as being mentally unstable and it annoyed me that this other person had a book deal because she was really unpleasant.

But anyway, I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be in the New York Times. I wanted agents and producers and deals and people calling my cell. I wanted to be read, to be heard, to start conversations, to be discussed. I wanted to go viral, pandemic. I wanted to be a success at the thing I most loved - writing. Hell, I just wanted to be successful at something and I wanted the validation of that success. 

I'd love to be a famous blogger even. Blogging though, is just like high school. You can never break the ranks of the popular girls and they're the ones who get everything over and over and over, no matter that all they seem to do is shill anymore and everything is about product placement. Very few of them are writing much of interest these days. I'm saying this partly out of jealousy, because I'd love to get free Hawaiian vacations for blogging. I'm not saying that these women don't deserve their success either. I'm saying that they aren't earning it now that they have it. Where are the posts that entertain, that provoke thought and discussions, make us laugh or cry or make us want to take action about something? Where's the passion or the craft in the writing? And yet, they keep getting all the praise while they write about water bottles and post mundane pictures of their dogs and kids and friends who wear horrific outfits, while excellent writers like this one who I love, languish in obscurity. 

I always hoped I'd be one of the Lana Turners of the Internet, you know, discovered. By an agent, by a big time blogger like Katie Allison Granju (now just Katie Allison I think) discovered Monica Bielanko and got her a job at Babble. Hey Katie, discover me. I've got content. I can meet a deadline. I'm prolific and professional and I can write circles around several of your Babble voices without plagiarizing. Also, I'd like you on my side if my house happens to burn down, which it probably will given its history.

I want someone that matters to read my blog and be impressed and say, this girl can write. She needs to write a book. The agent that signed Jenny Lawson would be fabulous. She doesn't need to take queries anymore. I checked. How about a famous writer? Jen Lancaster helped the Dad Gone Mad guy get his book deal and now he's disappeared. I don't know what happened with his memoir. Hey Jen, you out there?

None of these things have happened. Maybe I suck at self promotion. Maybe I'm not that great of a writer in the first place. Maybe I'm an attention whoring, deluded narcissist with raging PMS who hides behind the refrigerator door to eat M&Ms so my kid can't see and start whining for some. Maybe I'm not enough of a narcissist because I don't post pictures of myself and that's what the readers really want. Sorry, I don't have a friend who wears wacky outfits and I don't have a fancy camera. If I did, I wouldn't know how to use it anyway. I don't even have a dog and my cat's not photogenic.

Maybe I'm just unlucky. Maybe I'm late to all the parties and maybe I've never been in the right place at the right time. 

But I'll keep writing. I'll never stop writing. And to everyone who has stuck with me through the years, when I stopped telling the hilariously raunchy tales of life behind the gates, thanks. You're the ones I'm writing for anyway.

Here's to seven more years of good writing, no matter what happens and who's reading.


Kylie R said...

I've been reading since your days of writing about rich people, and I still love your stories. They are still crazy, but now they are even more touching. I feel like I really know the person you are now.

I hope you keep writing, because I would like to keep reading. Thank you for your stories: the crazy ones, the happy ones and the heartbreaking ones.

Diary of Why said...

*Slow clap*

You really said it all, there. The life cycle of blogs and bloggers is really interesting. And frustrating. And I feel your pain.

I've been reading you for years and I'll continue to, as long as you keep writing. :)

colenic said...

I don't comment very often but have been reading you since the beginning of your blog.
I enjoy your writing and you frequently elicit strong I will shout out to all the agents out there...this person is one you want!!
Congrats on seven years!!

A Margarita said...

I've been reading since your days of rich people (those stories were really funny), and I guess I just wanted to pop in and say I've enjoyed your writing, even after you stopped writing about the scandalous people.

Anonymous said...

I love reading your tales of your life... I never read you when you worked at the country club but I think you are one of my favourites to read!

Emily said...

Wow, 7 years!

I remember reading your blog about the country club... rich people being incredibly self-important. And one about poopin' (or rather, not poopin') in the office toilet. I was a casual reader, until one day I went to your blog and it was all crazy stories about your life, and from then on I was HOOKED. Some of your earlier stories, about Ghetto Superstars and the Tomato man are my faaaaaavorites. Keep at it! We'll always be here!

Living in Muddy Waters said...

Or maybe...just maybe...your blog was meant to inspire and help those of us in the world who want to be writers but have no knowledge of where to start. I know I feel that way, and I have seen SO many comments on your blog from other would be writers who lean towards you as a muse. KEEP WRITING. I promise you it is going to happen. 7 years is one heck of a long time to have a blog.

Upside Down said...

I have been reading your blog since the country club days I love your stories.

Robin said...

I found you blog after the country club days, when you were writing crazy stories about your family and that's what got me hooked... to this day, of all the blogs I read, I get the most excited when I see a new post on yours.

***BTW, the captcha situation on your blog is really terrible, I'm having to figure out what a grainy photo is of(a number?) combined with a word and it's.... um... not user friendly.

Rick said...

Remember meeting you down at Tobacco Road years and years ago during a blogger meetup and continue to follow along and keep you on the blogroll. Happy, happy!


Anonymous said...

I've only ever read your blog post-Wide Lawns... I'd SO love to read some of those stories. I can't even remember how I discovered your blog but so glad I did even without the original stories :)

Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog for ages and probably one of the reasons is because you aren't famous for it. Once bloggers become overly popular, their blogs just become an annoying product designed to just make money and I stop reading. Yours feels real and appeals to me because of it. I enjoying reading stories that make me feel that I'm not alone with a family of freaks and weirdos that can't escape drama.

Keep writing because you love it, not because it pays the mortgage.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I never post comments but I'm showing up today just to tell you how much I enjoy your writing. I've been reading regularly since the beginning, first directly on the blog and later through an RSS reader. I loved your hilarious take on the HOA/country club, but when you switched gears in life and on the blog, it just got even better. Please keep writing! There are many lurkers like me who are big fans of you and your stories!

Vic said...

Still present and accounted for.
You have the gift of range and a voice that resonates. That being the case, you write and I will read.

Michael said...

I think your original writings were more superficially amusing. Fun to laugh at, and to be appalled by the antics. Escapist. Your later (current) posts fall more often into the "hmmm...." or thought provoking realm. At least for me. And lord knows most people do NOT want to be forced to think.

Carolyn said...

I never read the country club stuff,,but i do read YOUR stuff..We come back to read you..and one day we all hope to read your book.

Anonymous said...

Happy Blog Anniversary, Wide Lawns! I loved your writing all these years and it has been an amazing ride. Keep going; keep observing; keep writing.

Miss Kitty said...

I've been reading since the early days, too, WL, and I'm glad you're still here. Your wriitng was pretty good to begin with, and then you went to grad school and ZOOM! it got even better. And I'm so glad you're still writing, and that you care SO much about the quality of your content.

I started blogging in order to relieve my frustration with adjunct teaching, and to practice writing something besides comments on crappy essays. I'm sort of afraid of anyone discovering Educated & Poor, because my whiny-ass poser secret will be out.
But I blog "for real" elsewhere, under my real name, and it's hard putting my real name on stuff. It's hard to work through and discuss what's on my mind, what I'm working through and toward. I still plug away, though, despite little time and energy.

Oh, and I too have come to realize that I'm just not a fiction writer. I've really tried over the last five years to turn my 22 pages of thinly-veiled real-life scandal into a fictional story...and there is NOTHING else there. Despite the encouragement of two agents and an editor, I'm having to admit that there's nothing else there. Very, very sad. I had so wanted to produce something meaningful, something that would live on well past me...something that could get me even a small publisher's advance so I could pay off some bills and maybe not have to work 70-80 hours/week. But no.

You've inspired me, though, and I can't tell you how many times I've read your blog and thought, "Holy shit, I'll never be able to write like this. Might as well not even send my material off, this is so much funnier than my stuff and so much better paced." :-)

So even if you're not famous, you ARE inspiring other people to give a damn about what they write when they read WL&NM. I'm glad you're my internet friend. And like other commenters have said, I too will keep reading your blog as long as you keep posting. :-)


Amy Bickers said...

I just typed up a long comment and I think the Internet ate it, dammit.
So I'll try again:
I was reading this post, going along and thinking, "Yes! Yes! Exactly! Yes!"
And then I clicked the link.
Thank you so much. That made my morning. And my morning began with me waking up and instantly thinking about something I was disappointed about this week. Not a great way to start a Saturday. So this helped tremendously.
I wish I'd known about your blog in the rich country club people days, but I really enjoy what you're doing now. Keep writing! I feel like I have excellent company here in obscurity.

Melanie said...

Dear Wide Lawns,
I read this column approximately 48 hours ago, but I didn't comment right away because my heart was so full and I was afraid that whatever I said might come across as too trite. I didn't want that to happen at all.
I've been reading since the beginning, and the stories of the rich people were, indeed, hilarious, but I don't remember any of the plots of those blog posts, and I barely remember any of the characters.
On the other hand, the stories you've written about you, your family, your adventures and your philosophic musings, have stuck with me and have many times been quite influential in helping me with my own journey and my own growth.
I'm grateful that you kept writing even when your readership changed. I've read a lot of blogs over the years, but yours is the only one I've kept reading for years and years. The other ones either quit writing, or quit being interesting enough to read.
Can I take a minute to harken back to the day that you threatened to quit this blog? The thought of losing your unique perspective on life made me feel ill. I was filled with relief when you changed your mind. I felt like a friend had died but then miraculously come back to life.
Trust me when I say that I'm a devoted follower who will stay with you as long as you write, whatever you write, whether it be blogs, books, or anything else. If you wrote a bus schedule, I would read it!
I'm looking forward to the day when your books (plural) are all being published, one after another after another, (all bestsellers, of course) and I can buy them as gifts for my favorite people. I can't think of a better present.
Yours truly, Melanie

Anonymous said...

I have also read your blog since the country club days. I missed those posts at first, but I love the stories you post now, too. Remember that commericial success and talent aren't necessarily the same thing. Also, have you thought about going over those country club stories, rewriting them with your new perspective, adding more and finding a publisher? Keep writing. Don't be hard on yourself. Best wishes, j.

Michelle said...

I've been here forever. Stuck it out when you stopped posting when you had that baby. Plan to keep reading. However I get really turned off by bloggers who complain that the readers they have aren't enough. I understand wanting a bigger audience but it just seems...wrong somehow.
I also get turned off by bloggers who diss other bloggers. The mean girl thing is so early 2000's!

Heather said...

Love, I think you have come to the right place - it's not about the fame and fortune, it's about doing what you love no matter what. Forget being a famous blogger, whatever that is. Just keep practicing, refining, and writing. The real goal is in the doing. :-)

Ah of course I am just starting to take my writing seriously, but I can't tolerate writing a blog for ten minutes. I'm tweeting instead - hsealbreslin - and just had the pleasant experience of finding something I suggested reposted on another blog, uncredited. Oh well, I guess it was good enough to steal? Things will all work out in the end, I promise. Mwah!

jmm said...

WL you are hands down my favorite blogger. I've been reading you for years and yours is the only blog that I've stuck with. You are 1000 times more interesting than the famour blogger with pictures of her friend in dumb outfits. I look forward to the book.

I missed out on the early country club stuff. Will you ever repost them?

Johnny Virgil said...

I think I started reading your blog when I found you on the humor blog site -- I'm sorry I missed the country club days, but I love your other, more personal stories even more. You can write rings around me, that's for sure!

I think part of it comes down to the fact that blogging isn't really a "big thing" anymore. It's largely been replaced by twitter and other social media crap. I think reading blogs is way too much work for most people. They need to be entertained 140 characters at a time. Or with pictures. Who knows…anyway, I am glad you are still around. We should have a beer sometime and commiserate. Or maybe some shrimp jello salad.

Steph said...

I have been reading you since 2006 and you are still my favorite blogger/writer (by far).

I used to be a huge fan of Dooce, but I can barely stand to go to her site now. I still visit, but it's mostly out of morbid curiosity.

You are such a talented writer. I bet if you started writing here again consistently, you could build your audience back up to where it was before. It just takes time.

I know I would read every day if you wrote every day. :)

Congrats on 7 years and thanks for sharing all of your stories with us.

Kim said...

I have read your blog from the middle out I guess you could say. I found myself there one day and reading a story about your family and I was crying because I was laughing so hard. From that day on I was in your archives putting together stories, patching together a picture of you and loving your unique gift of writing about life. (In a nice way not that stalkerish scary kind of way )
Happy Bloggaversary , to celebrate I think you should do something with those stories ... they were awesome, as is the rest of everything you write about, you have great style. A lot more than some of those that have popular blogs and hawaiian vacation tans. But seriously change a few names, get those posts together and write that book, find a lawyer and go for it! Don't let them intimidate you and keep you from your dream girl !
And I will still follow your blog and read along with whatever you decide to write because I find it inspirational and honest and whacky and it gives me hope with my writers block and ohh you have a great link list too. :)

Anonymous said...

Another RSS subscriber here, checking in! We lurkers may not increase your view count, but rest assured that we are here, lurking faithfully, and occasionally sending your stuff to friends.

Also, I'm not sure how I found your blog. Maybe through Violent Acres, back in the day?

Plume said...

I'm an "old" reader too and still there! I'm currently starting a business and I'll be selling online, so I've been studying the hows of getting known on the internet. Perhaps you should take the same approach to make yourself known. For example, you could create an ecosystem around your blog, with a facebook fan page, a tweeter acount and so on.

onthegomom said...

I've been reading your blog for several years but not all the way back to the country club time frame. I love your blog! I don't comment often, and I may skip a few weeks and then come spend an hour reading and catching up but I look forward to it. I grew up in Iowa and just moved out of state earlier this year, when you came to the workshop at the University of Iowa, I was kind of giddy but I kept it at bay so I didn't seem stalkerish. I'm glad you are hear and I'm glad you actually WRITE. Your writing and storytelling is wonderful, never stop. And even if you did have a dog, please don't take pictures of it with things balanced on it's head and call it a post, k?

vez said...

Hi! I just recently started reading your blog, and am reading it in reverse....I'm hoping some club stories remained. I really enjoy your writing!

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