What won’t you blog about?

A friend of mine, who doesn’t blog or read blogs, asked me why I blog. “Don’t you feel weird sharing your personal life with total strangers?”

Their question surprised me because I don’t blog about my personal life. This isn’t that kind of a blog. I explained that to my friend. They didn’t believe me. “You talk about your writing, don’t you? That’s personal.”

Um, no. Writing is my job.

“But what about when your writing’s not going well? Aren’t the bad times personal?”

First of all, I don’t blog about when the writing’s going really badly.

Second, when I blog about the harder aspects of writing I do so to let people know that the writing life is not as glamorous as people think.1 And to demonstrate that, yes, even people who make a living writing have days that are not so productive. It would be the same if I was an accountant blogging about a bad accounting day.2

My friend continues to see blogging as a weird self-revelatory public display that only exhibitionists would engage in. I was bummed that I couldn’t persuade them about the goodness of blogging, but our conversation did leave me thinking about all the stuff I and my blogging friends don’t blog about.

I never blog about

    when I’m unwell or depressed (though I do occasionally talk about homesickness)

    the state of my relationships with family and friends

    my family and friends (unless it’s to boast about their achievements)

    politics (except indirectly)

    religion (though I will argue about it on other people’s blogs)

    personal or family crises of any kind

    books by living people that I hated

    publishing gossip


So basically I don’t talk about stuff that is personal or that I think will start flame wars. I hate flame wars. I also avoid writing word counts (too boring), talking too much about works-in-progress (I’m superstitious), and whingeing when the writing’s going crappily (not only boring but irritating3). And bloggging about blogging is deeply lame. Ooops!

What about my fellow bloggers? What are your no-go areas?

  1. I cannot remember the last time I had a pina colada. And I’ve never had one served to me by a cabana boy or girl. []
  2. Are there accounting blogs? And if not why not? []
  3. Strangely, though, I really enjoy some other writers whingeing about their writing. Though they’re such fabulous writers they could write about accounting and make it riveting. Not that there’s anything wrong with accounting. Some of my best friends love accounting. Or they would if they did. []


  1. CoreyJF on #

    The Day Job, other then to comment on the volume of work; Negative interpersonal interactions with family, friends, coworkers; Books I hate; Shows I hate; almost anything I hate;

  2. Ben Payne on #

    I don’t self-censor much at all… I don’t really talk about my relationship much but beyond that I don’t think I have any strict rules… the intersection and slippage between personal and public is one of the interesting things about blogs, I think…

    it’s kind of funny to suggest that writing about writing is really personal, whereas writing itself isn’t. I’d think a lot of writers are more personal in their work (albeit indirectly) than they ever are on their blogs…

  3. Penni on #

    like you I tend not to critique books, I generally only talk about the ones I like and what’s good about them. I am aware that the world wide websicle is very small and things kick around for a long long time (that goes for comments on other people’s blogs too). I am not interested in flame wars. The few times I’ve posted about contentious stuff I’ve come close to seeing my blog as no long my nice little safe garden on the internet, which is pretty much what I want it to be.

    Having said that I do blog about my family life and my kids and stuff because sometimes I get bored of talking and thinking about writing. I really mostly blog because I like the online network factor (that is about people saying meaningful things finding each other, rather than a content deprived network for networking’s sake), that’s my blog happy. I guess I think of it as an office party where you actually really like the people you work with and want to share stuff with them and you’re genuinely curious about their lives and opinions and so on. but there’s a professional distance there.

  4. Penni on #

    p.s. You liar – you blog about unithingies more than anyone else I know.

  5. Chris Howard on #

    Everything but work. With business trips–I go to Europe occasionally, India, New York, SF–I may say I’m on a business trip, blogging from Zürich, but I’ve never mentioned where I work.

    Other than that, fair game.

  6. sherwood on #

    since the internet is all the social life i get, i guess i’d rate squarely in the pathetic no-life narcissistic yapper category to your friend. but here i am with my tea at five thirty a.m. getting tiny glimpses of others’ lives–as much of their lives as they’d want me to see. kinda like if I was sitting in their parlor.

    what i blog about? I don’t really have any ‘rule’–mostly i like to put up something that might spark discussion, because that’s fun. sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.

    a lot of my no-nos are the same as yours, tho.

  7. maureen johnson on #

    you had a pina colada in atlanta, at trader vics. remember? it came in a big bowl-shaped glass and you said it tasted real and fresh, no pre-mix of any kind.

    I think it was served to you by scott, who is not a cabana boy (that I know of). but you did have one.

  8. Carrie on #

    like you I don’t blog about politics or religion — I just don’t want to go there on my blog. I also don’t blog about work (unless I’m mentioning something in passing) because I don’t want to get in trouble if my co-workers ever found out about my blog.

    I tend to blog about writing. About the process. Mostly because that’s what I love to read on other people’s blogs. I looove to read archives of blogs, to read about the doubt and setbacks, already knowing that it all works out in the end. It’s so inspirational! I think that’s what I miss most about the blogs of people who have “made it” and have published books etc — they no longer blog about the hard parts (as much). I can understand why (not great publicity, i’d imagine), but it’s always wonderful to see people overcoming stuff. to see that it’s not always roses and unicorns once you get that book contract…

  9. ariel cooke on #

    you actually write about unicorns quite a bit. just search for uni***ns in your blog and you will see. reading about you and unicorns reminds me of me and paris hilton. she is the celebrity i love to hate. so i even know that her little dog is named tinkerbell and that she wanted to trade it in for one that would fit better in her purse. (ew! gross! see what i mean? could there be a more pathetically shallow human being? it’s like rubbernecking, i must look.)

  10. Lori S. on #

    I blog about whatever the heck strikes my fancy. I don’t feel particularly exhibitionist, though. I try not to blog anything I wouldn’t say out loud in public in another context, you know? Now, having been a sex writer for over a decade, my boundaries are definitely…different…than other people’s, but still.

    I don’t blog about:

    * My day job
    * Writing in progress
    * Writing process in general (yawn)
    * Word counts (yawn)
    * The nitpicky details of my relationship
    * The nitpicky details of other people’s relationships
    * Celebrity gossip
    * In-depth political discussion

  11. Steve Buchheit on #

    I’d rather be blogging about writing (actually I’d rather be writing, but the blog fulfills a need), but i’ll include almost anything that i wouldn’t be embarassed if it was spoken back to me or asked about by a complete stranger.

  12. Rebecca on #

    unfortunately for me and everyone i know, i blog about everything. ev.ree.thing. i do put a lot of it under a friends lock. well, i take it back, i don’t blog about everything. i guess politics and really personal things don’t ever come up. but really, pretty close to everything. this is probably a bad idea. i like having an audience, so i try to make things as funny or interesting as possible. and i’m guilty of both blogging about writing and writing about blogging.

  13. Dawn on #

    My blog is more of a personal type of blog…but I guess it’s not so personal that I don’t mind sharing it with total strangers. I do complain and whine on there, but I’d like to say that I also say some good things as well. Anyway…

  14. orangedragonfly on #

    my blog is all personal stuff, really, although not too personal. i started it because we’re living in germany and just had a new baby and everyone back home in the states wants to see pictures and to know how he’s doing. i’m actually going to make it private eventually, because my husband is going to deploy and i don’t want all that info to go public (dates and times and places and missions and such)…but for now, if you want to see pictures of my adorable little boy you can click away. 😛

    the interesting thing is…when i just post pictures of the cutie, friends and family leave comments. but when i actually have something to say (i wrote a thoughtful bit on my birthday, things like that) no one responds. at all. i think i may start another blog, one just for my thoughts and things, without the family pictures.

    and now i’m rambling. but that’s okay. 😛

  15. Kadie-Wa on #

    i used to have a blog. but then no one seemed to read it. so i got rid of it. i didn’t put all of my personal things on it. only things that i liked! i think that it was more fun to read other people’s blogs, then to write my own. just mainly because i am not good at all of the tenichal stuff.

    okay, so this is my first post. i hope that i didn’t put everything on here right!!

  16. Justine on #

    Kadie-Wa: You did everything fine. Welcome!

  17. Rebecca on #

    i maintain an lj account that i used to write things on. i grew up a bit and realized that i shouldn’t be writing those things, mostly about personal relationships. so i erased everything, well i did save a few entries that i found enlightening about myself. i guess i grew up a little bit.

    now, i’m just a member of a bunch of communities that i like to keep tabs on. i’ll comment on television, films, fiction, and general happenings, but i don’t post much anymore. i do write fiction occassionally, but i only share it with certain communities.

  18. liliya on #

    I find most really personal blogs boring, if not nauseating. i like yours, justine, because it’s personal enough to make me think i’d like to meet you sometime but it’s really directed outwards towards readers – i’ve noticed you are a master (mistress i mean) at posting interesting questions that people want to respond to – like this one. if you had lived in the 18th century you would have been one of those society author-hostesses with a literary salon famed for its stimulating conversation and witty banter, i reckon…

  19. sylvia on #

    My take on this is rather different, mainly because (a) i have a livejournal, not a blog, so i can limit access to certain posts if i want to, and (b) i am neither a famous author nor famous for any other reason, so the odds that anyone who doesn’t already know me is reading what i post are quite low.

    nevertheless, there are some things i don’t normally blog about. i don’t use my full name or those of any of my family or friends; i do post comical stories about my daughter, but i don’t post about (e.g.) fights with my husband; i don’t complain about my friends in my lj, or about not getting enough help around the house; when i complain about work or similar, i do so in as anonymous a way as possible; and, as others have said, i tend to blog about books i’ve enjoyed, not about the ones i didn’t. (after all, i may not have thought much of such-and-such a book, but it did get published, which my book has not …)

    i do write about a lot of personal stuff, though. it’s my friends and relations reading my lj, mostly, and they tend to be a lot more interested in what my five-year-old has been up to lately than in my metaphysical struggles to determine what’s going to happen in the next chapter.

  20. Lisa Yee on #

    I never blog about all the shopping sprees and tete-a-tetes I have with major movie stars and male models. It would just get people jealous.

  21. Justine on #

    Thanks for the great responses. I think you’re right, Sylvia, knowing there are people i’ve never met reading this does affect what i write.

    Lisa Yee: you liar! I’ve seen the photos of you and Brad Pitt on your blog!

  22. Laurie on #

    I haven’t seen an accounting blog, but there are many personal finance blogs, some very interesting. My friend Stacy writes one (http://birdsandbills.blogspot.com/) And actually, Justine, your posts about writers and personal finance have been very interesting. I appreciate that you give a realistic view of a writer’s life, the challenges as well as the wonderfully fun parts.

  23. Lisa Yee on #

    Justine, it was Brad’s idea to post that photo.

  24. Justine on #

    Laurie: A lot of the posts about the writing life are inspired by how little I knew when I was starting out. I write the stuff I wish I had known before I got into this business. Does that make sense?

    Lisa: More lies!

  25. laurie on #

    makes perfect sense–it was great timing that i started reading your blog (because I read Magic or madness, after hearing scott speak in Seattle a year ago), because my husband just sold his first book (nonfiction, food writing), and I’ve shared several of your posts with him. there’s so much we didn’t know! (it surprised me, because I’m a librarian and have friends in publishing, but this is a whole different ball game.) so, thanks for sharing your experiences. (and if anyone’s interested in the book: http://www.rootsandgrubs.com/2007/09/17/bookish/)

  26. Micole on #



  27. Carbonel on #

    Because you asked:

    “Accountants Who Blog”

    July 2005 (SmartPros) — Are accountants jumping on the blog bandwagon with the pundits and the journalists? Not in great numbers, but there is a group of hardy pioneers who are blogging on accounting topics, and this small band is growing.

    The article even has an “Easy-view blog list to bookmark or print.”

    Life was so hard before the intranets: you could’ve gone months! years even! Without knowing the Real True FactsTM of Accounting Bloggers!!!

    (I blog about anything that can be a story or an essay. I write to be writing ‘way up North in Mommyland: use it or lose it. Knowing you’ve got a small but potentially inter-net-wide audience keeps you disciplined about it. Mostly)

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