On Blogging

Starting Anew: On Blogging

I never yet told you that we had a daughter 6 months ago. My silence was not intentional, it just sort of… happened. There were multiple reasons at play. First, of course, was the utter chaos having a baby brings. Particularly one with colic and reflux. Particularly when you find out once again that you are not good at being a stay-at-home mom (though also not a good full-time working mom). I admire those who can face those first three months and talk only of the joy. I will always talk about mixed blessings (note: this certainly does not mean I do not love my children unconditionally).

But there were more reasons. And this is where my blog truly comes into play.

Returning to blogging about books has felt a little.. strange and strained. More happened in the past few months other than the fact that home life was a central point of reference: the world came crashing in. It happened in multiple ways that have collided and escalated in recent months, but that have been building for some time now: Brexit, Paris climate talks, US election rhetoric, Dutch politics & political debates, and the overall discomfort with my acquired academic ability to deconstruct which has to some extent resulted in an inability to be socially involved.

And so for months now, I have been pondering and going back and forth on how I want to reshape my blog into a place where I can write about these things, ponder them, figure out a way to (probably inadequately) work with some of these issues.  And I am not sure if I can do so through books only. If I were as smart and engaged as Ana is, for example, I might. But instead, I have found that I often use writing about books as a fall-back option which allows me to signal things, but not act per se. Or to simply ignore these issues altogether. (I am not saying that this is wrong: it just does not work for me at the moment).

Had you asked me one month ago I would have told you something along these lines: I was going to reshape this blog into something beyond books. I’d try to turn it into something that acknowledged the manifold Iris-es that the internet apparently makes you separate from each other in order to be a better “branded” blog. It would be about the small joys of my life, about something related to the work I do, about children, about books, about politics and it would trace the small steps through which I was trying to become more involved in social, political and environmental issues.

And then, of course, Trump happened. And suddenly the world tilted yet a little bit further. Right now I am not sure if I can comfortably talk about my “small world” in face of the bigger picture. I am also not sure if documenting imperfect engagement is worthwhile, and whether I should not leave words to those who have thought all of this through so much better.

But here’s the thing: In my years of blogging (and I have done so in many forms, beginning with my livejournal account during teenage years) I have always sought to find meaning and shape my life through writing about it, in one form or another.. Yes, I could simply use a private diary, but a blog’s semi-public setting helps me to keep myself accountable and to find comfort in like-minded souls. Or so I hope. I never set out to have a perfectly branded blog, and I do not need to do so now. And I only ever waste a small amount of space on the internet, if my words are a waste at all. For all the ways in which I wish I could simply reinvent my blog to reflect what I really want it to be, perhaps the first step is to hit [publish]  once more and see if there are still people willing to read along.

This is why I am not moving domains. This is also why, for now, I have put my previous posts on private: I need the feeling of a blank slate, but in the context of my familiar circle, to explore how I want to give shape to blogging and my life in general. How I want to relate to a world that seems to call for more immediate engagement and activism lately, or, very probably, it has always done so and I have only begun to realise it in these past 6 months. A blank slate, also, because it allows for space to figure out how I want to address the balance between political awareness and social engagement on the one hand and my daily work and small joys on the other hand.

My blog will always ever be imperfect (and this is me counselling myself), but I know that my safest bet to feel I am meaningfully adressing my life and the world is through keeping some form of account. I know how often I wish I could read more on how people can be multiple things at once: friends, parents, readers, labourers, thinkers, contributors, activists. How people imperfectly try to work towards a better world, for so often I feel that I can’t do it right so perhaps I shouldn’t even try. If this is what I’d like to read, perhaps this should also be my aim? It need not be perfect (another reminder to myself), and it is alright to focus on one of these themes in certain periods if that feels more comfortable. But I would like to proclaim my blog wide open for all of these things. And hopefully I will be able to actively reshape it in that direction in the upcoming months.

45 thoughts on “Starting Anew: On Blogging

  1. Beth F says:

    The world has/is changing and I can certainly understand the need for a fresh start. I’ll follow along in whatever format you use or whatever topics(s) you discuss.

    • Iris says:

      Thank you, Beth. It feels a little silly that I needed that fresh start, but somehow it didn’t feel right otherwise. Rationally, it makes little sense, but emotionally, this felt like the right thing to do.

  2. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    *hug* It’s wonderful to see you around these parts, friend, although I wish it were under better circumstances. I think a lot of us are struggling right now to figure out our place in this new, supremely fucked-up world we’re in. We’re all going to make mistakes, but one thing that gives me hope is knowing that I have such an amazing circle of friends on the internet who are wise and thoughtful and who want the world to be good.

    • Iris says:

      Thank you, Jenny. I think you are right in your description of the shared feeling of despair but also the comfort to be found in shared friendships. At least, I know that this thought has helped me a lot lately.

  3. Susan Dillon says:

    Just a quick email to send my congratulations on your newborn daughter. My older child, now 32 and amazing, was a beautiful infant who screamed for three months straight. I remember sitting in the backyard crying after putting her in her crib, crying inconsolably. We walked in the neighborhood for hours every day — the only time she was quiet was when she was held against my chest in a Snugli or sleeping. So many years later I still recall my frustration and exhaustion and my guilt too that I couldn’t stop Nora’s crying. Then magically, after three months, the crying just stopped and she became the sunniest, most placid child, and remained so throughout her childhood! I hope your little one’s bout with colic is over very soon..

    • Iris says:

      Thank you for your kind message! Yes, those first months can be quite difficult. The same happened with both my children. Things have become much better now. And your comment looked so familiar. Right now, I have two very happy children at home. But those first months it is sometimes difficult to see the end of it.

  4. vicky blake says:

    I know you are supposed to ‘brand’ your blog but I have always been a big fan of eclectic blogs so it seems to me yours will fit that bill perfectly and I look forward to reading it as it evolves.

    • Iris says:

      I have never been very good at branding my blog. I think in my need to rethink what I’d like to do when it comes to my blog you inevitably run into all these new developments in the blogging world (with which I am not necessarily familiar). But I think it is good to consider them and think about what might or might not work for you. For me, I think I need to first feel free enough to write again before I decide on anything else. And giving myself that space of an “unbranded” blog is, I think, what I need to be able to do so.

  5. leavesandpages says:

    Welcome back, and I look forward to your re-focused blog. Finding comfort in like-minded people in in great part why so many of us do this. The books are an obvious starting point, but the glimpses into our fellow readers’ lives are equally as reassuring; we see again and again that we are not alone in our experiences, in our personal challenges, and in our joys.

    Babies are hard. Becoming a parent is, in so many ways, unspeakably brutal, both emotionally and physically. It takes a lot out of one, in so many ways, and finding one’s new groove isn’t the glibly effortless attainment that popular culture blithely throws at us from every angle. We are who we were before, with a whole other self grafted on the moment that each baby is placed in our arms. Finding a new balance is a process, and not a particularly easy one, and, much as I hate to sound grim – I don’t! really! – that process continues for the rest of our lives. My own children are now in their twenties, and the parent-child relationship frequently asks as much of my emotional involvement (to be true, it often asks *more*) as when they were babes in arms.

    But there *are* abundant emotional rewards. The joys of parenthood do ultimately outweigh the troubles, as no doubt you have already discovered. But babies in particular are *hard*. Figuring them out – oh my! Each one is so very different. All you can do is your best, and some days that best will feel like just not good enough, as the mysterious creature in your arms refuses any solace you can offer. (It gets better. But how and when is the Great Big Question, to which the only answer is time. One day you find yourself looking back – “It’s better! I think we made it through!” And then the next thing overwhelms. Oh yes, it does indeed.)

    Then, as you say, there is all that other stuff. The world outside our doors…

    Comfort in shared experience is a real thing, and I truly hope you find some here.

    Best wishes, and warm congratulations, on both your new addition to your family, and your evolving blog.

    • Iris says:

      I cannot quite find the words to respond to your comment because it was so thoughtful and kind and so ry much to the point. So muc of what you said about cildreen rings true, ad here I am just at the beginning of finding all of it out. I always trust that the balance-thing will get better, and I know from experience with our son that it does. That there are phases and that these too will pass. It is good to have that trust. It is also good to find moments to sit back and reflect on the joys during the more stressful times.

      To finding comfort on our blogs 🙂

  6. camilledefleurville says:

    I have always been fascinated by “books only” blogs. Bloggers are not critics and blogs are no criticism in books or magazines – or so I think. I found there was something eerie in the fact that the blog-writer-only-about-books had no real personality but as a reader, and very often not a very good reader for my taste. I do not mean you as I tried to follow you when you stopped blogging! 🙂 (And congratulations for the new baby).
    Reading is part of my life, my inner life: it shapes me; therefore when I talk of books I talk of myself and of the many little things that find their way into my life. But my life belongs to the world at large – economy, politics philosophy, societies and cultures, my engagements, the evolution of the climate, thinking about History, etc.
    I think we are made of all these components and that our books ad our reading are woven in our lives.
    Then we share our lives through blogging. In a way, the book-only-blogger informs us about his or her life because of the books he or she chooses to read. And who are our blog-readers but potential friends or people towards whom we reach out? We make a little company, the “band of brothers” of Shakespeare’s Henry V. And I feel that we have a weight, an impact on the world in which we live because we share our thoughts far across borders.
    So, I am very glad you are coming back to the bloggers world with your “imperfections”. I look forward to reading your next entry!

    • Iris says:

      Your comment is all kinds of wonderful. You have put into words so much of what I’m feeling except so much better. Thank you. Particularly for this: “I think we are made of all these components and that our books and our reading are woven in our lives.”

        • Iris says:

          I meant to say that you said it so much better than I could. As a non-native speaker of English myself I completely understand how you might sometimes feel your words aren’t right (and yet they were!!). You don’t want to know how often I have edited this post since hitting publish because I seem to find new typpos and misspellings every time I read it. I just trust that people will forgive me my mistakes. And honestly, your comment read like poetry to me 🙂

  7. dastevensishagain says:

    I can’t express how happy this makes me!!! I so cherish your voice, Iris. And I’ve missed it. And I love blogs where people share all kinds of pieces of themselves, so I suspect I’ll only love your blog more than I already did.

  8. Jillian says:

    Hi Iris! I’m not sure if you remember me: it’s been years. You & I read the Little House series together. I keep my blog open for the accountability and like minds, too. 🙂 Congratulations on the little ones. x

      • Jillian says:

        Oh, sorry. I just turned it back on. Sometimes I take a break from social media by shutting everything off. It’s like turning out the lights and listening to peace, for me. 🙂 I’m also on Twitter: @historyisnotwas. I can’t tell if you’re following me back. My Twitter profile is private, so I can’t talk to you until you request to follow me. 🙂

        It’s REALLY good to see you back. Feels nostalgic. xx

  9. Violet says:

    Good to see you back, Iris. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to care for two young children and work outside the home, too. I only have a high-maintenance dog to look after, and that’s quite enough!

    I’m a bit tired of reading ‘book blogs’, tbh. I’m more interested in reading about what people are thinking and feeling, especially in these increasingly dark days when like-minded people can be of some comfort to one another. It’s quite hard to find anyone in real life who shares my own political views, and I get tired of arguing with racists and bigots.

    Good luck with your blog. I look forward to reading your future posts.

    • Iris says:

      I think that I might have always gravitated towards blogs that concentrate on thoughts behind the reading, the person behind the rating? And I like it that way. But I also felt so trapped in the format of “book blogging” myself. Because it is difficult to break away from a format if your blog is clogged with it, somehow? It is entirely superficial, perhaps, to put all my former posts on private, but for now it feels sort of freeing. At the same time I find myself reading all those blogs I used to read again with so much joy and new-found energy. So I think it is really a matter of trying to find my own place, voice, and space, more than what I think of other blogs.

  10. Bettina (@bettinathenomad) says:

    Iris, it’s so, so good to have you back. As I mentioned a few days ago on Instagram when you were toying with the idea of re-orienting your blog, I’ve been thinking about the same thing, and it’s so wonderful to see you’re actually doing it. I really look forward to reading your thoughts again – and on more than books.
    I’m still on the fence. On the one hand, I’ve had the same urge to go out and write again post-Trump, just to add my own little voice in standing against recent developments also in Europe (we have elections in Germany next year as well and I’m SCARED). On the other hand, I wonder if blogging again might actually distract me from taking more action (as I resolved to do after the US election) by keeping me “busy”. My current job isn’t as crazy as the previous one but still pretty busy, and while I don’t have kids yet, we’re planning to start a family soon as well. I know I want to go back to working full time after a while – I know I’d be a terrible stay-at-home mum – so I’m worried that (a) I won’t be able to keep up a blogging commitment – or do it badly – and (b) it will devolve into “slacktivism” where I justify not taking practical action by claiming that I’m doing my bit already. As for (b), I’m not even sure this is a problem because I certainly don’t see Ana’s or your or other people’s writing as slacktivism at all – on the contrary! I think your blogs are terribly important. So I’m very much looking forward to hearing how it goes for someone a few steps ahead of me in terms of family commitments!

    Sorry, I’m totally using your post to try and get my own ideas in order by typing them out 🙂 (maybe I should do that on my own blog…). What I mean to say is I’m really excited you’re doing this! I’ll be reading along for sure.

    • Iris says:

      Bettina, I completely completely understand your thinking. Actually, I share these thoughts and I don’t know if I have any answers. I just know that I’d like to find support somewhere, and this has always felt like a good place to start. And that I need to share some of my thoughts sometimes. There’s a fear of not doing it right, constantly, and I am bound to make mistakes, but somehow the idea of opening up about this has also given me energy. I am still trying to figure out how I might tie the blog and physical activism together and I haven’t really figured that out yet. But I’d like to think about this together with other people, so if you have ideas it’d be lovely to spar about them (through email or whatever).

      Also, as for family commitments and keeping up the blog. Or work and keeping up the blog. No answers. I am bound to disappear from time to time, I think. But I am trying to tell myself that does n ot mean that it will result in bad blogging. And I don’t think that it would be a problem for you either.

      All this to say that I do so wish to have you back. Or, perhaps, that whatever path you choose I hope you will keep in touch somehow. Because I’d be interested to hear how things are working out for you.

      (And always feel free to get your own thoughts in order by typing here – you need never apologise for it, I welcome it, really).

  11. Stefanie says:

    Your honest, heartfelt words are really touching. Like Jenny says, a lot of us are trying to figure things out right now. I know you got one of those free copies of Hope in the Dark. Have you been reading it? I ask because Solnit talks about how the idea that something has to be perfect kills hope and activism. So be wildly imperfect! It’s scary but it’s the best thing you can do. And we will all be wildly imperfect with you. I can hardly wait to see what happens!

    • Iris says:

      Stefanie, yes, I am slowly making my way through Hope in the Dark (my reading is so slow these past weeks). And I am finding it so useful to rethink what matters and how we can contribute. And indeed, how striving for perfection kills trying to do something. I go through each chapter wishing I could quote long parts of it and making it my life motto. I am so happy that I am finally reading it and looking at your blog I think you feel the same.

  12. Kristen M. says:

    Just sending you and your family love and my hope for a better world for our children to grow up in. That’s about all I can manage at the moment. ::hugs::

    • Iris says:

      Kristen, I understand. And the same thoughts go out to you. The children thing scares me so much, taking that into the equation. I find myself sometimes separating them from these issues because this world and my children in it sometimes simply does not bear thinking about.

  13. Kim (@vleugels) says:

    ik geloof dat ik dezelfde ongemakkelijkheid voel ten opzichte van de wereld als jij. ik was woest, ontzettend verdrietig, toen ik wakker werd en hoorde dat Trump was verkozen. & Europa, het wordt een zooitje. ik weet ook niet wat ik er mee moet, ik probeer er ook over te schrijven om dingen voor mijzelf op een rijtje te krijgen.

    maar, weet je, wellicht is het in eerste instantie niet van belang of je iets kunt veranderen in de wereld; je zult eerst moeten ontdekken waarom dingen van belang zijn. ik geloof dat dit helpt Iris, dit stuk schrijven, het helpt mij in ieder geval. ik voelde me twee weken geleden zo fucking alleen, niemand in mijn omgeving vond het de moeite waard om over de verkiezing van Trump te spreken terwijl het bij mij van binnen kolkte. er is natuurlijk wel een discussie gaande in Nederland maar dat gebeurt toch voornamelijk in de randstad (als in, zuiden van het land) en daar ben ik nu eenmaal niet. bovendien geloof ik dat de kliekjes in de randstad mede verantwoordelijk zijn voor de negatieve spiraal: die kliekjes waar de ‘normale mens’ (ik weet niet wat dat is maar men blijft er maar over doorzeuren) zich tegen afzetten. ik vraag me af of Trump/Brexit/pieten-discussie niet voor een groot deel een afkeuren is van… in ieder geval links-Nederland?

    (of trek ik nu conclusies die ik niet uit jouw verhaal mag trekken? anyway. mocht je dat willen, je mag me ook mailen: katusha14 @gmail.)

    blijf denken Iris, je hebt een helder hoofd. het is fijn je te lezen.

    (dit is Kim van winterlief.blogspot.com)

    • Iris says:

      Die stilte in de dagelijkse omgang he? Goh, wat viel me dat tegen, ergens. En mensen kijken je soms haast een beetje met een scheve glimlach aan als je het er wel over hebt. En daardoor, inderdaad, voel ik me soms best wel alleen. Directer,ook, sinds Trump.
      Dus het is fijn om jou hier te zien. Inmiddels weet ik dan toch weer dat er minstens 4 mensen zijn in Nederland die over dit soort dingen nadenken (als ik mijn twittertijdlijn in de gaten hou).
      En misschien is het ook inderdaad deels waar je woont. Ik zit in een hoek van Nederland waar veel van dit soort discussies niet voorbij komen -althans, niet al te expliciet-, maar waar ze, zo merk ik ook, wel degelijk herhaald worden. En waar dingen als zwarte piet misschien nog wel explicieter naar voren komen in de stilte. Een soort schreeuwerig “wij doen het lekker zoals we het altijd deden, voor verandering ga je maar naar Amsterdam”. Ik durf vaak mijn mond niet te openen, omdat ik weet dat ik de odd-one-out ben. Maar ook daar probeer ik mijn weg in te vinden. Hopelijk.
      Anyway, bedankt voor je lieve woorden!

  14. Elena says:

    So glad to have you back, Iris! We’ve missed you. Congratulations on your daughter, and thank you for admitting that motherhood is not like they make us want to believe in television ads. I, of course, will be following you 🙂 Welcoem back

    • Iris says:

      Hello Elena. It is nice to see you again too. And your comment that parenthood isn’t like the ads made me laugh. It really is not. But that does not mean it is not worthwhile.

  15. Bina says:

    So good to read your post, Iris, I have always taken comfort and many a new direction of thought from your words! Whenever you have the time or inclination, we’ll still be here, so do not stress please about “branding” or creating one focus. I like to hear your thoughts on parenting, books, academia and the horrible backlash happening at the moment. Hugs to you and your family!

  16. SarahF. says:

    Oh Iris, this is exactly how I feel (although for different reasons – no children have happened over here! – and I love your idea of making all old posts private to start afresh without actually changing everything. I might steal your idea, if that’s ok – The Bibliomouse definitely needs a new start 🐭

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