Writing About Real Life
Back in October, the New York Times story “Who Is the Bad Art Friend?” was making the rounds on the internet. One woman donated a kidney in real life, another woman wrote a variation of the story and published it. The first woman, a writer herself, was infuriated that “her story” had been used by someone else. The second woman argued that artists often borrow from real-life events — whether those experiences are their own or not.
I have a t-shirt that says “Steal Like an Artist” — from the shop of Austin Kleon, who wrote a book by the same name. The crux of the book was that all artists “steal,” that is, are inspired by other artists. The differentiator between this “being inspired by” and “plagiarism” is the extent to which the material is transformed into something new. (That issue is central to the Bad Art Friend story.)
When I first began blogging in 2009, I was a bored new parent on maternity leave. My three-week-old son was a dream… ate well, slept well, rarely cried. And infants don’t do much. I started writing about our days on Blogger.com and sharing my posts on Facebook. In the early days, it was an almost daily ritual, often talking about the most mundane experience of parenting. Only close friends and family read it.
A few years later, I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress, mostly because I wanted a better-looking blog. Through WordPress, a (small) amount of strangers found me and began following my blog.
Then in 2015 and 2016, I had back-to-back, unexplained second-trimester pregnancy losses. Grief consumed my days. I wrote about the intense emotions I was feeling yet still wanted to capture the moments of everyday life that I had with my two older, living children. Eventually, it felt like these things could not coexist in the same blog, so I started a new blog to talk about grief and loss.
As the years continued to pass, I began to feel uneasy about posting in my “regular” blog. I would often write about funny or silly things that my kids did… but my oldest son was in mid-elementary school. I began to think about how he would feel when he was in high school and a classmate was to find and read the blog — particularly since many of my Facebook friends were…