Why haven’t I been writing about my family? An answer

by Mr. Sheehy

I haven’t been writing about my family as much as I used to, and I admit as much on the about page for this blog. The change of subject came about like many things — for no one reason and over time. I’ve been thinking about it lately, however, and thought I’d venture an explanation, mostly for my sake, but in case anyone else was curious too.

When I began my blog, I began it for me. I liked to have my writing online and available for easy reference and archived storage. It made it so that if ever I wanted to share something I’d written, I could simply send or post a link, and the link would not expire. My audience was mostly my wife and occasionally my mother and my in-laws.

My first post is dated June 23, 2006. That would have been the summer after my first year of teaching in South Dakota, and my first posts were articles I’d originally written and shared on the website I used for school (essentially, I’d turned a page on that site into a web journal, so it’s no surprise I got excited about weblog technology).

I wrote about whatever I wanted and often swore not to cater to a specific audience, as that would have ruined the purity of my motive for writing. Thus, I published poems, lists of funny things Eldest had said, book reviews, and even graduate school assignments that were worth sharing.

Along the way I seem to have gained a growing audience to whom I am not directly related. The most amusing audience is what I’d call one-time traffic, especially the traffic related to a post I wrote for a graduate school assignment where the professor asked us to ask colleagues and friends the question, “What is the purpose of school?” I chose to share mine on my blog, and because (apparently) I put the question directly in the title of the article, the post has now garnered 1,630 hits and usually grabs at least 10 more every day. A Google search for “purpose of school” brings it up often as the first hit, which is terribly amusing to me. It’s an object lesson in the importance of key words.

There exists more than that traffic, however, and at times I have found myself trying to relate what I write back to teaching, since the blog is called A Teacher‘s Writes. I reprimand myself heavily whenever I catch myself doing this, but sometimes it happens again.

Corresponding with that sneaky attitude, however, was graduate school and the aging of my daughters, and I had less and less time to craft a good story about them. It was easier to slap a blurb that had been on my mind regarding my classroom or a reaction to something I’d read for a course. And seeing here and there the hesitancy of fellow edubloggers to share their personal lives (many refer to their children with only a letter – “E” – or a weird nickname) I wondered if I was making a prudent decision to share so much about our life. Originally it had never bothered me; I figured that identity thieves could find all our names much easier by using things like directories and garbage, and I was still unsure why suddenly it was so crucial for no one to know our names, as if that made us safer. Are you more dangerous to me, knowing my real name? I think not. I always thought my fellow radio DJs a bit silly for making up names. I always used my real one, because I wanted to convey the genuine me, not some mock-up personality made for performance.

Though I thought it a hair silly, I didn’t presume to possess a perfect vision for the future, so I balked and wondered if I was wrong. I don’t think I was, and this week when I stumbled across a letter I’d written to Eldest and posted in February of 2007, I became convinced I had been right. Such a letter is no crucial leak of personal information. It’s sharing stories, and that’s what writers do.

That said, I admit that I will continue holding back posts that pertain exclusively to my daughters, but not because I’m scared to share them. That first tiny post back in 2006 referenced a project I’d conceived — a book for my children. I’d like to take the energy I might use to write long blog posts about my daughters and me and use it to write that book, not for the sake of publication, but for the sake of my daughters. While I could publish those posts to my blog as I go, I would rather hold them, hoping that I would be able to transcend the blog genre and weave a clear voice and theme through one work of book length. (By the way, I appreciate Steven Poole’s articluation of the differences in these genres.) It’s nothing I’ve attempted before, and I don’t know whether I’ll come close to succeeding, but my girls are growing, and our family is more wonderful and interesting than anything I’ve encountered before. If I were to write about anything, shouldn’t this be it?

Thanks for reading, even if it’s not as much about my family as it used to be.