Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Unmasking of Belle

First of all, I have to thank Scott over at Acephalous for driving up my traffic. Yesterday I got about 30 hits, for certain half of which I can attribute to people visiting from his site (where I am so frequent a commenter that people are startin' to talk).

Secondly, I have to thank Scott for reading my blog and commenting it--all the random traffic doesn't mean much (if they're only one-time visitors) unless you have a stable of readers to that you can rely on to keep your writing sharp. It's been nice building up the communitarian aspect of this blog--I visit people's sites, they visit mine; they blogroll me, I blogroll them; I comment on theirs, they comment on mine--which is making this feel a lot less like a crappy teenage diary on Xanga or Livejournal. Like I've said, Scott and Ancrene have been incredibly nice to me (considering I'm only going on 3 weeks old), and have contributed greatly to how I think of blogging--they write such inspired, funny, smart, candid posts. They are slightly different in one respect--Scott hardly deviates from the "academic" nature of his blog, except for references to his cool Little Womedievalist wife, and Ancrene is beautifully honest about the trials and tribulations (why do they always go together?) of academia, heartbreak, and shoe shopping. I love both of their blogs, and think that both are very serious exercises in reflection, thought distillation, and critical thinking--very necessary if you're trying to surive thesis hell. Their writing, be it personal or Serious and Academic, inspires me to stretch the boundaries of my own blog.

I'm no longer afraid of writing about things that my readers may be unfamiliar with. If anything, Scott and Ancrene have taught me that with a little bit of explication, a lot of foreign material can be made accessible. It's a good skill to have--how well you can break down a complex theory for lay readers. So last week, I attempted to explain some of my thoughts about how free speech is related to torts and is complicated by civil rights initiatives. One day in the future I may try to write an article about it, so it's good to tentatively explore a few issues, and think out loud.

And thanks to Ancrene, I'm not so afraid to include personal posts--she does it in a classy way, I hope to do the same. That said, having outed myself to both of them (I can never keep a secret, can I? Besides, they're not law people), I feel a little more reluctant to go too personal. What will Scott and Ancrene think of me? "Wow, cool story" or "Whoa, what a freakshow!"? I'm wondering if that was ever a good idea when I did so on Xanga. Who wan'ts to hear about my love life? (beside the 6 friends who read this blog, and only 2-3 of which check it once a week, and they can hear about it on the phone) Who wants to hear about what I did yesterday? Maybe I should reserve this blog for Big Important Thoughts, and leave out the personal details unless they're funny, relatable meta-anecdotes. Blogging about family: rich material, funny, almost an absurdist Yiddish short story kind of thing (but with Vietnamese people). I can make that material relevant and "universal." Writing about myself--I'm kind of wondering, who'll care, and even if they do care, how much I'm revealing that may be improper.

Should I worry about impropriety? Should I tell the story of the worst gynecological exam EVER? Even if I'm not Googable, and the two virtual strangers I revealed my Secret Identity to are probably cool, is it just "too much information" to share everything about my life?

Thus, the question ex ante: what is the scope of this blog? It is the personal, the political, the law-related, the academic--but what is the scope of each? Can I use it to tell the most intimate secrets, exploiting the mostly anonymous nature of the blog to "share too much"? Or should everything that impacts my reputation (pseudonymous or not) be left to the quiet corners of my soul? How much into politics can I go? Is this a sounding board for a disgruntled Democrat, or should I always strive to make principled, rather than emotional arguments? Law-related and Academic: can I go through some paper ideas or drafts of articles here, or is it too much a turn off to write about ideas that non-lawyers will find very difficult to understand?

As I write these concerns, I'm beginning to realize: fuck it all. I will write for myself, whatever that means. I won't worry about how strangers and not-strangers-but-not-really-people-I-know perceive me. I'm anonymous, I can take advantage of that.

The mask isn't coming off anytime soon. In a way, I'm happy Scott and Ancrene know who I am--this bolsters the communitarian aspect of this blog exercise, and I figure they won't be on any of my hiring/tenure committees. I think I would be much more reluctant to come out to a lawyer or law professor, which is why I comment on many law blogs--under my own name, to network, to "own" my words--but have not made a pure law blog on my own. It doesn't appeal to me to limit myself to the purely academic, and make each interaction impersonal. I'm not saying I'll be as free-talking as I was on Xanga (which did lend itself to a kind of juvenile confessional). I've decided that while emotional lessons (say from past relationships or family) are reasonably serious and beneficial to writer and reader alike, I won't chronicle my love life and sex life like some kind of prurient online diary. Admitting embarassing facts (I am a nerd, I have nerd crushes on professors) is one thing, especially if intended to be facetious--but perhaps there are some activities and relationships best kept private. With regards to myself, I won't write about every dysfunction I or my family have. Also, I'll try not to write in an irresponsible and intemperate manner. I used to do all of this, when my readership was only the 6 friends. But now, mayyybe a little bit of discretion and modesty wouldn't hurt.

So the unmasking of Belle will have to wait--if it ever comes.


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