When you blog, it pretty much comes with the territory that you also read blogs. Blogging can’t work in isolation. Sure, it’s not so much about community as Twitter or Facebook are (perhaps it was once upon a time, at least pre Twitter), but writers have and will always be influenced by other writers, particularly those of the same genre as them.
At the start of my particular journey, I was influenced by friends who were also engaged in this peculiar pursuit. Along the way, I discovered bloggers who were friends of friends, and then became fans of total strangers’ work. Of these, the one that I will always check first in my reader is C. Jane Kendrick.
I’ve read Courtney’s writing for years, probably since early 2008, and definitely prior to her sister’s near fatal air-crash later that year. In many ways, I think we’re quite similar – which is probably why I enjoy her work so much. She’s just a few years older than me; has insecurities about the narcissistic nature of blogging, her body shape, her faith and her writing; she writes honestly and movingly about her relationships, her journey through infertility and life as a family of five.
Over the last year, she’s set about writing her life story, which she concluded in the final days of 2012. The last post in the series brought the reader full circle, to the point in her life when her blog began. Even though I was fairly sure I’d read most of her archives, I clicked the link and went right back to the start. Courtney’s archives got me through a slightly rough start to the year, and became a major tool of procrastination during my essay crisis. (Going through a difficult time? Find an excellent blog and read it from start to finish, you’ll be absorbed and will forget all your woes.)
This is one of my favourite photos of Courtney. As it’s the one Hannah used in her post, hopefully she’ll be happy with me using it too!
As I read, I was struck by how much her writing had developed over the years and how her character and faith had been shaped. But I was also shown something of me, which I hadn’t quite expected. I read post by post, which meant that I had to scroll through the comments in order to get to the ‘next post’ link. Every so often, I’d come across a comment I had left. Sometimes it was on a post that I had remembered commenting on, other times I’d totally forgotten and my words were a literal blast from the past – an indication of how I was feeling on that particular day in 2009, or whenever.
Read through some of the comments, and you’ll also witness some of the ridiculousness that a popular blogger has to deal with. Negativity, trolling, downright rudeness – it’s a wonder that anyone puts anything on the internet! According to more than one commentor last summer, a post in which Courtney revealed that she’d gone bra-less for an entire holiday was the final straw and resulted in them abandoning the blog! To be honest, who needs readers who would be offended by such things – I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t last very long around here! Despite – perhaps in spite – of these comments, Courtney continued. Sometimes comments would be turned off, sometimes she leaves them on. Her choice, as it should be.
I know of several other fans in the British blogging circle. In fact, a few weeks ago Hannah Mudge published an interview with Courtney on her own blog. [Confession: I may be slightly jealous of Hannah. She and Courtney tweet each other. Courtney has no idea who I am. I should get over this. On the plus side, I finally get to meet Hannah at a meeting later this week.] That post focused more upon Courtney’s development as a feminist and it’s worth a read, but also highlights the ways in which her readers respond to the issues she raises.
Some might think it’s odd that many Christian Brits are fans, given that Courtney’s a Mormon. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve been genuinely touched by several of her posts about her faith and spirituality. Yes, there are major doctrinal differences between Mormonism and Christianity, but the relationship an individual has with God has the same importance. [Incidentally, in case I’ve offended anyone by differentiating between Mormonism and Christianity, in Britain, it’s not a Christian denomination.] Yes, her posts are often hilarious (try watching one of her regular Friday vlogs), but they’ve also had me in tears – like when she took the incredibly brave step of sharing the story of an abusive relationship she was trapped in. (Despite him sending threatening messages after she’d begun her life story.) God is crucial in those stories, it’s where she got the strength to leave, to say no, to refuse to be treated the way she had been. God is there in her birth stories (the most recent of which – ‘Squishy’ aka Erin’s birth just over a year ago – is one of the most beautiful in the genre you will ever read), and in stories of loss, confusion, or every day life.
As I read post after post, I was inspired. I might be blowing my own trumpet, but I sometimes feel that our writing styles are similar – particularly in our relating of ridiculous every-day happenings. But, for a start, she is a lot more skilled than I. Plus, she is way braver than I am. In her writing is true vulnerability and true honesty about where God is in that.
I think bloggers can learn a lot from that. Is there much point in writing a blog that is just a sanitised window into your life? A version of events that has been edited and passed through a filter? Perhaps there is, if all you want is high stats, regular readers and glowing comments. The reason why Courtney’s comments get so divided is because she says what she thinks and feels, she doesn’t sit on the fence and to try and please everybody. I know that I sometimes refrain from being controversial in my writing because I’m scared of negative comments, but am I just kidding myself? There are things I don’t write about because I’m nervous of revealing parts of my life I keep private. (Although I think it is also helpful to make good decisions when your life and the things you might write about relate to other people who may not want to be featured on your bit of the internet.)
The moral of this post?
If you write, read.
If you’re not going to be put off by a writer who sometimes goes days without wearing a bra, read C. Jane.