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15 Million Anna Quindlens, or, Why Do You Blog?

My brother asked me why I blog. Why write about my daughter, my family in such a public way?

I fell into it, I explained. It started because every small business in the world of Web 2.0 needs a blog and I wanted to connect with people like me who are teaching little ones to speak a second language. As it grew, it got fun and creatively freeing, an unexpected surprise.

Being completely honest, though, I am not fond of the fact that the term "mommy blogger'' can be applied to me. It seems belittling and dismissive. Or maybe I only think that because a former colleague rolled her eyes at me when I told her I was blogging. I know some women embrace the term, but I prefer to see myself as a woman who writes, who happens to be a mother, and who happens to write about her family, among other things.

When I launched Bilingual in the Boonies, I sent my favorite former editor a note with the subject line "Look, Ma. No hands!'' What a thrill not to have to sell an editor on a story idea. Blogging allows a freedom rarely offered to a journalist, for whom the story and opinion – unless you're a columnist – always is somebody else's.

In the 1980s, the author Anna Quindlen wrote a regular column called "Life in the 30's" for the New York Times. Based on personal experiences, dare I say they were like blogging before blogging. (Buy the book compilation. The columns are fabulous.) On Dec. 1, 1988, she wrote:

"It is done with mirrors, what we reporters do in these pages every day. But the mirrors are usually the one-way variety, like the ones used in police stations or for psychological experiments. We see you, write about your neighborhoods, transcribe your quotes, analyze your statistics, but you don't see us, except for those block-letter bylines at the top of the stories. There is a kind of mystery to that, like conjuring up the face that goes with a particular radio voice.

Two years ago, however, I slipped to the other side of the mirror. It was an odd thing to do. Even I disapproved of it somewhat. I grew up holding a third person to my chest, like a shield, having no political party affiliation, no public persona, no expressed opinions.

Suddenly I dropped the pretense, and week after week I said things that third persons do not say."

In the same column, which was the last of Quindlen's for "Life in the 30's" and published just days after her daughter, Maria, was born, Quindlen wrote she loved having the column because, "I was offered relationships, friendships really, with thousands and thousands of people I've never met. Each week I feared I was the only person in the world who wondered and worried about a particular subject. And then I got a letter from one of you who said, ''I've been wondering and worrying, too.'' This column has given me a good deal: a weekly paycheck, a professional label, a place to belong as a writer. Most important, it gave me a sense of community that I will never lose, even when the column itself is finished.''

An estimated 15 million women write their own blogs, according to a story in last month's Times. Lots of women getting the same connection and feedback and community Quindlen got 20 years ago. And, mostly without editors and filters. And, getting it instantly, without the need for a postage stamp. OK, so only a tiny percentage get whopping readership or revenue for their mommy angst, funny kid stories and savvy tips, but still community counts or so many wouldn't be doing it, right?

I love reading blogs that offer good chuckles, deep lessons, a peek at lives similar to mine and at lives completely different from mine. They are like reading 10 good newspaper columns in one day. (I'm not counting the bad and boring ones here).

Turning my brother's question over in my head these last few days, I've wondered what motivates so many millions of women to detail their lives on-line. So now you – and my brother – know a little more about why I blog.

Now, tell me why you do.


Visit Bilingual in the Boonies and Los Pollitos Dicen.