Your Messy Life

It’s amazing that when authors admit their flaws, weaknesses, suckishness on their blogs or in books like Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years,” people love it. Admitting you have a lousy life frees people to admit they do too. Being brutally honest creates some kind of safety net or hope.

If I blog about how awesome I am, how brilliant my kids are, how pristine my house is, I will lose readers. But if I write, ‘Dangit, I am having the worst day. My husband and my job are so annoying.  My kids are spoiled. I have caught three mice in my kitchen over the last month,’ I will keep my 29 readers (and hope to eventually lose the mice). 

I don’t know why this works. Maybe readers feel, ‘Thank God I don’t have her life. She’s a mess. My life’s not so bad. My house is much tidier.’

The trick is not to make the everyday honesty seem like a perpetual state of complaining or whining. Throw in a little bit of your awesomeness after you hook people with your chaos.

And make the mess of your true life story seem real and funny. Like, you don’t take yourself or your sucky life all that seriously. Because it is true, this difficult life will pass, perhaps to be replaced by challenges even more difficult, and therefore potentially even more humorous.

My advice to bloggers? Throw open the curtains to the mess of your life and you find you are not alone.

So you open the shades wide into the living room of your difficult life and let everyone, including the sunshine, in. Let the party start. Eventually, the party will wind down. Let everyone go to home.

And then, close your curtains again. Create mystery. I’m not really sure how to do this. I personally am much more with the TMI camp — I like hearing all the details about peoples’ messy lives. I don’t like that my life is difficult. But I like that your life is difficult. That makes me happy – and human.

People Like Unfinished Business

Brokenness and rawness are cool. I was reading Don Miller’s book.

Tom (Hazelwood) suggested I read “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing my Life.” I so loved it. I loved that Miller talked about being a fat kid. I loved that he talked about longing for a woman who did not long for him. About his shame at being a couch potato, about wanting life to be about big adventures. I loved that he admitted his  imperfections, was honest about his struggles. I loved that he talked about his dad’s beer drinking. I loved that he was funny.

I love people’s unfinished and messy business. I like reading blogs where people are working things out — like yesterday’s freshly pressed:

I’ve noticed when I express my struggles on my Facebook status updates — like “I’m so lame I let my kids stay up too late,” or “I’m depressed so I am going to the Met” —  I get lots of feedback, discussion, thumbs up, “likes.” But when I go, “I’m awesome. I invented bike riding in New York City”? Crickets.

So long as you don’t wallow in your negativity. So long as you bring some humor to your struggle. So long as life is lived in “an atmosphere of growth.” That quote’s a paraphrase from “The Happiness Project,” another awesome memoir about trying to keep it together. But I think Gretchen Rubin could’ve been even more honest about her struggle.

Because it’s true, we’ve all got some kind of struggle, not just Tipper and Al.

People identify with lovable losers. With losers who are trying to win. We like the underdog, the schlump, the Don Miller. Maybe we identify. Or maybe we think, ‘At least, I’m not that bad.’ It can be hard to be honest, but it’s a good way to win readers’ hearts.  Maybe, like Miller, it’s a good way to write a bestseller and snatch a movie deal, “Blue Like Jazz,” too. Okay, I’m jealous.