I am no fan of the celebrity gossip mill. I just don’t understand the appeal. Why would I care about Kerry Katona or Katie Price? They do nothing more than exist, and sell the story of that existence for quite staggering sums of money. And we buy it, and we talk about it, and get into stupid, engineered outrages about it, like the obedient puppies we are.

But really, I suppose there’s no difference between what they do and what I do. Aside from the fact that they earn considerably more money from the enterprise (damn them! Where’s my Essex mansion?), we’re all trading in the same currency: the thrill of being allowed to peep through someone else’s window. We love the chance to gaze at the parts of life that are usually private, sometimes recognising our own situation (thank god, I’m normal!) and sometimes finding something strange enough to titillate us (she did WHAT?).

In the early days of writing The 52 Seductions, a few people accused me of writing porn, because I was writing in detail about sex. It’s never been a criticism that’s particularly bothered me – after all, why wouldn’t I want readers to feel the erotic thrill of the sex I was portraying, when it was good? – and I don’t accept that porn is a bad thing in and of itself. But it always struck me that these critics were missing a more pertinent point – that I was dealing in a kind of pornography of the emotions.

To me, that has always been the most questionable element of my writing. To what extent does it undermine my own dignity, to reveal as much as I did? To what extent does it undermine Herbert’s? My answer would be that I set my own boundaries very carefully. I always wrote with Herbert’s full consent, and there were many, many things I chose not to tell. We would, for example, have ‘off the record’ sex during the year of seductions, because neither of us wanted to have to be interesting all the time. Despite it feeling like one big spree of confession, the blog only ever really covered a small part of our lives; for the rest of the time, we were just getting on with it in relative privacy.

But once the project was over, I confess that I floundered. What on earth should I write about now? How could I create anything nearly as interesting or compelling? I wrote about a few sexual encounters, and played around with different ideas and formats, but really my heart wasn’t in it anymore. The seductions project had been an authentic journey of discovery, a genuine cri de coeur. Nothing else seemed to satisfy me in the same way, or set off my urge to write and share.

Meanwhile, I recoiled from the idea of setting out my stall as some kind of a sexpert. I remain, as ever, fascinated by the world of sex, but I’m an enthusiastic learner rather than voice of wisdom, or an advocate. I can’t generalise rules that I think everyone else should follow. Sex, to me, is your own business, and not mine. It’s great to be able to share experiences, but there will always be differences between us all. Thank heavens for that.

For most of the last year, I’ve been writing about the things that have occupied me the most – getting pregnant and being pregnant. I hadn’t ever wanted to become a ‘mummy blogger’ (is that as offensive as ‘chick lit’ I wonder?), but it was impossible not to let my utter preoccupation flow over into my blog, particularly as it neatly answered the ‘what happened next’ at the end of the seductions. As the time to actually meet this exasperating, terrifying and wonderful new being grows near, though, I find myself no longer very keen to write. Maybe it’s a lack of confidence (and lordy how I hate the judgemental sniping and tribalism that accompanies discussions of parental choice online), or maybe it’s just boredom. But my overriding sense is that this is no longer my story to tell. Albrecht can’t give his consent to anything I write about him, and so when the narrative crosses over from my life to his, I don’t feel that I have the right to go on telling it.

For me it’s an ethical decision, but a pragmatic one, too. I have, quite simply, told all I want to tell about my own life. I’m emptied out. I’ve got nothing left. I want, largely, to put my feet up for a couple of months, and then, maybe, to witter on about whatever is interesting me next. I just hope it will be interesting.

But I’m left with some wider questions: are we bloggers good enough at knowing when to move on? For how long does a blog stay on top form, and when does it go stale? In other words, how do you tell when you’ve tipped over into being Kerry Katona?


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6 Responses to TMI

  1. Claire Boynton 11/04/2012 at 16:56 #

    Dear Betty, I recognise so much of myself in you, not least the hand wringing about the act of writing. Firstly, I don’t think your perceived credibility bothers anyone as much as it bothers you. Be confident. Secondly, I do understand the need for privacy. I’ve been having a similar thought process about my own blog. Detailing my depression seemed necessary emotionally, and others absolutely have connected with that. I shall always find it humbling. However, the sad truth of my life is that I am mostly dull and lazy. Being witty and wise is too much of a commitment, long term. I spend a large proportion of my life wondering what I’m going to eat and metaphorically scratching my arse. I’ve created a caracature of the best bits of myself that I can’t live up to.

    The only thing I will say to you is this: your perception that we’re interested in what you do is incorrect. We’re interested in who you ARE. It doesn’t matter what you write about, you are amusing, intelligent and perceptive. I read your stuff because I’d like to have a friend like you. Please don’t overthink it X

  2. Jess 11/04/2012 at 18:14 #

    You’re so right about the pornography of emotions – I’ve never thought about it that way before, but that’s exactly why I read sexy sex books like yours. I really learned a lot about sex through your blogging & book adventure – especially that podcast you did with the Coco de Mer lady, just brilliant.
    & now with a baby coming, I totally get the need to pull in & pull down the curtains. I think that’s part of the creative cycle, too: feeling dry after being so focused on your project & the expression of it.

    I do agree with Claire though – I’ve been drawn to your writing for your fresh perspective & wit, regardless of the content . . . although babies only interest me in person.


  3. Kavey 11/04/2012 at 19:54 #

    I’m a strong believer that a personal blog should be continued as long as it gives you pleasure, satisfaction, however you label it. If it no longer does, then put it aside, for a few days, for a few weeks, maybe months or permanently, according to what suits.

    But I also agree with Claire Boyton when she says “We’re interested in who you ARE. It doesn’t matter what you write about, you are amusing, intelligent and perceptive.”

    It’s the way you write that I like, regardless of the topic, though I admit I simply have less interest in mummy blogging or baby blogging than in many other topics. But a general lifestyle blog, which happens to include a little of that, that’s something I’d continue to read, for sure.

    At the end of the day, don’t worry about the readers, do what feels right to you. That’s what you did with 52 seductions and that’s why it worked so well, no?

  4. Melissa C 12/04/2012 at 21:30 #

    Dear Betty,
    I recently stumbled onto your site, then bought a copy of the 52 Seductions, and I cannot get over how similar we are, with our marriages and relationships. I will miss you if you decide not to blog often, but we the readers also understand when you the writer need to take a step back and reevaluate your privacy. Ultimately you are sharing yourself with us, and if it is no longer comfortable you need to do what is best by you. Thank you for sharing so much already. xoxo

    • Betty Herbert 17/04/2012 at 09:50 #

      Thanks for all these lovely and thought-provoking comments! I’ll definitely still be writing – although I do wish that WordPress would install a ‘maternity leave’ plugin! – but it’s definitely time for a change. In truth, I don’t think that enough bloggers think about when to move on, and I’m personally very easily bored!

  5. Sally - My Custard Pie 17/04/2012 at 10:07 #

    Can only concur with Kavey. Do what feels right for you. Your writing is compelling, frank and a pleasure to read and I hope you do something somewhere. But if this is not earning you sums equal with Kerry Katona then it needs to be fulfilling. My two pennorth…….and very best of luck with the next chapter of your life.

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