There are at least two issues in your post, KF, that I think are worth responding to. But I don’t have the slightest notion about how to respond to the first — the question about how to think about integrating the “personal” into the blog. You’ve always struck me as so nicely bridging the distance between casual thought/cracking wise and the subject of your teaching and research in this space that if pressed for an example of how the personal and the professional might co-exist in a blog with grace, I might point them here.
But, as you point out, the “personal” also consists of a whole realm of stuff outside of casual thoughts about books, cracking wise about comment spam, and updating your readers on how close the flames have come (needless to interject I’ve been relieved to check in and discover you safe) — there’s that stuff that does make one feel quite vulnerable to commit to ‘net. A lot of stuff. I rarely blog in detail about my marriage or my family, if only because that involves other people so closely that I always think “I wonder what s/he will think if s/he reads this?” and chicken out. Sometimes I wish I was the kind of writer who could do that — but I don’t think I am. So, yeah, um…that’s hard. And good luck.
The other issue, about the fiction: while I think M. may be overstating the case in the “steals the fire” argument, I believe there is certainly something to be cautious about. As I’ve been working on fiction in the context of a writing group, I’m painfully aware that sharing the early-stage drafts — good in itself for spurring me on — I invite conversation about what I’m up to, and my own thoughts about it have been somewhat contaminated by the early responses by my readers. I never thought this would feel like a bad thing: I solicited response and input along the way. But there’s been something in me lately that believes that a certain amount of isolation is a part of the fiction enterprise (even though what I’m working on is trivial). I can’t imagine blogging my ideas in progress, not because I fear other people’s negative responses, but because I’m aware that they…this may sound nuts…lose something, become quotidian, begin to lack lustre, once they float around in front of too many eyes.
Which isn’t to say that will feel this way at all for you. Perhaps another way of thinking about it: I’ve discovered that my “fiction writer” voice is startlingly different than the voice I feel happy in writing on the blog. Putting the two out there together would feel like trying to tell a ghost story in a crowded, bustling pizzeria.
Again, your milage may differ. As always, I’ll be eager to read whatever you deign to share.