With love and gratitude to Heather B Armstrong
Heartbreaking humanness, oh wow, yes. This is why, despite being single and childless, I found solace in dooce and GGC in my early adulthood. You both made me feel infinitely less alone in my humanity, in the raw nerve of my existence, and gave me room to believe big feelings meant big possibility. Thank you to you both.
"What people keep missing (over and over. and over) when we talk about those early days of blogging is this: no one was there for the fame. Or the attention. We were there because we were writers. And writers fucking write."
This. THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND THIS.
This is what I loved about those days and this is what has filled my entire heart about what is happening here on Substack.
I wouldn't be the writer I am without Heather. I wouldn't have ever conceived that it was possible to go from writing about pregnancy and birth and spit up to making writing into a life and a living for myself without Heather. I wouldn't have learned that one even had the option of being that honest and that real and that true.
There was something about being a blogger in those early days. Something special that I can never quite put into words when I try to talk about it. Something i've mourned ever since the day Google Reader died and I really admitted the era was over. You said it in that paragraph above. In those days, we learned we were writers, and we learned how to write. It was always bigger than the minutia of our days, it was us learning to tell the truth about our lives. And she was the one who put the flag in the ground and claimed the space and made sure we all had a seat at the table.
Rest easy indeed.
That fearlessness in her writing and life extended into how wholly and deeply she tried to get her arms around her depression. The way her writing will live on for her kids, and the documentation they have with her last book, is a testimony of how hard she tried for them and for herself.
i am sitting here crying in the dark under my sleeping children remembering exactly where i was in 2004 when my friend told me about this “blog” she found called dooce. i became obsessed. i would print out the archives at my mind-numbing temp job and take them home to my studio apartment to read because i didn’t have a computer or a computer phone. her words and pics and words filled my days and my heart as i aimlessly wandered through my 20’s. through her i found you and omg momversations. my just heart feels so heavy and so remarkably sad. thank you so much for this, rebecca. for all of it. ♥️
This is the article about Heather I’ve been hoping for. And of course YOU wrote it. Like no one else could. And the insight about locked diaries made a light go on in my brain! Thank you for this. ❤️
I have been following Heather since the beginning. Not only Heather, but also you. I too had a blog, and my blogroll was filled with incredible writers and their honesty. You described so well what it was like then. All of the newest comments, from NYT to GOMI still feel the same. People who value their own opinions on topics they know little about. Someone has already published a biography of Heather on Amazon with supposed interviews from family and friends - it's so easy to capitalize on someone else's pain. I think Heather had the worst of it, many of her readers feeling like she owed them something. She gave so much and made an incredible contribution to what writing online has become. I am now rereading her archives, wishing it wasn't the end. Heartbroken for her children and family.
I kept subconsciously hoping that the next iteration of her writing would show up on Substack because she is after all a writer. Today I looked at dooce, it had been awhile, I saw a post I had not seen before about her daughter and music-two subjects she could write about with such love. I wasn’t looking for anything but a remembering of her gift- and saw a song Heather said her daughter had sent to her “I wish you well, I want to see you smile. It’s alright goodbye goodbye. “ I had never heard the song before- it is a beautiful one. She was, and then you were a connection shared between friends and a freedom to many who didn’t know they could until she did. And you did. And each person did. It’s amazing.
I was never a writer, but I was an obsessive reader of all the OGs - dooce, GGC, Rage against the Minivan, Designmom, Cup of Jo and so many more. As a mom to two boys born 18 month apart, and working full time at a large law firm where being a mom was a handicap, reading those blogs was where I found community. On the regular I would shut my office door and have a good cry or laugh - in equal measure over how much I related to everything written - the love, the frustration, the funny and the humanity of it all. Thank you, Heather. Thank you, Rebecca. Thank you to all the women who share the truth of it all and make us feel a little less alone. I wish Heather could have felt our gratitude and appreciation, at least I hope her daughters will learn and understand it.
Because of who you are, your brain seems to effortlessly process hard things into the right ways, the best ways. When something happens, I immediately think of you because I need you to help me process the world in the ways that makes the most sense. And you always, always do in the most thoughtful, beautiful way. I love you.
I have followed you and Heather since 2006. When I read the news yesterday I gasped out loud. I am heartbroken for us all. She was a force that we needed, still need. I never understood the hate slung at her, I can't imagine what it was like for her, anyone really to be hit with that daily. She gave us herself, you all do and we should ask for nothing in return.
I’ve been so sad by this I’m so mad at those who were unkind to her when they knew she was so vulnerable
“There is a reason young girls are given locked diaries. We have been told our whole lives to keep our truths to ourselves out of SAFETY. Safety for ourselves. For our families. But our secret lives do not keep us safe, the only enable the same lie we have told for centuries. That our stories are not the ones that matter.” ❤️ yes. Rest easy, Heather. Thank you to all women who so beautifully and messily share their truths.
Those early blogging days were magic. I miss them, terribly. I missed how people wrote just for writing and to connect with others. When people wrote authentically and really bared their souls. All the friends I have now who I've known for a long, long time (20+ years) are all people I met through each other's blogs or in others' comment sections. I've always felt like they're the ones that know me best.
I started reading Dooce soon after she started her blog, in 2001. She eventually led me to GGC and The Girl Who and so many others. I started my own blog that I kept for years, but then I stopped, because I was so afraid of the vitriol and hate that you all talked about getting.
The impact she had on others and the support she offered to people in those early days cannot be erased.
In the last couple months, I've found myself combing through Substack looking for more writers like you, like Dooce, like so many of the others from the early days. I echo what you said - it looks like there might be something exciting happening here. I hope that's true.
I appreciate these words so much. I've always been moved by the honesty of your voice, and absolutely, Heather paved the way for that. I was full of sorrow to see what dark and destructive paths she was going down toward the end (and not just self-destructive), but I also know she wasn't well. And my god, what she endured. But nothing can take away the empowering parts of her legacy. Thank you for articulating them so beautifully.
Reading this was such a healing balm for all the broken hearts in the wake of this loss - mine for sure. Mother Writer is so much more whole and true than the trope that has been used patronizingly for oh so long. How incredible a legacy to have expressed yourself so well on this earthly plane that countless women start writing, propelled to share their own truths and find the meaning (and humor and joy and universality) in what seems like the mundane.
Thank you for explaining why this grief feels so distinctly acute for so many of us.
When I saw that she had passed, I immediately thought, "What is Becca going to write?" I remember in 2006 when I was a what the hell do I know mommy. I read and watched "the momversation". You both were raw and open and brave. It's not the end of an era... but it's definitely been a lifetime. Thanks for your words. (I always reminded myself that your website ended in ".net" not ".com". One of those weird things I still remember.)