The Courage to Blog Personally About Love, Family and Marriage in China


A few months back, I received an e-mail from a reader, who told me this:

I love to tell stories, too, but have so far limited myself to sharing them verbally so that I can measure the responses of the other person. I think what you’ve done takes quite a bit of bravery, and I hope one day I’ll be able to write some of my stories, too.

My first thought was, Me, brave? I thought about how I run this blog from my bed, tapping out stories on my laptop and responding to comments while in my pajamas or a comfy T-shirt. It sure doesn’t look like bravery at first glance. And sometimes, I’m convinced it looks kind of silly. (Seriously, you should see some of my “office” getups while I’m doing this blog.)

But as I pondered her words, I once again remembered how right she was. Yes, there’s courage in writing something incredibly personal about your marriage to a Chinese man, about living with him in China (and, before, America), and what it’s like to be a part of his family.

If there’s anyone who knows how scary it is to put yourself out there, it’s me. After all, there was a time in my blogging history when I quit big time. Yes, you read that right – I quit my blog. There was a time when I lost the confidence to write, and couldn’t find the courage in myself to overcome it.

Here’s a big secret for you – when I pressed that publish button on Speaking of China over six years ago, it wasn’t the first time. I actually started blogging on in 2002. I didn’t really know what I was doing as a blogger at the time (it was a pretty new thing back then). But I enjoyed posting my writing online, which was more like random journal entries about whatever was going on in my life in China. And some people actually read it – not a ton, but enough to make me care about it. I kept blogging for a few years into late 2005, when my husband and I had a major life change. We moved to the US together to pursue our dreams.

That’s when my blog completely tanked.

The stress of transitioning back into America, along with helping my husband through it, weighed upon my harder than I ever imagined. Well, one of the things nobody ever tells you about blogging is that it takes energy to be courageous, to write and publish your writing publicly. And because all of my energy was sucked away into this extraordinary life transition, I stopped blogging.

It wasn’t really a conscious decision I made. It was just that as the days, weeks and later months passed, I couldn’t think of a single thing to write that was actually worth sharing. And the longer my blog remained without a single update, I experienced an even more painful feeling – shame. I was ashamed that, for everything I had done to build up my blog in China, I was throwing it away because I lacked the energy and chutzpah to continue writing.

Guess what? It takes enormous courage to overcome feelings of shame about yourself. And I didn’t have that courage. Not yet.

So I quit. There was no fanfare, no big announcement, nothing. I just stopped posting on my blog and desperately tried to forget that I had even bothered in the first place.

As if that was possible.

As 2006, 2007 and 2008 passed, I watched my blogging peers in China – people who had started their blogs in China the same time as I had – make their mark in the blogosphere. A prickly feeling of shame gripped me whenever I encountered their names or posts online. I wondered, Could that have been me – if only I have summoned the courage to fight through my confidence issues and just keep blogging? And in the worst moments, I just felt utter despair – that I’d had my chance and wasted it by abandoning my blog.

It wasn’t until 2009 that the idea of blogging about something I truly loved occurred to me. I had just founded a writer’s group in town and gave a few talks to the members about the value of having a blog. At the same time, I was laboring on the first drafts of what would eventually turn into a manuscript for a memoir (one I’m editing as I write this). It was ironic that I lectured my fellow writers on starting up a blog when I had quit doing the one blog that I had always been my first passion.

Then in May 2009, inspiration arrived in my e-mail inbox from a most unlikely source – Rachel DeWoskin. (Or rather, Rachel DeWoskin’s publicist.)

Did I mention I’ve been one of her biggest fans over the years? Big enough to gush over her memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing in my business blog. (A blog that almost nobody was reading.) Well, because I happened to blog about her book, her publisher found me and invited me to review Rachel’s new novel, Repeat After Me.

Me? Really?

Well, that e-mail hit me with all of the power of a huge adrenaline shot – and sparked a host of crazy thoughts that I had hidden deep within myself a long time ago. Like, Could I start up Speaking of China again, in a different version? Could blogging help me build a career as a writer? Did I have the courage to finally do this? I had no idea and yet, I didn’t care anymore. My passion had such a momentum at that point that I couldn’t even slow down to consider all of the “what ifs” – and it was so unstoppable that it demolished those walls of shame, fear and discouragement that had held me back for years.

On May 18, 2009, I pressed the “publish” button for the first time on my revamped version of Speaking of China (that date has since become my blog’s anniversary or “blog-iversary”).

Of course, it’s one thing to find the courage to restart your blog, and another thing completely to be courageous enough to keep doing it. As any blogger knows, one of the greatest disappointments comes when you start out and you’re scraping to get anyone to read it. In my first few months, I was lucky to break 100 visits in a day!

It takes a toll. You wonder, what’s the point? Why I should I put myself out there when nobody’s bothering to read it? In my worst moments, I could feel those old feelings of shame and unworthiness creeping back into my mind, telling me I was no good, wondering why I was even trying. And, of course, kicking myself for quitting all those years before.

Miraculously, I didn’t quit. I kept posting, writing and believing in this new blog. So I made it through to late August 2009, which is when I ended up writing about the rarity of Chinese men and Western men in China. It was a big leap for me to tackle such a personal topic, and honestly, I felt pretty nervous about pressing the button on this one. It took some courage to push through it all.

I just never expected that post would go viral.

I also never expected that once the post went viral, the avalanche of comments that flooded my blog would make me so anxious. Like any blogger, I worried about what they were saying (or going to say) about me. A lot. And it took courage to just tell myself, It’s okay, you can keep blogging.

The anxiety didn’t end there. If anything, it got even worse once I committed myself even further to blogging (especially when I spent nearly five months publishing blog posts five days a week). Can you imagine what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night almost five nights a week, struck with terror over what you’re about to publish on your blog? Or compulsively editing a scheduled post in the early morning hours because you’re afraid of what people will say about it? That it’s too personal or too revealing or the kind of thing people are going to laugh at you for?

Nobody ever told me that blogging would feel scary at times – that it would take courage to overcome all of those scary feelings.

Sometimes, I didn’t even have the courage – and that meant turning to my husband to help me through some of my darkest moments as a blogger and writer. I think pretty much every writer struggles with feelings of inadequacy. But when you’re posting your writing online without an editor behind you or any of the usual endorsements, it’s tough. You wonder, am I good enough? I swear there were times when I was powered by nothing more than hugs from my husband John, whose unswerving belief in me and my blog made all the difference.

Now that I’ve been doing this for over six years, you might think, Oh, well, now she doesn’t worry about any of that.

Yeah, right!

I still obsess about what people think about my writing. It’s not uncommon for me to feel nervous about what I’m posting. And there still are days when I wonder if I really am good enough. (Or worse, when I wonder if my best blogging days are over!)

I still have to rally that inner courage to continue writing, blogging and connecting with people out there.

In fact, I’m rallying it now as I write this post. It’s frightening to admit that I quit blogging, that my journey to the present was messy and incredibly imperfect and involved a lot of personal (and psychological) healing on my part.

So, yes, I may wear silly pajamas and T-shirts, and curl up on my bed, which has long been my unofficial office. Yet by simply letting my fingers dance across the keyboard in an effort to share an experience in my marriage to John or with his family, I’ve realized it really is an act of bravery. (Granted, an act of bravery in incredibly casual attire, but bravery all the same.)

And to the person who wrote me that e-mail, I hope that one day you too will find your own courage to share your stories with the world. I’ll be rooting for you.

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44 Replies to “The Courage to Blog Personally About Love, Family and Marriage in China”

  1. Don’t be afraid, you’re doing great!
    Or… be afraid. And fight it, again and again.
    Be hardworking, be lazy. But most importantly: be happy about your life, your marriage and your blog. I feel so much better when I can compare my experiences with you and other people – if not in real life, then in blog stories. It makes me stronger when I know that everyone has to fight for happiness – and that we can do it!

  2. Wow Jocelyn, what a brave, intense and touching article! You are a great writer.

    As a fellow blogger (albeit much less experienced!) everything you said rings true: the anxiety about my writing, the creeping feeling that it will never work out, the disappointment over the scarce responses and so on. Blogging is great but God knows how much perseverance and effort it takes.

    You mentioned one thing that was particularly true: quitting blogging is often not a conscious decision. It is more of a passive “maybe I will write something another day” kind of a feeling. It is really hard to decide consciously to quit something you’ve put so much effort into. Letting it slip through your fingers is much easier. I would almost compare it to hitting the gym: you know you should go, you keep postponing, and the more you postpone the lazier you get.

    Blogging is a bit like exercising, just for the brain and soul instead of the body.

  3. We, as bloggers, constantly put ourselves out there to be judged and usually the more personal and opinionated a post is, the harder it is to press the publish button.

    I am glad that you had to courage to restart your blog and you should be proud of all the accomplishments you have had. You give other bloggers the courage to speak their mind and have a voice!

  4. I have a hard time imagining blogging without “Speaking of China” leading the way. I have (virtually) met many interesting people and heard many fascinating stories through your blog. I am grateful for it as a resource (though I found it a little too late for it to help me with my in-laws!), as a source of inspiration, and also as a source of comfort.

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with the Chinese mother-in-law from hell!

    1. Your andy’s flow chart is funny.

      I think good looking people will always have easier time in dating. The good news is that there will be somebody for everybody.

        1. I really enjoyed your latest post. I remember saying about the Asian loyalty, but I was being optimistic.

          I like reading a blog post not feeling too sentimental at the end. Good work!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I have been struggling trying to figure out what to do with my blog. I love blogging, I love reading blogs, but I am also very cautious about posting my personal information online.

    Whenever I write, I think, this is the sort of thing I like reading from other people, so I should write it that way someone else who feels the same way will read it and maybe it will comfort them to know they are not alone.

    But then I think about all the personal information someone could gather from everything, put the pieces together, and then what? I don’t actually think anyone cares that much, but the thought still gives me anxiety.

    Maybe one day you can write advice about being personal, but not too personal!

    Thank you again though, I also think you are truly brave to stick to it! And I’m thankful because reading your blog is like chatting with a friend and I look forward to it.

  6. Great article!

    I’ve thought about quitting blogging in recent months, so it’s definitely something I can relate to. Sometimes I’m just not sure if putting oneself out there like this is worth all the hassle. I loved writing, but recently it often seems like a burden to keep up with blogging. I haven’t called it quits yet because it might just be a phase and I’d probably regret it if I quit.

    I never used to read blogs until I stumbled upon yours. I then read every article on your blog (I hope that doesn’t make me a virtual stalker). You have a great talent for writing and I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts and your memoir.

  7. I’m so glad you started blogging again! Your blog was one of the ones that inspired me to start (and then again, to keep going).

    It takes a lot of courage to post your thoughts online – and I always enjoy reading yours!

  8. Kudos to all of you who blog.
    It takes courage to put all your personal thoughts, both the positives and the challenges, online for all to read.
    You share your journey with us all!!

    The internet can be an unpleasant place at times, so to continue posting in the face of disagreement and everything else, shows a courage that many don’t have.

    Long may you all continue!

  9. Blogging about your own personal experiences, love and life definitely takes a great deal of courage….but utterly worthwhile, even if it is only to preserve some much treasured memories for yourself. Thank you for writing this post to encourage more honesty in our world. Have a lovely week ahead!

  10. Oh Sweet Lady. I depend on your blog. You allow me to see how it can be to find a true love and experience other cultures. Wonderful Insight- It’s what draws us in and connects us with you. Your writing pulls us together in camaraderie- women in similar situations and those curious about Bi-racial Ships, China, Love, and Writing. So glad you tried again!

  11. I think you have done a great job. You will have something interesting to look back when you get older too.

  12. I came to China in 2008 and by accident or out of sheer determination I searched and found Jocelyn’s blog. Her blog was a rarity, one of a few that was offering some answers to questions that I and I presumed other Western women were asking or thinking about such as “ Why aren’t there or Why don’t you see Western women dating Chinese men”, when the opposite (Western men dating Chinese Women) can be seen everywhere you go. Jocelyn was in my mind, original, daring, a follower of her own heart and mind. She’s someone living her life with her Chinese husband and through her writing and her experience I got an insight into something that was “different” , something that was uncommon not only in her own Country but also in China, a different way of seeing people, their culture, their differences/likenesses. But also through her blog I thought of the “possibility” there is if we are open to the experience of not only dating but loving and living our lives with a Chinese man.

    I find Jocelyn’s b blog to be honest, open, insightful and doesn’t shy away from any topic. It made a path for all other ( Western Women dating/loving/married to Chinese men) bloggers/blogs to rise and that’s evident in the amount of blogs that are out there on this topic written by women who are experiencing their own journeys/adventures with Chinese men.

    So thank you Jocelyn ( and John) for having the courage, taking a risk, opening up and daring to write about your life and experiences both good and bad.

    P.S. Sending out a big thanks to all other bloggers who put themselves out there.

  13. Jocelyn, you’ve been such an inspiration for all of us blogging about China and dating/marrying Chinese! So first of all a big thank you, without your blog I’m not sure if I would have started mine.

    I’ve written posts as well that made me very nervous to hit the publish button, perhaps some that I later regretted. I’ve also had pauses in my blogging when my own life have been a mess or just too busy. But still blogging is important for me and I keep at it even though sometimes it might be slower.

  14. What a brave thing to admit! Few years before I started to write my book review blog, I planned on writing a Korean drama blog, something similar to what does. But I guess I got bored and kind of, well, failed with that. Everyone who knew me, knows I love reading, and someone suggested that perhaps I start to do book review blog.

    I started to do it, but like Jocelyn, in beginning I felt helpless and frustrated, unsure of why I was doing it and trying to get used to it. Something about reading and blogging about my reads appealed to me, which explains why I don’t quit, and it took a lot of time and mistakes for me to find my voice and my preferences and to continue to expand my reads, but I love doing it.

    Also, I would like to thank everyone for checking out my blog and for giving me reason and motivation to keep on reading and reviewing books!

  15. Thank you for posting about your struggles and successes as a blogger! It takes courage to share so much personal stuff. Having people read and comment on it is terrifying, but even having people NOT comment on it is hard! I have been blogging for a year and I have never broken anywhere near 100 hits in a day, but I am still motivated by blogs like yours.

    I think that your daily struggles are very relatable for people in interracial, multicultural relationships, and your writing style is easy to follow. I hope I can find a “voice” that is as natural and as absorbing as yours. Thanks again for sharing your life with us!

  16. hi, i’m pretty sure there were already millions reader who have appreciated your articles. pls include me from those million of fans you got. what made me appreciate your articles is the honest truth that you write straight from your heart. keep it up. More success to you! 🙂

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