Not that long ago, people without access to publication (newspapers, magazines, books) would never have a chance to be heard. These days, blogging and social media let “lots of different marginalized groups” share their stories, according to Canadian blogger Anne Theriault.
The Toronto-based writer tackles some difficult subjects on her website, The Belle Jar. The toughest one was her first essay on postpartum depression, because she hadn’t done mental-health posts before.
Although worried about the potential reaction, she found – and continues to find – that posts about mental health issues get tremendous positive feedback.
“Allowing myself to be vulnerable creates a safe space for other people to be vulnerable,” Theriault said in an interview on WordPress Discover.
Think about that for a minute. About how putting yourself out there – being real, being honest – can make a difference in someone else’s life.
Your words can be the lifeline to someone on a day he desperately needs it. Your readers may seek help, start over, demand parity, put up with less or create art of his own because of something you wrote.
The hardest writing I’ve ever done was intensely personal. Topics like my long-term abusive marriage, my daughter’s near-fatal illness and subsequent disability, and my feeling of invisibility were painful to examine and exhausting to write. Yet these pieces opened up new pathways in my head and heart and new relationships with readers, some of whom responded through virtual tears with their own stories.
Other points of view
Not that the themes are always painful. Some have been quite positive, such as returning to college in my late 40s, finding love at midlife and taking a pay cut to have more time for what really matters. Yet these articles also encouraged readers to talk about their own lives and, sometimes, offer advice to one another in the comments section.
The Internet isn’t just about celebrities and cats. Blogging can be a marvelous way to introduce others to the experiences of those marginalized groups, or a way to expose sheltered people to other points of view. I call this the “not everyone looks like you” school of writing.
My daughter, for example, writes about disability and money – or, as she calls it, “frugality in an imperfect world.” She started her site, I Pick Up Pennies, because so much of the advice from money blogs wasn’t helpful. “Cut back on lattes” and “Sell all that extra stuff you bought” just didn’t work for her as a disabled woman who rarely left the house and didn’t have anything left to put on Craigslist.
Abby regularly writes about frugal hacks, budgeting tips and the like. Her real strength, I think, is her willingness to put it all out there a la Theriault. The more open and honest she is, the more her readers respond.
Incidentally, only a few of those subscribers self-report as disabled or experiencing chronic illnesses. The majority are able-bodied folks trying to get by in a society that assumes a level playing field exists. (Hint: It doesn’t.)
A little nudge
What stories do you want to tell the world, and how are you preparing to tell them? Are you ready to produce clear, focused, compelling words that can change people’s lives?
If you plan to start a site but are waiting for the right time, let me ask: How do you define the “right” time?
Obviously if you’ve got a full-time job and a family and are attending night school, then blogging should wait. But what you probably mean by “the right time” is, the morning I wake up with the Muse standing by my bed with a computer and a long list of topics.
Oh, I understand completely: I kept waiting for the right time, too. My personal website might never have been created without a kick in the pants from someone I didn’t even know. After interviewing a guy for an article we chatted about writing.
When I mentioned wanting a blog someday he replied, “What’s wrong with right now?” I mumbled something about not being good with technology. He offered to have his IT guy set up a basic site.
I thought about it and then e-mailed, “Were you serious about helping me start a blog?”
He was. So I did.
Sometimes people need a little nudge. I’m grateful every day that I allowed myself to be pushed encouraged almost six years ago.
A leap of faith
Consider this my nudge to you: Think about what’s holding you back from being the best writer you can be, whether that’s starting a blog or improving one you already have.
Then feel free to contact me at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com. I’ll answer your question(s) and, if applicable, include advice/tips from my online writing course.
Obviously I’d love for you to take that course. But I’d also like to get you started as a writer. If you can’t afford to take the class right now, you can still get your feet wet as a blogger: My buddy Grayson Bell will set up a WordPress blog for you for free.
As for the cost: If you want to become a better blogger, or to start out with a solid grasp of technique and self-care tactics, education is a cost of doing business. A one-time fee gets you 30+ years of professional writing expertise. (Besides, I always have at least one discount code out there; here’s one now, good for 25 percent off.)
The only person who can get your blog going is you, and you may have to make a leap of faith to do it. Go ahead and jump.