Some days writing feels more “like digging ditches than casting spells,” as author Chuck Wendig puts it. Today is one of those days.
A note I’d scribbled earlier saved me: “It’s amazing how the information that I read seems to come to me when I really need it most.”
That sentence came from a reader e-mail, and I wrote it on a scrap of paper because I knew it would come in handy.
Specifically, it gave me the impetus for today’s post. Why bother writing regularly? After all, it isn’t particularly lucrative for many bloggers. That’s especially true if you don’t run sponsored posts or do paid reviews.
Why bother writing? Because it can change people’s lives.
Those changes might be small, e.g., a car repair tip or a creative way to get your kids to clean their rooms. But you may make giant differences in readers’ lives.
Some of the posts that I and other bloggers publish help that reader when she really needs it. I’ve had people tell me that they’re out of debt, back in school or on track to a more comfortable retirement because of articles I’ve written for places like MSN Money and Get Rich Slowly.
Readers also write to tell me that my personal example (middle-aged woman flees abusive marriage, goes broke, reinvents herself) gives them hope and strength. And, of course, I get notes from people pleading for more posts about Alaska; however, I’m pretty choosy about what I’ll put up because I don’t want to turn into a travelogue blog.
Words have power
Maybe you didn’t start writing to change anyone’s life except your own. But who knows how much good your words have done?
Suppose you write a funny piece about your baby’s inability to sleep through the night, or post some rueful snark about becoming invisible to pretty women since you turned 40. Both topics are probably just what someone needs to read. Maybe a lot of someones.
Back me up, parents of newborns: Isn’t there a point at which you would put your nonstop crier on a strict diet of paregoric and breast milk if it meant you could sleep for a few hours?
But we don’t do that. (Do we?) Instead, we soldier on and try every remedy we can find, praying that the wailing season will soon pass. One of those remedies is reading about how other parents handle it. Maybe they have tips for you, or maybe they simply understand.
When you write about the financial strain of helping your kid through college, other parents out there might learn some new tactics. If you blog about midlife divorce, newly single people all over the country are reading every word and thinking, “Finally! Someone who gets it!”
Never underestimate that. Have you ever felt isolated and/or terrified by something going on in your life? Finding someone who has gone through or is still going through the same thing makes you feel less alone.
‘What if I could really do this?’
Somewhere out there are folks dealing with depression, unemployment, teen angst, divorce, aging parents, home repairs, dateless Saturday nights, sagging budgets, the terrible twos. Plenty of them turn to the Internet for ideas. A reader named Suzanne sent me this note:
“I was looking for a financial/frugal living blog that wouldn’t be too dry but would rather be written by someone who lived a frugal life while having a great life…
“That is when I came across your blog and it has been a lifesaver for me. Your willingness to share your experiences along with your amazing way with words has really helped me and I just wanted to send you a heartfelt thank you.”
Another reader found my first-ever piece for MSN Money, “Surviving (and thriving) on $12,000 a year,” as an impoverished young woman looking for answers online. Now she has her own blog and recently wrote about that experience:
“(Donna) outlined some of the ways in which she intended to not only get through the lean times she was facing, but to do it with grace, dignity and even joy. I wanted what she had.
“(If) we can free ourselves from the burden of debt that has become the norm in our society, who knows what else we can do to alleviate the poverty and financial stress that keeps some of our best and brightest women and men from achieving their full potential?
“That may sound pretty lofty, but every paradigm shift the world has ever known has started with just one person thinking quietly to themself: ‘What if I could really do this?’ … One person, one decision at a time, can change the world. But none of us has to do any of it alone.”
I’m quoting these readers not to brag on my mad skillz, but to show how the words I put out there affected people. At the time I wrote them, I wondered if anyone was even reading. Turns out that someone was.
Would I have posted them even if I had zero site visitors? Sure. Writers write because it’s in them to write.
Writing for change
Sure, some bloggers simply want to share fantasy football stats or haul photos of the fabulous deals they found at 90 percent off clearance.
Yet an extraordinary number approach their writing with purpose. They’re sharing their lives not as self-aggrandizement but because they hope to teach readers. Or touch them.
Or both. Suppose an at-home mom explains the frugal hacks that make it possible for her to be there. This is a tremendous service to other parents thinking of taking the plunge.
Extra honesty points if the SAHM shares the occasional loneliness and frustration that come with her new gig, or her fear of being mommy-tracked or shut out of the workplace once she’s ready to return. Double bonus points if she details the tactics she’s using to keep that from happening.
Thus readers learn both practical steps for full-time parenting and ways to prevent re-entry problems. They also get a glimpse of another parent’s reality: I love my kids but I’m human – and that means I get bored or scared sometimes. Such truths resonate with anyone who’s in the same kind of foxhole.
Imagine how your own words can change someone’s mood, or day, or entire life.
You know that old saying about how we should be the change we want to see in the world? Bloggers have the chance to write that change. So go out there and do it.