Often I am asked about beginning a blog, sustaining a blog, or simply how to find the time to write at all. On the eve of Blended’s blogaversary (that is the weirdest word ever) I have done a bit of reflection about both my writing life and more specifically, writing a blog about parenting and adoption. Let me first say that the life of a blog has its ups and downs depending on the kind of season you are in with family and also the life season you are in mentally. There are days in which I feel I have nothing left to offer and other days when I cannot get the words on screen fast enough because I am a literal gold mine (a gold mine people). I wish the latter happened more often. Seasons will come and go, thus my overall admonishment is to be gentle with yourself. With that said, here are ten things I have learned about blogging during the past three years.
10. You have to show up to write.
This may be the hardest thing you actually do in a day. At times when you finally get that coveted time away to write, you will discover that alas, you have nothing to say. Write anything. Write something. Write a poem about your cat. At the end of the day you can say to yourself, “I wrote a poem!” You never know, the Humane Society may just have a monthly newsletter and after you polish that stanza one last time, it will be perfect for their Feline Haiku backpage. You will never know until you show up and write. Set a time, sit down, and get to work.
9. Don’t take hateful comments to heart.
I obsessed over my first hateful comment. Obsessed. For days. For nine days to be honest (you can ask my husband). I obsessed and then I cried and then I realized that some people don’t agree with me and because they don’t agree with me, well, that’s life. Or in my husband’s uber compassionate ninth day tirade, “Suck it up Stephanie and move on. More people will leave horrible comments in the future, this was just the first.” Thanks honey. He was right, of course, and since then I have been called everything from a racist to a saviour (and everything unrepeatable in between). I don’t cry anymore, I just don’t publish hateful comments and simply return to my #10. Take that.
8. Just when you think you are writing for yourself, you will go viral.
Sometimes when you show up and you are sitting alone at your desk (or in my case holding a child, an ungodly sized cup of coffee and attempting to type) you forget that you have readers. You think to yourself, “That’s funny” when you’re a little sleep-deprived-punch-drunk and then you post something you shouldn’t. I did that. Once. I posted a humiliatingly unflattering awkward high school shot in good humor for myself and then it. went. viral. Apparently I’m now big in Japan. The moral of the story? Don’t say anything or post photos of yourself that you wouldn’t want the WHOLE WORLD to see.
7. Share your space.
One of the better choices I made early on was to share my space with other adoptive parents, social workers, and adoptees that would lend varied opinion and substance to Blended. Other people are experts on things you are not. Invite them to join you – it pays off one hundred fold. Guest writers rule.
6. Say thank you.
Use your manners. If you read a book, column, watch a helpful video, hear a speech and it was helpful; return to the teacher all good things. Tell them. Don’t just say thank you, but tell them what the most beneficial piece of information was to you – genuinely. Meaningful connections are built this way and it is truly surprising who returns emails and what happens from there.
5. Reach out.
One of the strangest things I did early on was to post my writing to my various affinity groups. It felt self touting, self aggrandizing, and it was the best thing I did for Blended. As busy parents we often do not have the time to peruse the Internet for helpful information. When someone posts something they have written in a group I belong to, I will most likely read it. This was a helpful place to grow my readership – and yours.
4. Tread lightly on your family.
This is a tough one. I find that the line on what I will share about my family keeps moving to the ‘less’ side. Parenting, and especially parenting a Blended family, carries with it so many tough issues; race, adoption, and social perception just to name a few (and that would be a light day). What I share and how much I share specifically is always on my mind. I don’t want my children to grow up and resent, regret or be angry with me. My rule of thumb is “If I am uncomfortable with writing this, I think my family would be uncomfortable reading this.” That is not to say then that I am not authentic or honest, but I care more about being respectful to my family than sharing the blow by blow. As a writer, I can find a different way to communicate what I find valuable than to tell you all the surly details of what went down at my house today.
3. Don’t make your husband read every single thing you write.
This is just a mental note for me. It’s on post-it notes around my office too, I just keep forgetting to actually do it.
2. Be true to your voice.
This is crucial. It is the reason why people started reading your work in the first place. In the swirl of looking up and revering ‘people who know what they’re doing’ may we not forget ourselves. Be yourself. You have a unique voice and worldview and damn it, people like you.
1. Remember why you started blogging.
Every year at Blended I take a little time (that time is right now, with you) to reflect on why I started blogging in the first place. People said blogging was dead (but I’ve heard that about of lot of things lately including Elvis), so I went right ahead and started Blended anyway. Why? Because I couldn’t find a space out there that was focused on the multiracial Blended family with solid opinion, resources, and much needed perspective in the blogosphere. I felt alone in my parenting and wondered if I might just find a community out there in Internet-land that I would feel challenged and encouraged by. You know what? I found them. I just had to show up and write.