“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”
A grisly quote that has, at various times, been attributed to sports columnist ‘Red‘ Smith, and literary giants Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway.
One of the reasons I blog is because I find it therapeutic. Initially designed as a way to keep the folks back in Ireland updated with my adventures abroad, this site has morphed into a travel companion and diary – sometimes sharing deeply embarrassing episodes in my life – things that I needed to get off my chest.
I love reading honest blogs. Original voices who are excellent communicators, transporting me into their world. Among the blogs I follow (and I prefer to be selective in that respect) include Recovering Alcoholics, Digital Nomads, Prostitutes and people on the fringes of society.
There are enough fashion/lifestyle/cultural blogs being started everyday that regurgitate the same tired hacks/tips/suggestions that really add little, if anything to my life.
Perhaps it’s the author in me that likes to dig deeper and uncover people’s motivations so that I can capture that essence and bottle it for a future character driven story.
A decade ago I was glued to one of the webs first personal development blogs, still one of the heaviest trafficked – stevepavlina.com. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that he said, but continued to ‘tune-in’ because here was someone who didn’t give a shit about what others thought. From some quarters he would draw criticism about his relationship choices (polyamorous), diet choices (vegan), lifestyle choices (polyphasic sleeper) and other facets of his life but Pavlina was always honest, documenting his experience and sharing his own unique perspective.
Zoom forward to present day and James Altucher earns my respect. Candidly talking about occasions he considered suicide, how he became a millionaire and lost it all, ruining his relationships and his struggles to be a responsible father.
I’m certainly not suggesting hauling those skeletons out of the back of the closet and sharing them with the class! However, I am saying that when you speak from a place of truth – your truth – it can resonate with people.
I think we can become a little insular in the blogging community, wanting to be politically correct at the risk of offending people, hoping to widen that net to reach as many readers as possible.
Every week on the Community Pool in WordPress, I read the commentary section and 99% of the time, when people are looking for feedback (the same faces every week funny enough – usually highly placed on the first page) they receive lavish praise, or positive spiel that only deludes the questioner. No one seems to want to risk constructive feedback, feeding the ‘I’m alright – You’re alright – Let’s follow each other‘ cycle.
I try to buck that trend without being an asshole. Doing my tiny bit to help clean up blogs and raise the overall standard of blogging on WordPress. I’m no authority of course, but after two years of blogging, feel I have learned enough to cast a critical eye and offer some insight.
I understand peoples reluctance to air their laundry in public through their blog, perhaps using the site as a vehicle to promote a book, advertise your travels or offer movie reviews. However, I think if some of us removed the filter and spoke truthfully (within reason – you might not want recruitment or HR to raise a red flag), you might generate more comments instead of blind likes.
Visited Machu Picchu and felt it was over-rated? Say so!
Watched the latest ‘Star Wars’ but thought it was rubbish? Others will probably agree!
Quick example of the honesty principle. I took a hallucinogenic drug in Peru in 2014. I was unsure about revealing that truth, but after careful consideration decided to write about the experience on my blog and shared it on my social feeds. It was incredibly raw and personal.
The post seemed to strike a chord with many people. Former colleagues cringed and told me that it was career suicide.
But, as a result of the post, I was tasked with writing an article about my experience in Northern Ireland‘s biggest newspaper, The Belfast Telegraph. That exposure helped boost my portfolio and helped to secure a freelance blogging opportunity which allows me to continue my passion of writing.
I’ve tried to transfer some of that honesty into my writing – my own thoughts about religion/spirituality included in the narrative of one the main characters in my upcoming book SIGIL.
In a crowded blogosphere where he who shouts loudest (blogs most) is deemed ‘successful’ as far as likes are measured, perhaps its time to stop following the pack and connect with your own truth.
Pain can be your friend, but only if you’re willing to open a vein.
image attribution – Aiden Chadwick via flickr CC