I started blogging (more or less) a year ago. I’ve never had a good track record with diaries, journals, or blogs. I’m the gal that has a furious start, overdoes it in the beginning and then flames out in a couple weeks. This is simply in my DNA. I found a diary from the third grade the last time I was home and there was an entry every day for three weeks, then a two month break, then a half-hearted entry about the crush of the moment, then no further entries. The poor Hello Kitty diary (with a lock to keep my older brother out) was relegated to a desk drawer, only to be unearthed decade later.
Despite my history of commitment issues, this time it felt different. I wasn’t blogging privately, I wasn’t doing it to complain, I was blogging to contribute. To throw my voice into the student affairs online conversation about who we are, how we are flawed, and how we can improve together. I was inspired by bloggers like Amma Marfo, Joe Ginese, Becca Obergefell, Chris Conzen, Renee Piquette Dowdy, Stacy OliverSikorski, Ed Cabellon, Ann Marie Klotz, and my dear friend, Josie Ahlquist. I found my entrée through Twitter and #SAchat, and I was hooked.
I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 reflections from this incredible year of reflection and writing. In no particular order…
Just freaking write: The moment I realized I didn’t need each post to be perfect and even more importantly, I could go back and edit posts if I found a truly glaring mistake, I felt the weight of thousands of grad school hours of fretting, worrying, and editing lift off my shoulders.
Write it down before it floats away: I’m the queen of crafting amazing posts in my head and then never actually putting thought to blog post. If I don’t post between 48-72 hours after I have the idea, then it is never, ever going to happen. For example, I had the idea for this post this morning and have been itching to get quality time with my laptop to bang it out.
Blogging doesn’t have to be about ‘all the feelings.’ It can also be about ‘all the thoughts.’ I had the misconception that blogs were places where whiny, non-confrontational people went to air the grievances they were too afraid to do in person. While those blogs definitely exist, the blogs I tend to follow and enjoy are ones that really make me think. As an external processor, I really have to force myself to sit down to write and this process makes me both a better person and professional.
The more you read, the better you write: The best way for me to improve as a blogger is to read other people’s blogs. I get not only style and format tips, but am usually inspired to leave a comment or write a blog of my own on the topic.
At one point or another, you are going to feel like a fraud. Keeping writing anyway. The Impostor Syndrome is real, ya’ll. There have been several moments where I almost convinced myself to stop writing. Most of these times were when I took a large step into a topic and was convinced I was going to be ‘found out’ by someone. Please, if this happens to you, keep writing. Your voice matters.
If you put yourself out there, you are going to encounter some haters. My first post that had any amount of readership also brought on a very, very committed anonymous commenter. This person’s first line was, “This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read.” Talk about taking the wind out of my sails! I was living for all of the shares and re-tweets and affirmations, and then this commenter basically made me rethink even having a blog at all. It’s like they were in my head and listing all of the reasons I had already told myself a thousand times why I should quit blogging. The important thing I learned from this experience was that you can back down, stop writing, or you can engage, challenge, question, and to try to understand the reason for the comment. I am a better writer because of this experience.
Blogging can open doors. I had the incredible opportunity to present at NASPA with several rock stars of the blogging community. I wrote all about the “Blogging Bravely” experience here and here and it was a game changer for me. This experience connected me to so many people in the field I never would have connected with otherwise. Because of my step into the wild blue yonder of blogging, I was asked to be a guest blogger for the Student Affairs Collective and to join a women’s reciprocity ring which is a group of women who are going to do our best to assist each other in reaching our goals. (A brainchild of Amma Marfo’s, yet another reason she rocks my socks off). Who knows where the connections from this group of women will go?
Comparison is the thief of joy. This quote from Teddy Roosevelt has been a silent mantra for me throughout the past year. It was really intoxicating to get caught up in the metrics of the blog. How many unique visitors? How many countries? How many re-blogs? After about six months of this, I realized I was kind of missing the point. I didn’t start blogging to try to get more readers than the next person. I started blogging to add to the conversation and comparing myself to others was stealing away the joy of this contribution.
It’s worth it. All of the second-guessing, breath-holding, confidence-crashing is worth it. Blogging takes bravery and I’ve seen that bravery spill over into other parts of my life. I’ve taken on reach assignments with my job, been more honest with my friends and family, and taken crazy adventures, some of which I, shockingly, blogged about.
The blogging community is freaking awesome. The folks who are kind enough to read, share, comment, and challenge me via this format are truly professional development heroes. I learn from you, am inspired by you, and I am a better person and professional because of all of you.