By: Marilyn L. Davis
“The drama of the essay is the way the public life intersects with my personal and private life. It’s in that intersection that I find the energy of the essay.” ~ Richard Rodriguez
Transparency in a Personal Blog
I have recently gotten emails and comments that touched me. Several other writers have said that they wished they could be as open about their thoughts and feelings as I appear to be in my writing. I started thinking about why openness and sharing my thoughts and feelings in posts seems like a natural way for me to write, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my recovery has a lot to do with this attitude of openness.
Personal blogs are well, personal by nature. While that may seem redundant, without this connection to our topics or themes, our writing can ring false for a reader.
Recovery is one of my themes, and invariably, I will include a life lesson for the reader. In our recovery work, we become conditioned to discuss our thoughts and feelings, as well as our actions. I think this attitude of disclosure carries over into my writing at Two Drops of Ink as well.
One of the emails reminded me of my first attempt at personal writing when I was in treatment. We had to write the three most embarrassing and painful events from our lives and then tell it to a stranger. In 12-Step recovery, this is a 5th Step, “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
We had a choice about who would hear our 5th Step – a counselor, a priest or a rabbi. Not trusting a counselor’s confidentiality, I asked for the priest. Since I am not Catholic, and he was booked for the next month, I could not use the priest. I then asked about the Rabbi, assuming he must have some confidentiality restrictions like a priest. However, the same problem, I’m not Jewish, and he was booked.
That left the lonely third choice counselor. I wrote about my most shaming experiences, pouring my heart into this writing. It was painful and distressing to see what I had done, written in black and white. I cried and sobbed, wracked with guilt, however, I finished it.
When I showed up for my appointment, I was ready to read my admissions. Armed with my Kleenex, I immediately started crying. The counselor looked at me, eyes glazing over, stifling a yawn and then succumbing to the sheer boredom of my disclosure; he looked at his watch. When I was finished, the box of Kleenex was almost depleted.
My counselor launched into his own three similar experiences and asked me if I felt better. I told him that while I intellectually understood what he was doing, I did not feel better as he had minimized the pain that my admission still caused me. However, I began to see that there really was nothing new under the sun. The actions wore my face one time and his on another occasion.
That moment of clarity was the beginning of what I now understand is the cathartic benefit of sharing personal reflections, experiences, feelings and thoughts.
Regardless of where we live, what language we speak, or whether we are male or female, our experiences, feelings and thoughts are universal. When we write from our personal experiences about any topic, we can help readers understand an issue, find solace in commonality, or we can offer them solutions to their problems in personal blogs. While we write from our perspective, we have to make sure that we are giving the readers what they need in our personal blog, and the way we present the information needs to be divided by what the writer needs in the post and what the reader wants and needs.
Information the Writer Needs
Personal blogs give writers an opportunity to be a storyteller, teacher or enchanter. Each of us has personal strengths, values, beliefs, hard-won lessons, and life experiences that can help someone else:
- Create changes to improve life
- Deal with a disappointment
- Discover their hidden talents
- Find joy in simple pleasures
- Make a difficult choice
- Overcome a fear
- Prevail over hardships
- Travel to other places like a pro
- Triumph over adversity
- Weather a stormy time in their lives
For this type of writing, you cannot rely on intellect alone. For instance, I could write about the thrill of driving a Grand Prix race car; thinking that my experience with traffic tickets qualifies me as an expert on fast driving. Wrong. I only drove 50 in a 35, hardly race car stats. Yes, I could fabricate a blog post, but it would not ring true to most readers. So, what are the necessary features and heart of a personal blog?
- Exposure and Disclosure
- Relevant Personal Experience
People feel isolated sometimes, wondering if their lives, thoughts and feelings have meaning. As a writer, you can validate another person simply by using your talents to tell a universal story. It is as though you have reached out and in that moment, the reader knows they are not unique or different; it is as if a comforting friend has told them, “I’ve been there.”
Feelings and Thoughts are Different
Personal blogs convey the drama, conflict, joy, passion, remorse, and wonderment through the feelings and thoughts of the writer. That means that you will have to expose your thoughts and feelings. It’s important that you distinguish your thoughts, attitudes and feelings.
It’s more than just putting the word, feel in your sentence, also. For instance, you could use any of the following phrases, but what follows is not usually a feeling, it’s generally a thought, idea or assumption.
- “Feel like …”
- “Feel as if …”
- “Feel as though…”
Feelings fall into five general categories, each with degrees of the feeling:
- Bad (Jealous, envious, guilty, etc.)
Because personal blogs need to capture your readers and create a story which they can relate to, using the most dramatic degree of the five general categories, is the better approach. Do not tell them you have a good marriage, vacation spot, hobby, or passion in life. That is just annoying. Tell them how delightful, enjoyable, pleasant, charming, amusing, enchanting, and wonderful this experience was.
Grab The Reader and They Will Relate
In 800-1500 word posts, you only have time to tell an example story, so make it worth your reader’s time. Lost a loved one unexpectedly; then give them the shock, fear, and loss so that they can relate. Did you make transformational changes in your life? Then what you did and how you benefited from it will have universal appeal.
Your “Aha moment” when reality or the truth became apparent; write it so I see the wheels and gears turning in your head and I will empathize with that.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I am comfortable with this style of writing. I get decent pageviews from my posts and am pleased with comments. However, I realize that descriptive writing or personal blogs may seem too exposed for some writers.
I also know from the comments and emails that many of you would like to try to write in this style; however, you are hesitant to jump in the deep end. Use some of these topics to ease into personal blogs and see how you like it.
- A place that is special to you and why
- A book, movie or play that changed your life and how
- The proudest moment of your life and why
- What super power would you like to have and why
- Your most prized gift and why
- What country would you like to live in and why
- What was the funniest experience you had and why
- What do your grand kids, children, or co-workers know about you that is interesting and why?
“A writer, or any man, must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been given for an end.
This is even stronger in the case of the artist. Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes, all has been given like clay, like material for one’s art. One must accept it.” ~Jorge Luis Borges
Building upon the quote from Jorge Luis Borges, I would challenge you today to look around for your personal clay.
Just as the potters starts with a lump of clay and one makes a bowl, another makes an entirely different piece.
It’s the same with our writing. If you’re struggling with ideas for your personal blog, ask yourself these questions and see if you don’t find answers that make your blog personal to you.
- What can you write about that will touch another?
- What long lost memory will you stir in another?
- Will your images make a reader smile, cry, reflect, or remember?
- Will your words help someone change their lives?
- Will your words generate joy, hope, courage, or resolve?
Each of these are a potential outcome of writing a personal blog and I would encourage you to try writing in this style. And when you’re finished? Two Drops of Ink is always looking for well-written posts that show others how to write better, a gripping memoir, or an image prompted post.
Tag line: Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing