Monday, August 18, 2014

Five things I've learned from blogging

This week, I begin my seminary education at Duke. While I hope to keep writing, I don’t anticipate being able to update as frequently or to put as much time and thought into the blog as I've been doing. If you want to be alerted when I do post, you can enter your email in the "subscribe" box in the upper right hand corner of the blog to receive new posts via email (nothing else to clog your inbox, I promise). Also, feel free to explore old pieces in the "Favorite posts" tab above.

As I mark this new phase in my career and writing life, I wanted to share a few things I've learned over the past year. Last October, I started trying to share my life story and my deeper, more vulnerable reflections on the blog. I made an effort to write regularly and to share more widely. There have been ups and downs, but overall, I'm exceedingly grateful for the journey.

5. I am a better person when I write. My husband can vouch for this one. I believe this blog was one of several things that has made our second year of marriage so lovely, much smoother than the first. We learned that once or twice a week, he was going to need his extrovert night (games/friends/sports) and I was going to need my introvert night (writing stories on my laptop). Writing gave some structure and purpose to a year that sometimes felt like a holding pattern. By writing I was able to process the world, express myself, and be filled, so that I had more to give.

4. You never know who is reading your blog. This makes for some lovely surprises when you re-establish old connections with friends and neighbors. It makes for a tiny bit of concern when you go to a place where you’re not sure your expressed viewpoints will be seen favorably. It makes for awkward moments when your neighbor mentions that someone around town told her that you had a dream about having a baby, and does this mean you are pregnant?

3. You gotta remember your people. In writing, as in life, it’s so much easier to focus on what you don’t have rather than what you have. There have been moments where, after a popular post, I started dreaming of becoming "successful," getting more shares and followers, working towards publishing. I tried to redesign the blog to look more professional. I opened a Twitter account to connect with readers and writers. I networked with other bloggers through guest posts and linkups and comments in order to increase traffic. But honestly,  my stats didn’t change much.

So I stepped back. The real reasons I started this blog were much smaller. I wanted to discipline myself to write, and to share stories I hoped would matter to even just a few people. Both of those goals have been met completely. The people I started writing for—my family and friends and even Facebook acquaintances—have been so affirming and supportive. You have made me believe my gift is worthwhile. You have shown me that even when we are different, our stories can resonate. I am so thankful for you, and I write for you, the people who read, not, as illogically as it seems, for the people who don’t.

2. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability; trust breeds trust. Sharing deep thoughts and experiences is not easy, but when we open up and tell our real stories, we often find that we’re not the only one. Half the time, after I push the “publish” button, I have a couple hours of anxiety. I feel exposed and wonder if I've said too much or said the wrong thing.

But nail-biting is worth it for the chance that someone will read and taste in my words their own story and know they're not alone.

At least in part due to the blog, some folks have been willing, in return, to share their stories with me. The conversations and dialogues that have popped up in response have been a beautiful thing.

1. The things that connect us are stronger than the things that divide us. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when I get a comment or note from someone who says, in effect, I don’t share your religion/life path/worldview, but I really relate to what you wrote about. It’s happened several times and it affirms for me the belief that if we who are different (culturally, religiously, politically) get to know each other deep down, we may find much that we share. We who are divided may become friends.

I love you all, and I am so glad we are on this journey together.

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