I was well and truly in Spring cleaning mode the other day when I happened across some old newspaper articles I wrote for my former local rag, The Huddersfield Examiner. I wrote a column for them when I was in my early twenties and, although I wasn’t quite fresh out of university, my days there were not too distant a memory, so the articles I wrote were for a regular slot called Uni Life. I wrote about all manner of intelligent and profound subjects such as the key ingredients needed for an awesome student party, how to survive lectures when you are hungover, how to handle disagreements over dirty kitchens, and what my memories were of Fresher’s Week debauchery. I found the articles all folded up in a brown envelope and I made myself read them, even though I knew the contents would probably make me cringe. Cringe, I did, but I found myself recognising how useful they had been in helping me to find some early confidence in writing articles for others to read. That is the key bit for me. Until that point, I had written privately but had never let anybody read my words. Probably because I felt embarrassed. When you write articles or blog posts that reflect only your own opinion, it is pretty daunting allowing others to read them because you are in effect asking for people to judge what you have written. If you think about yourselves as readers, it is hard to read anything without forming an opinion or judgment, good or bad. Indeed, the mark of good writing is when it truly engages its reader.
So, the first time I let anybody read my writing was when I asked my friend, David, to read a piece I’d written about returning home from living in London. The piece was about my experience of moving to London immediately after graduating from university, and subsequently feeling so homesick and unsettled that I returned to Yorkshire six months later. Writing about it was cathartic and David convinced me to join him in writing the Uni Life column for the paper. The London piece became my first article.
When I came to the end of Uni Life and I’d exhausted all of my memories, normal life took over and the writing stopped, at least publicly. I continued to write little blog posts at home and I have been trying to write a novel for years that started as a dream, turned into a few chapters but will go no further. And then I discovered Selfish Mother. It was 2014. I had two young children and I was looking for a magazine online that was not like the big players of the time that everybody else was reading. I wanted to read something different. Selfish Mother was that different. I loved it. The articles were honest but not offensive. They were written from the heart of every writer and the writers were a mix of professional writers, journalists, and then at the other end, just normal people. When the editor, Molly Gunn, put out an ad to invite others to join her team of authors, I jumped at the chance to write for them.
Molly and the other writers helped me a lot in the early days by editing my first few articles on Selfish Mother. They offered really good advice and insights into how to present my posts to appeal to readers and not just to be about self-reflection. And I remember the first time I saw my first post in real life on the screen, I felt a bit scared but, over time and with positive reassurance from my family and friends, I overcame that and have come to really enjoy blogging. In the three years since then, I’ve created my own blog, which I think of as less a lifestyle blog and more a space online to store the things I’ve written so that my children can see them one day. I’ve blogged for other sites, including a little parenting site in the north west, a series of guest posts for the website of the hospital where my husband and I had IVF treatment, and a little bit for The Huffington Post.
It isn’t always plain sailing. With every positive and reassuring comment, every ‘you could have written this for me’ comment, there is the potential for people to tell you that you are wrong, that they disagree, or, worse, to troll you. I think with any writing you put out, you should be able to accept disagreement. It is healthy and its important not to forget that not everybody shares your view, but even disagreement should be conveyed in a respectful way. I recently read the piece in The Daily Mail which was a stinging attack on ‘mum bloggers’. It wasn’t the most comfortable read and, had I been one of the bloggers that the article singled out for ridicule, I think I would have sunk down into a pit of sadness that my blogging had been so publicly shamed. Those who were singled out have responded in the best ways. Unsurprisingly, they have used their blogs to respond with clever and witty articles that, rather than being bitter and unhappy, are sharply written and highlight the big failing of the original article – that the writer had never properly read their blogs. Also nice to see was a well-known fish finger maker using their advertising to sneer at the article, as the article had made fun of a blogger who gave her child a frozen fish finger. Cynics might say this was a great PR attempt from the but still, it gives wider support to bloggers and that can only be a good thing.
Writing is an art form that changes all the time. We are no longer in the realms of writers being only those who have traditional publishing deals and who write printed stories. Writers come in all shapes and sizes, including bloggers, and that is to be embraced, not mocked.
My children sometimes ask what I’m doing when I’m writing on my computer. I tell them I’m writing and sometimes I say stories if it is the story I’m working on, but when they are older I will explain to them about my blogging. I’m not a professional blogger or even one who wishes to make money from it. I’m a hobby blogger because I write to fulfil my own personal love of writing. And if, along the way, I write something that really resonates with people, then all the better.