Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

What I Learned on the Way to One Thousand

It was a few posts ago when I realized I was approaching a bit of a milestone number in this blog. Today, after writing this blog for just under five years (as of this spring), I hit the 1000-post mark. It's almost a bit hard to believe, as when this adventure began I had no anticipation I would make it to 100 posts, let alone ten times that, but here we are.

And what a ride it has been. I couldn't even begin to summarize what I have done, seen and written about thanks to this blog. If asked to do so I would have to tell you to just go read the posts, as it's all there in black and white - but while I cannot summarize all the events I can summarize some of the things I have learned over those one thousand posts. This summer I will celebrate a milestone birthday, and it is likely I will share some thoughts on what I learned on the way to that number, too - but that's for another day. Today is the day to share what I learned on the way to one thousand.

Beginning a blog is easy. Continuing a blog is hard.

Anybody can start a blog. It is actually quite easy, given the ease of use of many blog platforms and websites. The hard part isn't the beginning - it's keeping it going. Over those one thousand posts I can't count the number of times I considered ending the blog. There were long stretches when I didn't blog, and times when I wondered why I bothered - and yet I kept coming back to it. Maybe it's because I'm stubborn and maybe it's because I hate to quit anything, but I suspect it's mostly because I simply enjoy the entire experience of blogging. But if you begin a blog and don't enjoy it I can almost guarantee you won't continue it, as the blogosphere is littered with abandoned blogs that were once vibrant and active and are now quiet ghosts where nobody posts anymore. They are silent witnesses to that fact.

If you are passionate about your topic, the blogging is easy. If you aren’t passionate, don’t bother. People know.

In the very beginning I knew I had to write about things I care about, because people can spot a lack of authenticity. Even if they don't realize they are doing it they can still sense it, and they will not connect with your writing if they think it is insincere. Blogging about things you don't care about is a painful chore and completely absurd because blogging is the one place where you should feel free to write about whatever you actually care about. If you care about a topic the words come easily - if you don't it's a bit like herding unruly cats that you don't even want to herd.
Write about what you love. Or what you hate. Nobody wants to read about ambivalence.

Ambivalence is boring. If you don't love it or hate it, why bother writing about it in a blog? Nothing says "don't read me" like a title that reeks of ambivalence. Even worse though is that writing about ambivalence is boring. No wonder people quit blogging. If your own topics don't excite you, then there really is no point because they won't entertain anyone else, either.
Write for yourself. Finding an audience is awesome – but your first audience is always you.

I always assumed the only regular reader this blog would have would be me. I think that assumption gave me a lot of freedom to write for myself and about myself, because it was always about my life in my community. When it attracted readers I was a bit stunned, but I knew what attracted them was what I was doing, so I wasn't about to change it. This blog is about our community, to be certain - but it's about the adventure of one resident in this community: me. I am the one common link between all one thousand posts.

If you don’t have a thick skin and you are sharing your opinions you need to grow one. Pronto.

If you don't have a thick skin you might want to blog about something safe, like cupcakes. I don't imagine there are many cupcake culinary controversies, although I could be wrong on that. But if you are going to write a blog and share your opinions be ready for those who disagree with you. One of my most profound moments was talking to a class of young students about blogging and having them ask how to handle it if people thought what they wrote was "stupid". After I got over the initial heartbreak that they even knew to ask that kind of question I told them that I handled it by being confident that my thoughts and opinions have as much value as anyone else's, and that I didn't worry overly about what other people thought of it. If you write what is true to you, you won't feel much need to defend it. The haters can get stuffed. Or start their own blog. 

Don’t be afraid to be you. Even when you are terrified.

I think it was the moment when I realized it was my blog that I began to own the hell out of it. Yep, those are my words, my thoughts and my opinions. That's even my picture there to the right of this post. So I was going to be me in this blog, 100% of the time. What would be the point of being anyone else?

Know when to hold ‘em. And when to fold ‘em.

Kenny Rogers wasn't just singing about cards, you know. Sometimes blogging is about knowing when to hold 'em - the stories you wish you could tell but know that you can't, and knowing when to fold 'em - the topics you know you have to shelve for a bit. I often quip that some stories will be saved for the eventual book I will write and people always laugh - but it's no joke as of course there is a book, just one that will come out after I have left town some day. Or maybe published posthumously just to be on the really safe side. The stories that made it to this blog are really one half of the adventure this has been, and some day I will tell the other half. Just not today. Thanks Kenny - I know when to hold 'em!

When everyone loves what you write, you’re a genius; when they hate it, you’re Satan.

The best part is when some people think you are a genius while others think you are Satan. But on occasion almost everyone will think you missed the mark or messed up or are channeling the underworld. It can be quite the pendulum swing, but it can also be quite entertaining. Besides the hate mail that comes from being pegged as Satan can be an awfully good read.

Even people who think you are Satan might continue to read your work, if only to prove to themselves that you are indeed Satan.

One of my favourite encounters was with someone who said they hated everything I write but who continued to read it to confirm how much they hate everything I write. Who can argue with that kind of logic? It's sort of like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer every day to remind yourself about how much you hate being hit in the head with a hammer. One can only be amused by this, and I am.

Sometimes you are very right. Sometimes you are dead wrong.

You will not always be right. And it's okay to admit your errors. But you should never feel forced to acknowledge you are wrong, because if you feel forced then it's quite likely you don't instinctively feel you are wrong at all. And that should be your clue that maybe you aren't wrong. It's also okay to stick to your guns if that's what your instinct says.

Don’t let opportunity slip past you.

The blog has presented me with so many opportunities! Some I was offered and some I sought out - but if opportunity comes knocking you need to consider answering the door, even if you are wearing pyjamas and haven't had a shower and your hair is a mess. You don't need to say yes to every opportunity, but make sure you consider them as they arise. What you don't want is to regret not even thinking about them.

Let yourself be surprised. Every single time.

I can still recall the first time someone complimented me on a blog post I had written. I was so surprised. Pleased, of course, but surprised. And it still happens, every single time. I feel almost awkward and shy when someone compliments something I have written. Proud but humbled. It's the strangest feeling in the world, really. Now when they tell me they hate it that's much easier as that never happens to my face but typically in an anonymous email, which usually heads right into my deleted items. But when they come to me and say, directly, what my words meant to them? Oh man. I get all weird inside, even one thousand posts later. I don't think that will ever go away.

You eventually find your niche.

When this blog began I went to absolutely everything. As the quip goes I would attend the opening of an envelope. Now people will occasionally comment on not having seen me around as often, and it's probably true as it took me some time but I found my niche - my place in this community and in my world. I don't go to as many events, but you can be sure when you see me at one that this is a place I have identified as part of my niche and a part of my heart. It took going to everything to realize where I wanted to belong - and to find where my heart really is. I love this community and I love this region, but I don't need to be everywhere and at everything to do it. I invest in those things closest to my heart and others invest in the things closest to theirs - which is how communities are built, really.

Nobody will learn more about you than you will through the process.

 Sometimes people comment about how much they know about me through this blog. The truth of course is that they only know what I have revealed and shared, and it is, as with any of us, the tip of the iceberg. This blog may have allowed others to experience Fort McMurray through my eyes, but nobody learned more about me than I did through it. I am not the same person as I was one thousand posts ago (thank goodness - how dull it would be to not allow experience to change you!) and I won't be the same person one thousand posts from now that I am today. This blog - the experiences I have had, the people I have met, the lessons I have learned, the changes I have seen both in our community and in me - taught me more about myself than any other process in my life ever has. 

You have a voice.

Every person has a voice. How you use it is entirely up to you. Every single person can develop a platform from which to share that voice. How do I know this? Because I did it. One thousand posts ago I was a stay-at-home mom without a blog and no public voice. Nobody handed me a platform to share my voice: I created it. That means anyone can do the same thing. I am living proof.

And finally...

One thousand posts. These one thousand posts changed my life. Yes, that is in italics because it is true and worthy of note. If you have been reading them, thank you. I appreciate that more than you will ever know. In the end though I wrote these one thousand posts not for you, but for me. Every single post, every single experience, every single person, every single comment, every single note of encouragement or email of condemnation - they changed me and my life. I don't know if these one thousand posts had any impact on the life of anyone else or on this community, although on occasion I like to hope they did, but I do know they had an impact on mine and that my life would not be what it is today had I not written them.

So what did I really learn on the way to one thousand? Gratitude. To this community, to my readers, to the people who invest in this region the way I do, to my friends, to my kid...just gratitude. Thank you for being there on the way to one thousand. Today I celebrate one thousand - with thankfulness for all I learned along the way, because being McMurray Musings has been one of the best adventures of my entire life - and it ain't over yet!

No comments:

Post a Comment