Seven hundred and forty-six

Afraid of blogging?

I guess my new blog day is turning into Fridays.  I’ve actually been avoiding blogging a little over the past few weeks.  It’s not that I don’t have anything say (all my friends and family can tell you I always have a lot to say).  And it’s definitely not because I don’t want to write – I love to play with words.  It’s that I’ve become increasingly aware of the impact of those words written on the internet and how they can affect other people.

When I started blogging a few years ago I figured no one would read what I had to say besides my mother and best friends.  I wrote how I felt and how I would have talked to them in person had we been in the same room.  I didn’t really think of other people I didn’t know reading my posts.  I started doing “the project” and slowly gained followers, but most of the topics were fun and people enjoyed my silliness.  I found out during good deed and poverty months that my opinions can really hurt people and that I should make sure I watch how I phrase things and what I choose to write about.  However, I kept going: in the name of art, truth, and being true to myself.

Recently, though, I’ve been aware of many bloggers writing sometimes seemingly harmless things and other people taking offence.  There was a vegan blogger who wrote about how she had to stop being vegan because her body needed her to.  That blogger got death threats from vegan activists, and ultimately she shut down her blog for the safety of her family.  She was just saying her opinion about her own journey and talking about the food she eats.

I just read a different blogger’s post about being depressed and angry at the person who wrote 21 Habits of Happy People.  She argues that it’s not that easy and those “happy people” are essentially being bullies.  (It’s a very interesting argument and worth a read).  She had so many responses from “happy people” telling her she is wrong that she wrote a follow-up post, and a subsequent 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed.

In many of these instances people are just writing how they feel, from the vegan blogger, to the depressed woman, to the happy people.  Yet, they are hurting other people.  I’m so very aware right now that what I write might be upsetting someone else, even if I’m just writing my own story, that it almost stops me from writing anything.  I’m so stuck between the need to share, the idea that more shades brings a more complete picture, and not wanting to indirectly hurt someone.  It’s almost making me rethink blogging as a whole.

I’m even more aware of the power of words and images on the internet by the stream of young people committing suicide after being cyber-bullied.  In these instances the people doing the bullying were intentionally trying to hurt the other person, unlike what I was talking about previously.  These sad cases (which disturb me to the core, considering my experience with being bullied) are an extreme, but they do highlight a major problem with the way we communicate on the internet.  In our age of putting everything online, we are forgetting that those words, images and videos are accessible everywhere and sometimes spread like wildfire, and can be very hurtful.

As a journalist, though, I also think about where we draw the line.  Should happy people stop saying the reasons they are happy?  Should vegan bloggers not be able to say that they think their body wants a bit of animal?  Should depressed people not be able to say their side of the story too?  Being able to publish how we feel is an amazing right we have, but it’s also a responsibility.  Now that day-to-day life is posted online, there needs to be an internet code of conduct written.  Don’t cyber bully, don’t be mean to someone, don’t discount their opinion straight away because it’s not your own.  But, yes, let’s have open discussions about topics like veganism, depression, bullying.  Because that is both the beauty and the curse of blogging.  But let’s also not forget that what we say can directly affect other people, sometimes hurt them.

As I write this, I am still struggling with whether I can keep putting myself out here on the blogosphere.  I don’t want to be a bully, directly or indirectly.  But I also want to share my story with the world.  How do I reconcile this in myself to continue to blog?  I’m not sure.

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Seven hundred and thirty-nine

Well, I’m two days late for my blog this week.  I wrote a post on Wednesday in the heat of the moment, ranting about something that could be both controversial and something I feel extremely passionate about.  I walked away after writing, glad to get it off my chest, but not entirely sure I wanted it to be on the internet for all to see.  I came back, tried to edit it, still was feeling very vulnerable about the emotions behind the words, and ultimately decided not to post it Wednesday, sleep on it and see yesterday what I thought.  By that point I was calmer, wanting to rephrase a few things in order not to come across as hurtful to some people in my life.  I’m still not happy about it, so here I am, writing about writing it.  I will post it, but not this week.  It needs time to be said properly.  Blogging can be great for those intense emotions, but in this instance I want to present a well-rounded argument, instead of just my gut reaction to a situation.

That’s one thing I miss about straight journalistic writing.  When you interview someone else or write an article about an outside subject, you are trying to take an objective view of the situation.  Of course, no writing is ever completely objective, and the writer is always in there somewhere; however, it’s less personal, less intimate.  Writing this book and this blog has been really hard for me at times.  Do I really want to let the world in this much?  How much will people judge me?  How do I communicate how I honestly feel and connect with the reader?  I feel so vulnerable every time I look at the words I write about myself, my journey, and my opinions.

I’ve chosen this path, though, and I’ve come so far in it.  I’m proud of what I’ve done, even if it is a struggle.  It’s the struggles that help us learn lessons.  And many a lesson I have learned since I started blogging and sharing my life with world wide web.  Today, though, I feel exposed and scared, unsure of what has happened and what is to come.  Today I don’t want to post my most intimate secrets, and yet somehow I think I have done just that.  But today is also one day in a hopefully long life.  I’ll have many more days like this, I know, and yet I still want to continue.  I feel a need to write, to share, and to grow, even if I’m scared to do so.  I have a feeling I’m not alone in this.

Seven hundred and thirty

cliff_and_teal_water

I couldn’t resist putting in one last photo of Thailand.  It’s so beautiful it almost looks fake.  Alas, I am back to my restaurant job serving beer and nachos in a kilt; the cold weather; the realization that I wasn’t picked for the Amazing Race Canada (sigh); and some very exciting news… My boyfriend and I are moving in together!  It’s a big step and one that makes me both happy and scared.  I have lived with two other boyfriends in the past, but this seems different.  The other two were while living in another country or for convenience and I was young.  This is meant as a step towards a more permanent part in each other’s lives (!!!!).  I am so confident in our relationship, but combining two very independent lives into one home is a challenge.  I will keep you posted on the struggles and triumphs, but for now I just want to bask in my own glow of happiness.

(Let me pause while I try to stop smiling enough to concentrate on typing the rest of this blog… Oh screw it, I can’t stop smiling!  I’m going to enjoy these moments, because once we start the heavy lifting I might be regretting my decision!)

Although I do miss the warmth and beauty of my adventures abroad, I’m happy to be back into the routine a little bit.  I’m working on final edits to the book and hopefully meeting with my agent soon to push even harder to get this thing published.  I’ve also started working more on a fiction book I’ve been writing in my spare time.  Writing is an escape and de-stresser for me, so why not try some fiction.  I’m convinced I will be able to support myself with my writing, one way or another!

I’m also trying to figure out what direction I want to go with this blog.  Concentrate on photography?  Continue to do the “mixed bag” thing I’ve been doing?  Start another social experiment project?  If anyone has any suggestions, ideas, things they like or don’t like, please let me know.

This post is a bit all over the place, I realize.  I’ve just arrived in Montreal after a six hour drive and am feeling very restless and wanting to be up and walking.  I will leave it at that for today.  I hope everyone who celebrates Easter has a wonderful time this weekend!

Five hundred and seventy-seven

Oops! Thursday instead of Wednesday post…

Days seem to blur together right now for me.  One day turns into the next and I forget whether it’s Wednesday or Thursday.  I’m busy trying to get the book finished so my agent can get me a publisher!  I’m working on the editing phase now and I find it presents whole new challenges.  It’s hard to delete my words and get rid of sections.  It’s difficult to figure out what’s best for each paragraph, then each section, and finally the fluidity of the whole thing.  It’s hard to choose what is important and what isn’t.  I’m also trained as a journalist, so therefore I tend to write using the clearest, fewest words to express what I need to succinctly.  I’m not a writer who adds in description words, but I find that when writing a book I have to do this.  I like to leave it up to the imagination of the reader, but my agent is keen to have me use more colourful language.  I’m learning so much every day that it fills my brain and leaves little room for figuring out what day of the week it is.  I’m so happy I have a calendar that I write everything down on, or else I’d forget to show up to work!

Cooking disasters

I do somehow still find time for baking, though.  I find it very stress-relieving.  Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t.  This week belongs in the latter category.  In the wake of my success last week with my Pumpkin Pie Brownie ‘Cupcakes’, this is proof of how the opposite outcome also often happens in my kitchen.  Here is a photo of my attempt at gluten-free, vegan Pumpkin Banana Muffins with quinoa flour, which I couldn’t even stomach eating one of because they were so gross (I brought them to work and my co-workers told me they weren’t that bad, although I’m pretty sure I saw them throwing out everything but the bite they took in my presence):

My cooking and baking have come a long way since I didn’t know how to bake a chicken breast a couple of years ago, but I still have my regular disasters.  I guess you can’t learn if you don’t make mistakes once and awhile!  And at least the act of baking does the job of balancing out my brain when I become too wrapped up in the book – whether it ends up tasty or tasting like bitter banana pumpkin mush.

Five hundred and fifty-five

Writing a book

Man, writing a book can be hard!  To all those people out there wanting to write a book, beware: it can be frustrating, emotionally draining and time consuming.  You can go through points where you don’t think you can finish and you’ve given so much to the book, you’re not sure there’s anything left to give.  BUT, I would highly recommend taking the plunge and giving it a go!  For me, it has also been inspiring, emotionally purging, and rewarding.  I’m a couple of weeks away from having a rough draft of the book finished and I’m feeling like I’m at the end of a marathon: a little tired, having pushed past the hump, gotten into a steady stride and am heading for the finish line.  Of course then there is the editing by me, my literary agent, then me again, and finally by the editor and publisher – as long as all goes to plan.  I’m excited about this next part.

As I approach the end, I’m feeling very reflective about the experience so far.  I’ve learned so much during the process of writing this book, especially considering the experiences I’m writing about are still fresh in my mind and heart. I did however face a lot of hurdles.  Here are a few of the problems I’ve faced, that perhaps other writers can relate to:

  • Portraying real people in my life –  I am using pseudonyms, but of course they are going to know who they are when they read it and I want to be as accurate as possible without hurting or angering anyone.
  • Writing about particularly emotional experiences – It’s been very cathartic to get onto paper all the emotions I’ve kept bottled up, but difficult.  There were moments during the 366 days that really affected me and sometimes other people that I love.  It was hardest to write about those personal times.  I have occasionally gotten so frustrated with having to relive and articulate these moments that I had to completely walk away from my computer for a day.  The difficulty of getting it out of me on to computer screen proved that they were still many issues I hadn’t dealt with completely, despite my trying to convince myself I was over them, and I had to deal with through the writing process.
  • Being honest with myself and the reader – There are things I did during the year that I’m not completely proud of – things that I would have done differently had I to do it over.  But alas, time doesn’t work like that and I can’t change the things I’ve done, only deal with them and try to do things better in the present and future.  What is that saying about giving strength to accept the things I can’t change and change the things I can, or something like that? (I’m writing this with very weak internet right now, so I’ll have to look it up later, but you get the point)
  • The dreaded procrastination –  There is always laundry to be done and tea to be made and Netflix to watch (especially when I get hooked on a series and “need” to watch the whole five seasons of it).  When I’m feeling uninspired, it is hard to write, and easy to do any of these other things.
  • Retreating into myself – There were also a few weeks where I became completely anti-social, ignored all my friends and family, and was a little down on how hard it was to finish a few of the chapters (I think I might have also been avoiding dealing with some of those emotional personal issues I talked about earlier).

Despite these times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue, I somehow managed to keep on deadline and I should be done the book by the end of the month, as planned!  I’m ready to have the main writing part finished and on to the editing and tweaking.

Overall, I’m feeling very positive about it.  I had a great meeting with my literary agent today.  I have gained so much more in terms of knowledge, skills, and personal growth, that far outweigh any negativity.  I have learned to look at the big picture and the small details simultaneously.  I have learned TONS about writing dialogue and extensive description, two aspects of writing that aren’t included in journalistic stories very often.  Finally, I’m really proud of what I’ve done so far.  I believe in myself and I believe in this book.  And whatever happens, I’m will have accomplished my goal.  I will have written a book.  Next goal: sell millions of copies!