Yesterday, I did it! I really did it! I met my goal of publishing four–that’s right, four–blog posts in the month of January! And, boy, was it a challenge. I won’t go into all of the gory details of how I finally returned to a blog I abandoned more than a year ago, but I will tell you that I am very glad I did. In one long month and four less-than-average pieces of writing later, I learned a ton about myself, about my work as an educator, and about why I must continue to muster the courage to keep sharing my writing with the world…or, whoever it is that’s reading it.
1. Blogging is hard work, but I have to do it.
Forget the initial painstaking hours you’ll spend just making sure your site represents who you are, e.g., the right colors, fonts, images, etc., sitting down to write your first, then second, and even third post is downright grueling. When publishing a blog post, you are making the conscientious decision to put your thoughts and ideas online, unsolicited, for the the whole world to see and (you hope) to chime in on. Why, why, why would someone choose to do that to themselves? One word: Passion. I love teaching and it’s constantly on my heart to be better at it. I want to share that passion with others and that involves me putting myself and my ideas out there, even if it means falling under scrutiny by some. The thought is absolutely terrifying; however, if I want to contribute to important conversations that serve to elicit positive change in my field, then I have to keep sharing my ideas with others.
As I began trudging through the complicated world of blogging, I also found that self-doubt can, and will, stop you dead in your tracks. By identifying yourself as a blogger, you are now charged with the task of finding the best topics for an audience you may not have even established yet. You question whether your ideas are fruitful enough to write from. You stress over the competition you face with others writing about the same topics and who are already far more successful at it than you. You find every reason in the world not to write about what is important to you because you feel you aren’t good enough. But you have to resist that lie. You are good enough. In fact, you’re better than good enough. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway…
So, this past December, when I hit “publish” for the first time, I marked the start of a New Year’s resolution I was determined to keep. Unfortunately, the second I did so, panic simultaneously set in. My mind raced. My adrenalin surged. What did I just do?! I wanted to take the act of clicking that button back, and fast. I was terrified. What ifs engulfed me. What if people think my post is stupid? What if I there are typos I didn’t catch? I’m an English teacher for goodness’ sake! What would they think? There were a million more what ifs that followed, but I forced myself to ignore every one of them. After all, what would I be showing my students and peers, young and old, if I didn’t leave that post right where it was? I would be showing them that I don’t follow through on my words about the importance of commitment. I would be showing them that I am afraid of failure, even though I tell them they shouldn’t be. I would be undermining the sense of confidence that I wish to instill in them every single day. So, I have no choice. I have to keep doing this…not just for me, but because of my students and my peers.
2. I have way more to say than I thought I would, and figuring out how to say it isn’t always easy.
One of my favorite quotes comes from F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said, “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” This is a quote I share with my students often when we explore writing together, and it has become my mantra when searching for topics to blog about. Fortunately, once I start my search for ideas, I usually find there is so much I have to say about so many things; but similar to my students, it is often difficult to know where to begin when it comes to getting my thoughts on those ideas down in writing.
First, there’s the matter of actually choosing a topic. I look everywhere for possible ideas. I refer to my conversations throughout the week with colleagues. I think about posts I have read recently on social media. I reflect on professional development I have completed. I recall those brilliant ramblings my students offer up in class on the daily. All of these things are fodder for intriguing posts, and in order to keep track of all of them, I write them down in a journal I carry with me everywhere. The result is an ever-growing source of potential blogging gold that I will have years to explore. (I was so grateful to my Secret Santa for this awesome “Make It Happen” journal. It was so appropriate and perfectly timed this year! Thank you, Randi…I mean, Santa!)
As I mentioned previously, what is far from awesome, is my ability to hash out those thoughts as quickly or as effectively as I would like to. Even though I have written often prior to and throughout my years of teaching, blogging is different. There is no prompt. No question has been asked to which I must respond. This is organic, straight-from-the-pit-of-my-stomach writing. Because of that, I can write whatever and however I want to…that is, if I don’t want people to listen to what I have to say. If I do want people to listen, then I must choose my ideas and my words carefully. Most of the time, that’s a very challenging thing to do. And, I’ll be honest, I have trouble staying on topic–my obsession with tangential discourse does not serve me well in my writing! I want to put everything in my brain down in words, and because of that, I usually spend more time revising than I did on my original writing. But, this is okay. It’s okay because I’m early in the process and I know the more that I do this, the better I am going to be at it. That is how learning to be a writer works. That’s what I tell my students and that’s why I have promised myself that I will not give up.
3. I set out with the goal of helping others, but I’m actually helping myself just as much.
There’s an old Latin proverb that says “by learning one will teach, and by teaching one will learn.” This proverb speaks volumes to the power of self-improvement that blogging holds. When I first set out to create my blog, my primary goal was, and is, to share my positive classroom experiences in hopes that it will help others to strengthen their own practice. I knew, going in, that blogging would offer opportunities for reflection, but I had no idea just how much reflection would be necessary in order to accurately share my experiences in education with my peers.
Where I was initially prepared to just jump right in and start teaching others what I had learned on my journey as a teacher, in actuality, I had to reflect deeply on my classroom practice in order to prepare any type of information to share; and in doing so, that reflection revealed much about my own need for improvement in my own daily teaching. Thus, from this process of blogging, I feel I am learning far more than I am actually teaching. As I continue to search for blog post ideas, I am more deliberate in taking advantage of opportunities to write that will push my thinking about my own practice, about opportunities that will help me grow alongside my peers. So, in my endeavors to help my peers become better, I am also making myself better. That is a gift in and of itself–a gift I cannot afford to give up and the reason why I must to continue to blog.
4. I must learn to resist distractions in order to meet my publishing goals.
I really need to go fold that load of laundry that’s sitting in the dryer…
But, before I do that, let me just go make myself another cup of coffee…
Which reminds me, when I get back online, I better look for a new hand mixer since mine went kaput last night…
Yes, these are just a few of the actual thoughts that went through my head as soon as I sat down to write this very blog post. And, I promise you there were 10,000 more as I worked through writing this post. I vowed to resist every single one…and, I did. I had no choice if I wanted to meet my goal of getting this post published today. After all, I wanted to share this milestone with you, albeit small!
Distraction has probably been my most challenging obstacle while introducing myself to blogging. You see, as I’m writing one post, I’m already thinking about the next. I frequently have to stop to take notes so that my 46-year old mind doesn’t fail me by forgetting every self-proclaimed-brilliant idea that pops into it. Then, I’m continuously lured by the promise of treasure that unopened tabs may hold. The research, I tell myself, needs to be done, right now. I also have to tell myself that it doesn’t, or else I face what I like to refer to as a “clicking catastrophe.” You know, that thing that happens when one quick click takes you from important research straight to Zulily and, next thing you know, you are twenty minutes away from your writing and $20 into a new outfit! Whatever you do, resist the urge. Distractions are evil and I’m convinced they are living, breathing things. Whatever you do, I tell myself, keep typing, no matter what. Just keep typing.
5. I have so much more to learn.
Blogging is a crazy business. Yes, that’s right, I said it, business. The funny thing is, I have been following so many education blogs for so long, and weirdly, I didn’t notice how much product-related content is in those blogs. It seems like everybody is offering something, sometimes for free and sometimes not. It’s very easy to feel like you don’t fit into this world, especially when you don’t have anything tangible to sell. But again, I have to keep reminding myself why I am doing this–to help others and myself. I’m not a big box edublogger, don’t know if I ever will be, but right now, I am not letting that fact stop me from trudging forward. I am learning the blogging “business” day by day: how to build my audience, how to gain followers and broaden my knowledge base so that I am reaching more readers and with better information. And I am confident I will do all those things…but, only if I keep going.
Then, there’s the terminology: SEOs, keywords, plug-ins, content management systems, HTML, and the list goes on. I’m learning more and more everyday about the technological underpinnings of the blogging world, but the most important understanding I have is that these can’t be my focus right now. Right now, my job is to focus on my writing and my ideas, and how to turn them into positive contributions to my field. I know all those techy, blog-related terms are good to know, and I will engage with them deeper at some point, but, for the time being, I need to focus on finding my voice and the writer who is in me.
So, as promised, I will press on. I will continue to gain confidence in my work as a blogger; and, in doing so, I will evolve as a writer. I will make every effort to continue my work towards helping to grow myself and others, and I will do everything in my power to resist distraction. I will learn every single thing I can to make myself better, not just as a blogger or a teacher, but as a mother, a wife, and a member of the human race.
I hope you will join me as I do so.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”