therapeutic writing

Writing to Reach You: What does your blogging style say about you?

Most of you know that I’ve been focusing on my studies in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes, and it’s something I’m passionate about. It feels like there’s a variety of things I’m passionate about within writing, and even as I write this, I know that I should be getting started on my next novel, or maybe starting a presentation, or a dissertation write-up. And yet I’m here, blogging.

People have asked ‘why blog’ for a long while now. Is it about connection, reaching people you wouldn’t normally find? Is it simply the fact that as writers and professionals in the modern world, we are expected to have a landing pad, a sense of who we are in the internet universe? Or is it cathartic, regenerative expression that allows us to get on with our day? A little of all of these, I believe.

I’ve been exploring for a while now how blogging can make people feel better. Certainly, quite a few bloggers I know are dealing with ill health, stress, anxiety, and writing their feelings down (and the connections that follow from those blogs via twitter and comments) not only feels cathartic, but powerful in being recognised in the big wide world as ‘normal’ feelings. Somewhere, on the internet, you will find someone who is feeling how you’re feeling, who has been where you’ve been. And that’s a powerful thing. Even if you don’t need anyone to read your blog, if you just want to shout into the darkness, that’s okay too.

Catharsis means cleansing. It means release. Catharsis can come in small waves or overwhelming tides. I always think of it a little like cleaning my internal space- if I do a little dusting on a regular basis, it’s unlikely I’m going to need a big overhaul. I think there’s a difference between catharsis and purging, and it’s that one is natural, and the other is forced. To purge yourself of something is to force it from you, and that’s why we negatively associate it with some very intense religious views, and body dysmorphia. Those are the only times I’ve heard the words, anyway. Purging your demons.

I would gently encourage you, with all the experience of someone who has made continued mistakes on the internet, to think about what you want your blogging to achieve. So many wonderful blogs are about overcoming adversity, and in truth, those are the stories that others want to hear. They want you to offer a nugget of who you are, what you’re dealing with, so they don’t feel so alone. But they also want to make you their hero, they want to root for you, to find out if you’ve got a way of dealing with your stuff, so they might deal with theirs. Be a pioneer in your issues, don’t become them.

In studying expressive writing, it’s become clear that for limited periods of time, writing about trauma, or upset, or strong, difficult feelings in detail, truly exploring and expressing, can be helpful in long term health. Repressing feelings makes us ill, there’s no doubt about that. But writing continually about painful, depressing feelings doesn’t help us. In fact, it makes us worse. It reinstates our depressed feelings. If I feel overwhelmed by an issue, and I spend a couple of days writing about it, really exploring it, and then I read it through, feel settled and put the piece away/destroy it, the likelihood is that I have addressed and dealt with it. At least as much as I am able to at the moment. If you are continually returning to the same issue, if you have nothing positive to say, nothing happy, or inspiring to share, then you are reinstating your own unhappiness: you are giving it breathing space. Air it, accept it, and find a way forward.

I read a lot of blogs, and I see so many that are authentic, and jagged, and breathy and funny. The writers are dealing with pain, and learning, and laughter and confusion, and they are reaching out. Remember that feelings are temporary, but words we share are often taken up by someone. There’s a reason we so often encounter trigger warnings in the online world now- people know that their stories affect each other.

Take responsibility for your story today. Tell it to yourself first, in a soft, quiet voice. Find out what your story is, explore how you feel. Decide if you want to share it. If putting it out in the world will make one person feel less alone, or show someone how to deal with issues you’ve dealt with, if it will make someone smile or laugh or feel proud: share that with them. If your story is unchanging after months, if you are still writing about how much hatred and anger and bitterness you have, if you are searching for silence instead of voices in unison, then write in private. Or even better, switch focus and try a different tactic. In a literal way, this means try writing your feelings in third person, try writing about what an object in your room might hear, try writing from the perspective of someone you know. Feelings are contagious, and the internet doesn’t need any help in spreading misery.

Am I saying to shy away from important, difficult writing? Am I saying you’re not allowed to be happy? No. Difficult writing is important. But I am starting to see blogs where the writers are stuck in loops- nothing is improving, nothing is shaking free or changing, and every bad thing reinforces the last. Change your perspective, search for the positive, and share your story and your lessons in a way that others can benefit from.

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Writing Jobs…do they exist?

As an aspiring Creative Entrepreneur, the point is to make things happen for yourself, create your own opportunities. And with a magical thing like the internet, creating writing opportunities should be easy, look, I’m doing it right now.

Except it doesn’t really seem that easy to find writing work, let alone paid writing work.

So I thought I’d give a little run down of the options available, and see if you guys had anymore ideas.

1. Blogging

Hey there lovely internet peoples, I’m here with some words to tell you how I feel about stuff. Some blogs can be ridiculously effective and simple, it’s hard to predict what’s going to work. But if you are going to be a blogger, consider time constraints, updating regularity, and a brand. This blog has none of these, but if you check out cafedisaster.com you’ll see that I save my blogging work for there. This one is more my personal diary, hopefully including a little bit of useful information concerning writing. So blogs- all about time and content. Oh, and tagging and SEOs, and using social media correctly (IE bombarding people with your content)


2. Reviews

This is usually writing for someone else’s blog, unless you’re lucky enough to work for a paper, or perhaps have an ‘in’ at a local paper. It’s worth a shot. If you’re going to experience lots of stuff, have a great night out at the theatre, or really enjoyed that book, why not tell the world? Likely unpaid, but if you can get a writing gig with a film website, you get to see the film for free. And there’s nothing more exciting that telling people you’ve got to dash, you’re off to a press screening. However, again, you’re working to a deadline, and you’ve probably got your own life to be getting on with. Good starting point- review stuff on Amazon, restaurant services like Toptable (where you get paid in points for your review- it’s almost money!) or qype where the whole point is to review things. People want your opinion.

3. Fiction

Sucks to be a fiction writer if you want stuff in print. It involves laboriously hunting through the Writers and Artists Yearbook (which sadly, is a yearbook, as you might have guessed, so you have to update it every year. And it’s big and expensive. But absolutely necessary) in order to find a magazine that accepts your ‘type’ of stuff. And if you’re not a poet or flash-fiction writer, it’s getting more difficult. Add to that the Arts Council cuts and general state of the economy, and it’s not looking good, bucko.

Except that the internet comes to our rescue again. Now anyone can set up an online magazine, choose the content they want to display. In fact, if you’ve got a lot of talented artistic friends, you should put together your own site, make your own magazine. And then have people submit to you!


4. Competitions

This is great in theory. And there are loads out there. A particularly good site to find all of them is Prize Magic but again, refer to your Writer’s and Artists Yearbook. This is great if you’ve got a good back-log of work. Sadly with my own stuff, as soon as I’ve moved on, I tend to disregard it, considering it rubbish compared to everything I’ve done recently. That is dumb. Everything you have created is an asset. Look after it, update it, and use it.

Some have an entry fee, but if you’ve got loads of stuff sitting in shoe-boxes (or on hard-drives) it’s time to dust them off.

5. Content

Content is everywhere, thanks to the web. And a lot of the time, stuff that you may think is mundane is actually really interesting to everyone else. Or very useful to certain companies who want to fill up their blogs and sites and weekly emails with something that represents them. So if you want to write about your snowboarding holiday in the Alps, check out companies that run holidays there, or even snowboarding clothing companies. (The film Chalet Girl was sponsored by Roxy, which was obvious when watching, but it fit really well.) If what you you like writing about aligns with someone else’s interests, then why not take a chance? Lots of companies need stuff to fill their twitter feeds and facebook fan pages – Give them your content. You may not get paid, but you might get some free stuff.

6. Job Sites

Well, you never know. And you won’t unless you try.

So, general recommendations? Start a blog about something you’re interested in. What’s your angle, what do you do? Write a few updates, keeping them as uniform and continually updated as possible. And then use them as sample pieces for your work. Also, keep up to date with social media opportunities. It’s amazing what’s out there!

Also, if you’re serious about opportunities, but don’t want lots of junk mail, start an alternate free email address so when you sign up to these sites, you can see immediately what’s useful and what’s not.

You’re not just selling your ability to string words together and use correct grammar, you’re selling your opinion, your angle, your personality. So make it about you!

Happy Writing!

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First Draft Finished!

As I’m sure you know from facebook, if you’re on there, I’ve finished the first draft of my novel. 6 months, baby.

I then planned to do as many esteemed writers suggest, and leave it in a box under the bed, and not look at it for a good month or so. Except, as soon as I decided to do that, I started getting more ideas. And worked out how to fix certain problems, and just in general, got my behind into gear.

Also, today, found a very interesting method of novel-brainstorming. Using collage. Cool, huh? So I think I might try that, if I can get my hands on enough glue and glitter. Firstly, because I love projects, secondly, because I love projects masquerading as work, and thirdly, well, maybe it’ll help. It’ll definitely help me decide if my character’s eyes are green or blue (have already switched three times as far as I can tell in about ten chapters!) and things like that.

Hmm, yay, Stuff that masquerades as art. Plus, it’ll make my blog look prettier.

Here’s a link to excellent writer Jennifer Crusie’s novel collages

 

This is Jennifer Crusie's- isn't it awesome?

Thanks to those who’ve said they’d like to read a copy, I’m going to get it through the edit and redraft phase, and then I’d really love some feedback from all that want to give it. Perhaps you could list yourselves in the comment box if you want a copy? I’m going to have the most thoroughly edited piece of work ever!

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Subscribe! (If you want to, exclamation marks aren’t threatening, at all…!!!!)

Just a big THANK YOU to all those who have been reading Cafe Disaster, it’s now reached over 500 hits since I started it up seven weeks ago. (I know, it seems like I’ve been ranting about my job and customers and coffee and coffee machines that don’t freakin’ work since forever. But no, it’s been seven weeks)

So, thanks for reading, and enjoying my little snippets of insanity.

OH, and yeah, before I forget, you can now subscribe and get my incessant rambling updated in your inbox. Like a little pokey stick reminding you to pay me attention.

Thanks again, y’all. And I’ll be updating about my shitty day at work today, pretty soon.

 

A

 

CAFE DISASTER Fight Club didn’t have female baristas, but if they did, they’d be the most violent female baristas in the world.