Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's not just words on a page.

Photo: Taylor Love Studios ←Go "like" him & say hi from AS (brownie points if you do!)

I don't know what it is about this blogging community or
about the amazing people who come and read by blog everyday,
or about all of you who I don't consider "readers," but instead friends...
but let me just say thank you.

 I was blown away by your sincere, sweet, and heartfelt comments on yesterday's post.
On those days were I put out those posts that aren't always sunshine and rainbows,
and I really open myself up to the good and bad that may come,
without fail—you're there to support me.

I love blogging—it's an outlet. 
Like a journal.
But it's also a place for fellowship.
A place to minister, to listen, to share.
The love I felt yesterday is a feeling like no other.
Thank you for making my heart full.

 And now before I actually get teary,
how about a little something that will give you a little adventure this morning:
She's a high-school grammar teacher, and while we both love to write,
she's actually the epitome of a "saucy" girl.
She writes what she thinks—no filter.
And I really appreciate her for that.
So please, take a moment to relax and enjoy the Bonnie Sauce.

Why hello there.

The name is Bonnie Blackburn Larsen and writing nonsense is my game.  Sometimes I get in trouble for what I write, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles.  The husband's name is Greg and I've been told I would be a fool for letting the internet Gods know my husband's name because now they can steal our identities and invade our home, GASP!  Therefore, to protect us from cyber devils and because it seems somehow hip I have named him Hubs.  I pride myself on originality.

This is me in my very sexiest form.  I look like this about 0.0021% of my life.  Maybe less.

This is me in my ugliest form- dressed up as Voldemort for midnight Harry Potter premieres. 
I just felt like from the get go you needed to know me in my best and worst forms.  Just know that usually I am somewhere in the middle of those two extremities, but creeping over more into the Voldemort side, no doubt.

If you are still interested in me, (oh this sounds so romantic!) you have a couple of options from here.

Option #1: Continue reading this post on Aunie's blog where I will talk about risky writing and how somehow we have to write the stuff that is hard to write even though people might hate us for it, we must write it, dang it! 
Option #2: Visit my blog where you may read all my rambling to your heart's content.  You might wanna check out this post which will give you a very personal, loving tour of the blog and a guide to the greatest posts- the romantic ones about my Hub-a-dubs, the ones about teaching high school to bratty teenagers, and even the scandalous ones.
Option #3:  While at my blog, enter yesterday's giveaway- the absolutely biggest giveaway I have ever done in the blog's history!
Option #4:  All of the above

(Pick #4!  Pick #4)

Let's dive right in, shall we?

Lately I've been thinking a little about writing and the act of writing and what we write about and writing what scares us even though we are scared.

You with me?

These thoughts have been spurred on by this post that my blog buddy, Taylor wrote about the recent elections.

Now, I could have warned Taylor not to even touch politics on her blog.  I could have shouted from the hilltops that writing about politics or religion is pretty much asking to get run over by a bus full of mean blog commenters, but I didn't.  I let old Taylor find out by herself.

And did she ever!  Bloggers were a commenting, people were a ranting, and chicks were full on pulling out their pistols over the whole Romney/Obama debacle.

(VOCABULARY:  Debacle:  A complete collapse or failure.  Also one of my favorite words.  Try to use it in your regular speech and watch your life change before your very eyes.)

I was proud of Taylor when I read this.  I liked her post, and I liked the conversation that she had sparked.  Good writing should always spark conversation.

Taylor, however, seemed a bit alarmed.  People were demanding Taylor's head. To win her readers back over, Taylor dedicated  her next post to her "softer" side- trying desperately to convince internet meanies that she's not the crazy, sarcastic b%&#* that she pretends to be.

First off, I think people who post mean comments on blog are just straight up not good people.  What's the point?  If I don't like a book I don't take the time to write the author and tell him his book sucks.  I just don't read anything else he has written.  So why do blog commenters see it as their personal duty to notify any blogger the second they read something they don't like?

Secondly, I wanted to somehow sit down with Taylor in a coffee shop and tell her that what she was doing was spot on.  Of course I couldn't because I live in Utah and Taylor lives in Chicago and I don't drink coffee, but that's a whole different discussion, isn't it?  But what I wish I could somehow relate to her was that it was good if people disagreed and people said mean things.  Heck, it was even good if she lost followers over it. 

My theory is this:  You have to be willing to lose followers in order to really produce original, thought provoking writing.  You can't be afraid of the internet trolls, the mean commenters, the people who are going to disagree with everything you say.  You just have to realize that those people aren't who you're writing for and let them go find a nice blog where weekend recaps and Oh, so Pinteresting posts abound.

In May I sponsored a blogger who politey asked me three times to rewrite my post. My posts were too "controversial", "polarizing", and "inappropriate" for her blog. I had links to a post on birth control, a post about my students' threats to Justin Beiber, and of course, my favorite post describing my high school student who confused whores with horse.  The blogger stated that she didn't want her blog to be a place where these "kinds of things are hashed out." While I, of course, respected that blogger's wishes, I was also surprised and a bit saddened that she didn't want anything on her blog that could spark the least bit of controversy. Where was the fun? Where was the spark? Where was the risk?

In June I cried over a blog post. I had written a post admitting that I had parked in a handicapped stall to run in to the grocery store for five minutes.  I thought it would spark conversation, get some people to comment.   

Oh, I got that alright.  And a little bit more.  My readers tore into me.  They were merciless.  Wanted me dead.  The comments were fast and furious.  Some were posted anonymously, calling me a liar, classless, and rude.  One commenter even compared me to "bean paste." The post had only been up an hour, and already I couldn't take the heat.

I moseyed on in to the bedroom, where Hubs was dinking around on facebook, and with tears in my eyes I said to him, "You need to read the comments on the post I just put up. I think I went too far." We clicked on over to my blog and read through the comments together.

Hubs said nothing.

"I'm going to take it down," I said with a hint of panic in my voice. "People are crucifying me!"

Hubs kept reading in silence. Then he said, "I don't think you should take this down."

"Why not?" I was scared. And vulnerable. And was literally on the verge of tears. People hated what I had written.

"I think it's good. I mean, I don't think it's good that you parked handicapped. But I think this reaction is good. People who are going to stop reading your blog over this would stop reading within time anyway. You can't be afraid to post stuff like this. You can't be afraid of your readers."

And so, I kept it up. Not because I wanted to, but because I wanted to make Hubs proud and convince him that I was a strong girl even though heavens knows I'm not.

The next day I put on a brave face and lectured my readers via blog post: BE KIND, PEOPLE! IF YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING NICE TO SAY, DON'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL.

And more people responded.

I had more hits to my blog in that two day period than any other time during the summer. I lost a few followers, but I gained many more.  And I had emails up the ying yang of people asking if they could sponsor me.

That wasn't the only time I was scared to post something I had written.

I was scared when I wrote about birth control laws in Utah.

I was scared when I wrote about farts. (Mostly scared of my mom, I admit.)

I was scared when I wrote about my religion. (Terrified is a better term.)

I was scared when I wrote about about gay marriage.

I was scared when I wrote about our culture's attitude toward breast feeding.

But guess what? ALL of these posts are in my top ten viewed posts of all time. They might have caused some readers to go, but they caused even more to come and stay.

Good writing does not succeed or fail based on its ability to please. Good writing succeeds or fails based on its ability to engage. And if I've got 66 people yelling at me for parking handicapped, well, by golly, I guess I engaged them.

Now come over to my blog and add your two cents!  Do you think bloggers should write about things that scare them or keep it to sweet, non-controversial posts?  Do you take risks with your writing?  What are your favorite type of blog posts?


Kirsten said...

I really enjoyed this.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing to produce thoughts, conflict, and conversation.

I wrote for my college newspaper, and we tried to do that with our issues. But, I haven't written a lot of controversial posts...a few though.

Now my brain is working : )

Lindsay @ Trial By Sapphire said...

I'm definitely reading the posts she linked to at the end!

Chelsea said...

I love blogging. It really is the best outlet!

Why Girls Are Weird said...

Aunie,you're pretty much awesome. For real. And everything you wrote is why I love blogging so much. It's an awesome community, right?

Bonnie, I love love what you wrote about writing. And scary writing is pretty awesome... sure, you get the people that don't agree with you and so they freak out. Kind of lame. But I love when I can read someone's writing and even if I don't necessarily agree with them it can spark an amazing discussion. The cool thing about this world is learning from each other's differences.

Kristen Victoria said...

I really needed to hear this. I'm always a little worried about offending anyone... especially over religion and politics, which is why I never share my opinions on the blog. I kind of like it that way but at the same time I find myself attracted to the controversial posts and wish I had the guts to say what I really mean. This is so inspiring!!

LaLa said...

Loved this post!!

Megan said...

loved this post so much! thank you for inspiring me to be open!