Steffani Cameron dealt with writer’s block for six years ending when a head injury forced her to write to keep her brain active. She was here to tell us about Ripping the Bandaid Off and other tips to find your voice. One tool to get your brain started in the morning is writing about what you’re having for breakfast. Or, the “ideas box” where you store your ideas and revisit them when you have the time.
But really, there’s no magic formula. You don’t just sit down and get good, you need to write something every day. But what you shouldn’t do is publish something every day! Be relevant, be researched, be interesting.
It’s a constant struggle, but if you want to get personal, you rip that fucking bandaid off and you keep ripping and digging. Hey, that’s what Shane said too, so you know it’s good advice!
Quote of the day: “The hardest thing in life is to be yourself.”
Getting personal can be hard for other reasons, as Georgia Gaden Jones explains Are you for real? Struggling with blogger authenticity in a time of personal brands and monetization. Georgia is not a blogger herself, though she is an avid reader of blogs and interested in the blogging experience from an academic standpoint. In most academic circles, using your personal voice is frowned upon, though it seems blogging is more and more being seen as inherently collaborative and empowering, especially in feminist academia. As well, until recently, employers were twitchy about bloggers, due to all the (potential) airing companies’ dirty laundry and hanging out with the nerds in IT.
As for authenticity, the real key is independence. Readers have to know that a blogger is speaking for themselves and not their department or manager, or sponsors. According to one focus group Georgia mentioned, the suspicion of commercialisation and selling out is a big worry. Are you upfront about the freebies you receive? Are your product reviews honest or are you being nice for fear of not getting more free stuff? Are you doing product product placement when you shouldn’t be?
More generally, there’s the question of how your personal voice fits with your personal “brand”. A brand needs consistency to be authentic, but people are not consistent. People are messy and self-contradictory sometimes. On the one hand, you don’t want to reveal every single sordid detail of your life. But on the other hand, you can’t lie by omission. And on the third hand, what if your brand has taken control of your blogging life? Georgia mentioned a rep from Mom Central Canada, an outfit that seems to match “mom bloggers” with products to hawk. The catch is that blogger’s brand has to fit with the product’s brand. And once you’re matched, you must apparently “ensure your brand does not conflict with ads on your blog”. Which raises the question: are bloggers just “brands” now, to be matched with other brands? And another question: who really controls the content on your blog, you or your sponsors?
Where’s the authenticity then? Or can we think of authenticity as a commodity, a quality you need for (commercial) success? By creating careful descriptions of a flawed individual that still fits with commercial values?
Troubling questions, for sure, and Georgia is right to be concerned. This isn’t the first time we’ve addressed them at Northern Voice, though. Just last year Morten Rand-Hendriksen discussed his Code of Ethics, which is very journalism-focused—with its emphasis on trustworthiness, separating opinion from fact, and being mindful of your sources—but really applies to any kind of content creation. And let’s be clear, making money—even making a living—from blogging is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you’re upfront about it.
Quote of the day #2 (I couldn’t find anywhere else to put it): Blogging is not just an extension of yourself, but a construction of yourself, through your connections and your interests.