It’s October. Only one month away from something you’ve most likely never heard of…NaBloPoMo, but there’s still time. NaBloPoMo is National Blog Posting Month, and it starts in November. It’s a writing exercise: one blog post each day for the month of November; one post per day to get you into the routine of writing. Maybe you love to write, but you never had an excuse. Maybe you just want to put your thoughts on “paper” so you can better process them. You have one month before the starter’s pistol goes off.
I’m a blogger. Maybe I don’t yet feel comfortable saying “writer”, but I’ll go ahead and say “blogger”. It seems less pretentious and more…achievable. I started blogging years ago to help me connect with people in the autism community. It was a way to tell my story to a bunch of different people just one time, and get their feedback and insight. But there were a lot of other reasons for it too. Blogging about autism has really helped me. It’s helped my family. And in this post, I’m going to tell you why you should be blogging about your story too.
Every story is unique
Maybe the reason you’re not writing your story is because you feel like somebody else has already said everything you want to say. Maybe you feel like they even said it better than you could, but your story is unique and worth telling because, if for no other reason it is uniquely yours. Your story is about you and your family. And maybe your story sounds an awful lot like someone else’s story, but this one is YOURS and there’s no shame in agreeing with people on one thing and disagreeing with them about another. That’s what makes your story exactly you, exactly unique, worthy of writing. Nobody else’s story will ever be exactly like the one you’re telling. Ever.
Telling your story allows you to relive it. It allows you to process it. It allows you to break up some of the stressful things that might have torn you down the day (or week…or month…or year) before into manageable chunks. It forces you to observe it dispassionately (or at least slightly less passionately) and parse it into understandable bits. It helps you decide whether you did things in a way that makes you proud to retell it…or cringe. And both ways are great stories…”here’s a thing I did that I regret”…”here’s a thing I did that I’m proud of”. This is part of the human experience. And everyone screws up, and sometimes it’s nice to read about someone else screwing up exactly the way we did.
Without overstating the personal importance of retelling your experiences interestingly, when you commit yourself to writing about them…you need material. You might find yourself trying something you previously would have passed up just “to have something to blog about”. Of course you should be doing all those things anyway because it’s right for your kids. But sometimes the best parents “phone it in” because they realize how big a pain in the butt something is going to be. But…what a great story it’d be to tell about how I took my daughter to see “The Lion King” for example. Sometimes when you’re on the fence about something you see as a bit of struggle, “if nothing else this will be a good story” might push you into trying something new.
You don’t realize until you start writing your story, and people start reading and relating to it, just how many people are going through almost exactly the same thing you are. Yes, your story is unique. But man! Autism parenting can be a very isolating experience. It can, by default, make you feel as if you are in it alone; nobody else could possibly understand what it’s like, at least until you start to write your blog and people come out of the woodwork. Until you start reading about their experiences too and realize it’s not just you.
After you’ve been at it a while, you’ll start to see some familiar faces. These people are following you, and if you do it right, you should follow them too. They’re taking an interest. They’ve found something about your story that strikes a chord with them. Maybe they appreciate your perspective. Maybe they like your writing. However it works out, this, in social media terms, can become “your tribe”. From blog writing and reading, you begin to develop a circle of friends who can become as supportive to you as your own family at times; at times, moreso.
Sharing your experiences with other people is a way for them to see someone else in the same boat…doing amazing things or, even, reassuringly struggling the same way they are. It can be their inspiration to fight the system, or get involved, or research new solutions. But it works both ways. Telling your story about an IEP fight might generate comments or feedback that you can in turn use as your own inspiration for the next big meeting.
Even if you elect to do nothing more than turn blogging into a private diary, the magic of magnetic media is such that if you wish, you can search for a single word and find every post that references it. I forget things. A perfect example of this is when we were trying Tenex with our daughter. After a few months went by, I completely forgot where we were when we started, but I’d written a lot of things down. I knew and had written down what her behaviors were like when we started using Tenex. Months later, it was hard for me to remember whether she’d developed some new behavior or whether it was preexisting. I typed “Tenex” into my blog and it returned four or five blog posts that I’d written as we’d tried out the drug. I reread what I’d written then. I realized that the things she was doing were new, that she hadn’t been doing them before she started taking the drug. I was able to use that information to help decide whether continuing the medication was worth it or not.
And when someone asks you about…”potty training” or “picky eating” or “speech therapy” or whatever, you can say, well…I wrote a blog post about that. I can link you if you’re interested.
I can’t tell you how many people have told me what a great legacy the blog is for my girls. And I’ve given a lot of thought to it. I wish my parents had presented to me the volume of information I can present to my girls. I love the idea of them having an opportunity to sort of refer to “what would mom and dad have done” as they grow up and become more and more independent, even if it’s to decide what NOT to do. There’s so much information in my blog now, I literally can’t remember if I’ve already written about things and I have to use my search to find out. Also it’d be a nice “in your face” moment to have my daughter say, “I understand now what you were talking about in your blog regarding (insert profound topic)!”
I think the ultimate goal in every parent’s life is to be the best parent he/she can be. There are a lot of ways to work on parenting, but blogging (provided you’re not blogging while you should be parenting (“Kids, stop breaking things in the other room, daddy’s blogging”) is a great way tool to use to analyze your own parenting, receive feedback on the things you’re doing, or the things you’re considering doing, and improving your approach moving forward.
NaBloPoMo is a convenient milestone to use as your “start date”. There are plenty of blogging sites that offer free and easy blog setup: Blogger, Live Journal, and Word Press are three that leap immediately to mind.
So what are you waiting for? November? Get set up now and start writing!