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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds What made you decide to start your own blog on such a personal topic? I had a personal blog that only family and friends could get to. And I did that from 2008 until last year. So blogging for me was a way to kind of let everybody know what was going on in my life. But I always wanted to protect my privacy, so it was a huge leap to talk about– I mean, this is like breastfeeding and having babies. I mean, it is very personal. And some of the emotions are really raw. After I had Jacob in 2010, I thought a lot about giving back to the community of mothers that I had discovered.

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 seconds I mean, there is a very unique community of people who kind of suffer through some of the trauma of having a baby so early. And I kind of got caught up in life with him and therapy and his school. And then I had Mary Ella. And it was like getting struck by lightning twice. You know, it was a completely different set of circumstances. My risk factors for what happened that time were nil. I mean, it just was such a shock. And I felt like I have got to give back to this community. Obviously, I am being told that I need to share my experiences and share my knowledge with people who have been in a similar circumstance.

Skip to 1 minute and 37 seconds So that’s part of the reason. The other is that writing for me is healing and therapy. So it was like a way for me to work through some of the emotions that I have, while also trying to give back to the community of preemie parents. So how do you come up with the idea and where do you go from there when you set up to write something for your personal blog? And then you’ll tell us the same process for your professional blog. OK. I have lots of ideas that float around in my head. And so basically whenever I get a chance to write - which with two little kids it doesn’t always come when I want it to.

Skip to 2 minutes and 18 seconds So sometimes at night or when they’re in preschool, I’ll start going with whatever idea has been kind of rattling around in my head. Sometimes it has a connection to like the homecoming days and the first birthdays, all that focused around when Mary Ella turned one. Sometimes it’s a story or something that’s been at the back of my mind that I finally give some attention to. And basically, I feel like blogging is kind of like writing an editorial in that it’s going to be short, relatively short and focused and to the point. And so generally I try to stick to whatever that topic is and kind of hit it hard and get to my point as fast as possible.

Skip to 3 minutes and 5 seconds And so usually it takes me maybe an hour, 30 minutes to an hour to write something. I’ll leave it. I’ll come back to it the next day and proof it. And like I found a typo this morning in one of the blog posts, so I do my best to make the copy as clean as possible. But you know how that goes sometimes. And so then I post it when I feel like I’m ready for it to be available for everybody to read. Is professional writing experience important in your view for being a strong blogger and being able to express ideas in a good way?

Skip to 3 minutes and 46 seconds I mean, at the risk of sounding like a snob, I do think I can tell some of the people who - even if it’s not a professional writing background in terms of what their schooling is, most of the people who write really well, that’s what they love to do. They’re writers and they’re coming to this and this is kind of a way of giving back, kind of like me, because they love to write. So a lot of them have some sort of profession that involved involve writing or communication. And so I feel like the best ones do. They at least, even if it’s just in their free time or their hobbies, they love to write.

Skip to 4 minutes and 22 seconds So I definitely think that that’s a component. I think you can find all sorts of stuff online that is not well-written, not well-edited. And people generally get sick of that. And they’re looking for something that’s compelling, that’s well-written, that’s honest, especially I think when you’re talking about mothering and parenting. But if something is just really poorly written and nobody can understand it, they’re not going to come back to it. So you said something interesting to follow-up on that, that people are looking for honesty in the writing. How do you stay honest in your writing? How do you show honesty in your writing? I don’t know.

Skip to 5 minutes and 3 seconds When I first became a mother and I was looking at different articles, I got overwhelmed by how a lot of mums online I think like the illusion that they have it all together. It’s like the Pinterest effect. And the truth is that every child is different. Every mother is different. We’re all figuring it out. And by mothers, I should say parents, because it’s the same for fathers as well. And so I feel like the blogs that attract me the most and the writers that I really love to follow are people who are honest about their struggles.

Skip to 5 minutes and 38 seconds And that doesn’t mean whiny, because I feel like you want to try to offer some sort of solutions to your problems or not get mired in depression. And I really - that’s a hard thing I think when you’re talking about babies in the hospital, you know. And sometimes I do feel like, goodness. All I do is talk about negative, negative things. But at the same time, nobody wants to hear what I have to say if it’s being filtered to the extent that it’s not my truth anymore. And so even if something is hard for me to admit or it makes me look like a weak person, I have to be truthful.

Skip to 6 minutes and 16 seconds Otherwise I’m not really helping the people that I want to help. How do you express your opinion in a way that connects with your readers so you don’t just express an opinion that distance - because the point of writing a blog is to relate to the people who are reading it, right? Right. How do you do that with an opinion piece? Exactly. I think that there are a couple of things. One is that I always try to keep in mind the community I’m writing for. I share my blog posts with my Facebook friends. And so I know that friends and family read it. And maybe they’re interested just because they know the kids and the people involved.

Skip to 6 minutes and 56 seconds But generally I try to keep in mind that I’m talking to other parents who have gone through a very specific journey. And it’s a focused group of people. And so I think that that’s part of it. I’m directing kind of my experiences at that those people. And so the opinions involved, I try to make sure that I remind people that I’m not a medical professional. I can tell you about our experiences. I can tell you all of the things that we’ve learned, which sometimes feels like a lot of stuff, just from the kids’ experiences. But it always comes from my perspective. And so I try to be really clear about that.

Skip to 7 minutes and 35 seconds And I think that goes back to the honesty point as well, that I can only offer my perspective. And I think that the Preemie Babies 101 site is really good about that as well. They encourage us to offer our unique experiences. And within that we’re helping people along the journey. But I definitely think in terms of opinion writing, on the Internet you can find just anything. And so I think it’s really important to try to, though it’s my own experiences, I try to make sure that I’m giving sound advice and that I’m giving reasonable information and that it’s not just kind of junk that I’m putting up there.

Skip to 8 minutes and 24 seconds It’s a waste of my time and somebody else’s if I’m just spouting off a bunch of junk. And so I think that’s where it comes into being kind of focused about what topic I want to write, making sure I edit it so it’s high-quality writing, or at least that’s the attempt. And so I hope that that separates it from just kind of ranting that you might find on the Internet.

An opinion on blogging - part one

Watch the first part of Dr Hill-Vinson’s interview above.

Think about the relationship between professional and personal blogging. In what ways might the writing or audience differ? Where does objectivity make way for personal experience?

Post your thoughts in the comments area.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to Journalism

University of Strathclyde