It hasn't always been this way.
I don’t remember the first time I ever heard the word ‘weblog’ – a personal digital journal available for free and accessible to all - but I do remember thinking, ‘Why would anyone want to read someone else’s weblog of daily musings about themselves, let alone write one?’
And then, in 2005, I experienced (and somehow survived) a freak accident which sent me on a nightmare journey through our emergency health care system.
Once back home, in excruciating pain and confined unwillingly to bed, I found myself consumed with the need to tell somebody about my experience. So I picked up the laptop and, over the course of several days, worked nearly non-stop to put the whole story, the entire epic black comedy, into something I then could share with my family and friends. And for lack of a better term, I decided to call it my ‘blog’.
Knowing that the finished product was out there - out of my hands and into the world - was a relief. Sort of like the cathartic feeling one might experience after a long walk, or returning home refreshed and renewed from a much-needed vacation.
The astonishing part though, was that, despite it’s marathon length, everybody I sent my ‘blog’ to, actually took the time to read it. More interesting was that everyone had a different take on it – and even something different to say about it! And hey, if nothing else, it sure beat having to have to tell the same story 100 times.
So, I toyed briefly with the idea of continuing my ‘blog’, but in the days after sending out my original epic, I no longer found myself consumed with the need to share my personal experiences.
…Until May of 2007, a little over a year ago, when a lawyer named Jon Whitten stood in front of an assembled group of concerned citizens in the Middleboro Town Hall and told us that, well… life as we knew it, was over. That a casino was a ‘done deal’.
I far as I was concerned, however, this was still America. I’d worked hard for my quality of life and knew I should have a voice, and a choice, in what happened to it.
And so I did something I’ve never done before - I wrote an editorial.
I called it “What Happens in Middleboro Won’t Stay in Middleboro' and spent a whole week agonizing over it. Then I asked a reporter friend of mine to help get it published. The Brockton Enterprise thought it was good - but too long. Still, I kept hoping that someone out there at any newspaper would read my editorial about casinos and sovereign nations and 'done deals' and think - 'Hey this is a good story - maybe I'll investigate!"
But Glenn Marshall just seemed to get all the press.
I was disappointed - until a few friends mentioned reading my editorial in a couple of the Bridgewater newspapers - one of which I hadn't even submitted it to! So I kept writing, though condensing my words into the more palatable editorial snacks the Enterprise seemed to prefer.
But it didn’t take long before I realized that some things, some TRUE and IMPORTANT things, were just never going to be printed in the newspapers. Like an actor, I often found that some of my best work had only made it as far as the cutting room floor.
Suddenly, it seemed, I had another story that needed to be told. And so in June I said, “Mark, I think we need to add blogs to the (CasinoFacts.org) web site.” Mark agreed.
I didn’t know much about blogging back then, but bloggers, as far as I could tell, always seemed to have catchy names. So Mary Tufts became Gladys Kravitz, Middleboro’s Nosy Neighbor.
And because I didn’t know much about blogging, except that it seemed to be right thing to do when you needed to tell your story, those first editorials became my first posts. Eventually I'd come to realize what a truly individual and powerful medium a blog could be.
Over the course of the next year I would discover that blogs could educate and inspire, that they could document a journey, expose shady shenanigans, and even give people a laugh when they really needed one.
Some other observations about blogging for a cause…
Enjoy your anonymity while it lasts. It won't.
You can’t always hit one out of the park. No matter how hard we try, there will always be the blogs that people remember. And there always seems to be pressure to live up to them. That pressure either gets in the way, or makes you try harder. You can respond accordingly. But you still can't always hit one out of the park.
You will find your detractors. It doesn’t matter if you’re a mommy blogger, a hobby blogger or you blog for a cause, like I do. Your presence on the web will attract attention, both good and bad. And how you deal with the bad, doesn’t always translate into how you will be treated by them. You can ignore them, or try to reason with them, or even offer them sympathy. It often won’t matter. Some people are just going to latch on to a blog and the blogger as an outlet to fill some psychological need. These people run the gamut from trolls to cyberbullies to cyberstalkers.
I recently caught a Nightline episode about a well-known ‘mommy blogger’ who has been on the receiving end of many disturbing comments and e-mails. This woman merely writes a on-line journal about her day to day life as a wife and mother, and yet, people still manage to take personal offense.
And then there is Rachel North, a woman who survived a violent rape and not long after, became a victim of London’s 7/7/05 subway bombings. She started a blog to offer emotional support to fellow bombing survivors and to remember the those who died – only to find herself the object of a vicious cyberstalker, who once accused Ms. North of "making a living on the backs of the dead", and who also published insinuations that her father, a canon in the church, was a pedophile. Ms. North's cyberstalker - a serial cyberstalker who'd turned her venom on many as it turned out - was later sentenced to prison.
Really, it just doesn’t matter what you blog about. So, support your local bloggers. Chances are they put up with a lot just by putting themselves out there.
(Trust me, your kind comments sustain us.)
Blogging is hard. Committing to a blog is time consuming. It's a job. I’ve seen bloggers come and go. People have things to do after all. Some blog posts require a week or more of research or work to create something that their readers will probably absorb in under 3 minutes. This can be entirely demotivating to a person! ...unless the blogger knows that their visitors walk away knowing more or feeling better than they did when they first stopped by.
So, as far as I can tell, blogging is a lifestyle choice. I've lost sleep, gained weight, pulled out hair and argued until I am hoarse for my blog. I've blogged through the stomach flu and blogged on vacation and blogged when I really should have been exercising or doing laundry or gardening or enjoying the weather or any of the millions of things I used to do with some regularity before I became a blogger.
And I think I speak for many other bloggers when I say that for every moment of satisfaction that comes from finally publishing that arduous or problematic post, there are usually days of inner turmoil, conflicting priorities, and persistent detractors behind it. Blogging is hard.
But as hard as blogging can be, it can also be immensely satisfying - or why would we do it? Blogging has forced me to learn more, dig deeper and to keep going when it would have been so much easier to quit. I've developed new skills, met some really interesting people and gone to places I never would have had it not been for the desire to make my blog better, more meaningful, as accurate as possible, and just a place people want to visit.
Blogging can be powerful. I have heard people say things in front of large audiences that first appeared on my blog. I know this is true for my fellow bloggers, as well.
My blog has been read across the country, by newspaper reporters, and even by a few legislators. But in my opinion, a blog isn’t about how many people you reach. It’s about who you reach. An editorial can appear in a newspaper and be read by 20,000 people, but an anti-casino blog, read by a comparatively much smaller number of focused individuals who are more likely to be receptive to, or actually act on it’s message, can be endlessly more effective.
A single blog post can be like a crate of tea tossed into the harbor. It doesn't look like much in the beginning, but the ripple effect might turn out to be really something.
Listen to your instincts. People may have a lot of good advice, but they're generally applying it to themselves, not to you. In the end, you have to do what's best for you and your sanity as far as your blog is concerned.
A blog is a journey. Individual blog postings can be taken at face value, but the most remarkable and enduring aspect of the blog is that it is a diary. From point a, that first post, to point b, whichever is the most recent, a blog is a record of what has transpired, the feelings, the mood, the times, the people, the places and the writer. It is all of those things which tend to fade in our mortal memory banks. It is the whole story.
And the whole story is what, last year, I set out to tell.