I would have to say one of the greatest tools to help me live with HIV has been the ability to write and share my experience of how it is to live with this disease. I never considered myself a blogger but as someone who made public his insight. I think I wanted to feel less isolated with this disease, but by blogging I found a way to express my feelings and create a community of people who could either identify what I was going through or find knowledge of how it was to live with HIV. When it comes to HIV I am now a believer that finding a way to talk about your status whether it's blogging, singing, dancing or speaking; it will greatly aid the life you live. The term is called emotional expression and it simply means releasing pent up emotions. Expressing ourselves has many healthy benefits and leads you to a greater place of wellness and acceptance of you r HIV status.
Blogging is a great way to communicate and it can combat the feelings of isolation that often leads to depression. having an online journal is defiantly different than blogging as one is private and the other allows others to see your posting and in some cases comment on them. There are several free sites on the net that gives you to ability to blog. A good online search will reveal the choices but as far as ease I would say the two best for beginners are Blogger.com and WordPress. Whatever route one chooses they defiantly are beneficially.
So what and how do you start blogging? In answering that question there are seven great ways to go about blogging and the following are hopefully some useful tips that will get you started.
- Write what you know
When you're writing the easiest way to go about it is to write what you know about the disease. Telling your own experience and how it has affected your life both good and bad will be more compelling. Not to say you shouldn't write about an unknown topic, but when your blog starts to sound more like a research paper of something you don't have a personal connection with, people may not follow you for long. By focusing on what you know your writing will be more real and probably make the reader feel that they can relate. Also you're in control of what you share. Some folks like me reveal aspects of life that would be considered private. Others may give you a glimpse but not be to revealing. It has to work for you and what you feel comfortable in sharing. There are no rules and you control the content of your writing.
- Try not to preach
It's great to share your perspective on HIV but in your sharing the best way to connect is not by preaching and judging others on how they live with the virus. Although we have HIV we don't approach it the same way. We all have opinions but sometimes we don't want to seem like we're on a higher horse when talking about our status. What works for me may not work for others For instance someone may be into barebacking, having sex without a condom, and although you may not agree with it, you can still state your feelings without it feeling like a condemnation. There is a way to teach without preaching. In the example I used you may want to first give your own personal relationship to the subject and then provide factual information that lets others decide if the information is useful. I think Madonna said it best, "Papa don't preach'
- With great power comes great responsibility
Okay I'll admit that I stole this from Spider-man but feels that it also applies to blogging. As a blogger you're providing a reader an insight into something that is unique. They may start to refer to you as you write about HIV with authority. In that aspect you have to realize that online blogging has a certain level of power where your words can instantly become viral and reach many. The thing about hitting the send button after writing a blog entry is that once it's out there you can't take it back. So when writing and especially if it's about information you obtained elsewhere, you have to make sure it's factual. I'll run across news articles about HIV and want to instantly share it, but you should do some researching and simple fact check to see if what you're about to put out there is factual. Earlier this year I made the mistake of not fact checking and wrote a story on what I later found out to be false information. Googling it I discovered that it was making it way onto blogs but not on major news source. False information along with misinforming the community can also contribute to a continued feeling of stigma.
- Write for you
I think one of the biggest mistakes one can make in their writing is trying to write something that everyone will like. The truth is that some will gravitate to you based on your style while for others it will have a null effect. Write something that you would like to read or you're passionate about. Your excitement will come out and people who can relate to it will respond to it. You'll also approach your writing with enthusiasm as you discover your writing voice. The more you write the more you'll discover that your voice is unique and gives your blogging personality.
- Don't write for comments
It's always nice when people start to respond to your post with comments telling you how they either liked or didn't like what you wrote. It feels good knowing that you've written something that creates a conversation but realize that it's not always the case. I learned in my blogging that just because people don't leave a comment doesn't mean they didn't like what you had to say. I know for myself on certain HIV blog postings people have approached me and told me how much they enjoyed it, even my family has told me in person rather than leave a comment online. There are so many reasons people don't leave a comment so it shouldn't discourage you from your sharing. It also shouldn't be your motivation.
- Edit, spell check and edit
Don't let this one discourage you as not all bloggers are English Majors. But having some grasp on vocabulary will not only help you but the readers understand what you're trying to say. You don't want your posts to be lost in translation because of incomplete sentences or paragraphs that don't make sense. Most will take forgive several misspelled words but not a complete post filled. The best thing to do after you write and before you send is to walk away from it for a few minutes. Come back to it and read it aloud to see if it makes sense to you and if not make the necessary changes. And yes I have been guilty of this so don't come for me!
- You're making a difference
By sharing your journey of living with HIV you're helping others who are living the same life you are. You're making someone feel less alone and giving others a different perspective on how to live with HIV. I never set out to do that but it's a humbling occurrence to hear from others of how they thought they were the only one going through an experience and want to thank you for sharing. And most importantly you're making a difference in your own life as blogging your HIV will enrich your life in ways you can't imagine.
See you online!