Category Archives: writing

Preachy – When Health Blogging Gets Ugly

As health bloggers, we want what’s best for our subscribers.

We want to make sure that we’re bringing good content which can help readers achieve their goals because we’re passionate about living healthier and happier lives.

Spreading the joy of a healthier life is good.

Well, yes and no…

We’re treading a fine line between what can help people and what can come across as bossy, preachy or overly invasive lifestyle advice.

When you become a preachy writer, you’ve reached the end of the road. It implies there is no more to learn about your subject. You’ve reached the pinnacle of enlightenment, which we know is impossible in the world of health.

New research and data crashes through the internet every single day. Scientists and health professionals are only just beginning to tap the potential of the human body for self-healing through diet and exercise. We barely understand the basic process by which our bodies function. How could we ever say to the people we write to: ‘I know it all, that’s it amigo, just follow me and you’re cured!’.

But how do you avoid that trap?

Can we go back to the place it all began? Why are we doing this? What did we want to achieve in the beginning? Even asking some of the harder questions we might be avoiding. Do we still care the same way that we did when we started? If we don’t, can we find a way back to caring?

When we look back on our starting point, we can come home to roost on our values and desires.

I started to tackle my own health issues which had become too pressing to ignore. I remember that feeling of helplessness, of not knowing what to do and the depression that followed. I was begging for someone to help me, to show me some compassion.

More doctors visits, more half-mumbled explanations, more anxiety and fear. Nobody felt the need to explain anything to me properly. They either didn’t feel it necessary, or they couldn’t be bothered. I’m the sort of person who likes to know how something works before I use it. Why should health be any different? Don’t we all deserve a clearer explanation?

I never wanted anyone to feel the way that I did. To suffer in silence and to be so paralysed by the sheer spread of information as to have no clue where to start, who to follow, and what health problem to target first.

We health bloggers need to keep in mind why we started blogging. Remind ourselves that we’re on a journey with our subscribers to better overall health, and that we don’t have all the answers, but we’re doing our best to find out what works. We’re trying to connect with the reader, demonstrate our driving values, our origin story, and walk with our audience arm in arm on a road to better understanding.

When we’re preachy, we’ve taken a wrong turn. We’ve shirked our responsibility for self-development, and we’re letting our followers down by giving up. That’s not fair to us or them. Never stop learning, growing and developing your ideas. And most importantly, take your readers with you from ignorance, to less ignorance, but never to full knowledge.

One more thing.

There’s a certain irony in this post that I think some may pick up on. ‘Well, Julian, this all seems a little bit like you’re telling us, rather than joining with us.’, and you would be right. I am telling. But the difference lies in what you’re trying to achieve. This is kinda autobiographical. I’m telling you, so that I can remind myself. This medium lends itself to telling. Telling stories, facts, opinions or the events of inspirational lives. We have to tell people things because that’s what we’re doing. We’re writing to people all over the world about how to improve their health.

As long as we remember that we’re teaching ourselves as well as others in the process, we’re not going to end up preachy. That’s the important bit. Listen to your voice and make sure it’s authentic, insightful and self-reflective.

We’re going somewhere. We don’t know all the answers, but we’re trying our best to get some clarity on some life-changing topics. We’re telling people what we’ve learned, but we’re not preaching that we have all the answers. We’re discovering together, and that’s what makes this whole thing so much fun.

The Mystery Blogger Award

 

Thanks to PoojaG for nominating ALL of her followers including me.

Rules:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well. (Okoto Enigma)
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Answer the questions provided by whoever nominated you.
  • Nominate 10 – 20 people.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions.
  • Share a link to your best post(s).

Questions:

Do you like to read? If so, what is your favorite book genre?

I love to read. I used to think I was a fiction person, but I’m starting to realise more and more that I have the endurance for non-fiction. I really like to learn new skills and gain new knowledge and understanding from books. I’ve been reading about carnivorous plants, learning what they like to grow in and how to raise them. I’ve also been learning about fermenting my own foods, and developing my knowledge of the exciting world of digestive health. There is so much fascinating information out there, I’m soaking it up as fast as I can!

How much time do you put into your blog?

At the moment, I’m working full time at a job to make money to live and eat. I’d rather do this ALL THE TIME, but I really only get to do this a couple of times a week if I’m lucky and dependent on my energy levels. I’m hoping to do more and start to really streamline the takeoff of the blog! I want this to go places!

What is your favorite hobby (besides blogging or reading)?

I adore plants. I have a dangerously large collection of pot plants already and like I said already, I’m branching out into carnivorous species! I love watching them grow and learning about what they need to thrive. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction!

How long have you been blogging?

I’ve blogged intermittently for for a couple of years, but I’ve only recently been putting in more regular time on it. I know that you have to post regular exciting content to make progress.

If you could go back in time to one year ago, what advice would you give yourself?

Accept where you are now. A year ago was a rocky place for me. I was suffering from quite severe depression and had just started a new job. I am so proud of myself for pushing on regardless. So many people would have given up at that point, but I didn’t. Accepting my feelings, acknowledging that I need to allow myself to feel sad, and realising that it won’t always be like that, is exactly what I would tell myself.

My Nominees

Anyone who reads! I’d love to hear about what you’ve been doing in your life and on your blog. Let me know!

J

Life, I am grateful.

Earlier, I had ripped through a vortex of pandemic news after drinking three coffees today, my hard limit. I was anxious. So, as I often do when I am highly strung, I meditated.

I meditated for a very long time.

I came to appreciate things that I have not verbalised and perhaps forgotten, but I wish to express them now.

I am so grateful to be alive. To breathe and to enjoy all the sensory experiences life has to offer. I am grateful for my friends, for the laughter and silliness we share every day. I am grateful for my freedom. Not in the sense that I am free to come and go as I please (a circumstantial freedom and one greatly tested in these times), but in that I have my room, with all my things that I love and keep. I am grateful for my job which keeps me fed and clothed and tempers a routine. I am grateful that I can observe change and accept it, rather than fight it.

Who knows how long we have on this planet, but I intend to make everything of the little time each of us spend here, a twinkle in time and space such as we each are.

I am grateful that I am pursuing what I love and working on becoming who I always knew I was, but lacked the confidence and conviction to fully appreciate (apathy, it seems, is quite a childish state). Every day, my confidence in my abilities, my values and my direction in life grow exponentially.

Set backs come, and some will be monumentous, seemingly peak-less, but they are not so. Peak-less mountains break to peak on the patter of persistent feet. One step at a time. Minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, we reach for new heights within ourselves.

So, you see, I am here. I am breathing. I am filled with wonder at my existence. I am unfurling as time intended, as expected, as anticipated. And, I accept this, and, watch eagerly as I and life unfold together.

You may not understand how I feel and I do not expect you to, but I had something to say and so I have said it.

I hope you are all safe, but most importantly, I hope you are living authentically and truthfully, and growing into yourselves every second and at every opportunity.

Life is short, but we can be so tall.

How University Ruined My Relationship with Writing and How I Got It Back

Story time, handsome people.

I graduated with a History degree in the summer last year.

Three years. Three, gruelling, tedious, stressful years.

History is a great subject. I love it dearly. But, sadly, what I don’t love is the University system, forcing a sunshine child like myself to hide amongst the yellowing, withered tomes of a dusty library. I can feel my skin stretching into parchment just thinking about it. Moisturise me, I’m starting to look like Cassandra.

I just wanted to dance and sing and bask in the sunshine, the nature, moss, trees and birds. It was agony to be inside, a recluse tasked with reading volumes of books at such a pace that any and all would gasp for a breath.

Truth be told, I struggle with reading. The educational psych said something about my processing speed. I’m a bit slow you see, and reading is often exhausting and challenging, especially when I have to read anything that I don’t initially have an interest in.

I was constantly reprimanded by my department for going off topic, for flagrantly ignoring the essay question, but honestly? I didn’t care. If I couldn’t do just that at least sometimes, I would have turned to dust (melodrama who?).

My Universities motto was: ‘In Limine Sapientiae’. It means ‘On the threshold of wisdom’. Well, it should have been ‘On the threshold of boredom and beyond‘. Reading was such a chore, an enforced chore. The worst kind of chore.

To add to all the laborious library prison time I was subjected to, I had fallen out with writing altogether.

Writing became, how can I describe? An extremely stressful, unpleasant and limiting exercise, all the things I have since realised it is not. Because support was poor, I was left to fend for myself, trying to gauge the right kind of style, direction and tempo for my essays. My anxiety levels were extremely high. It manifested in obsession with re-drafting minute word choices. With cutting and editing chunks of text. With a chronic sense of dissatisfaction in everything I produced. Writing was wound and bound with my ever increasing levels of depression and anxiety. They were inseparable.

My dissertation was, let me find a metaphor, like stabbing myself repeatedly and hoping to divine, from my own gore, the direction to take. I was suffering with the worst depression I have ever experienced for the entirety of my final year. Bringing pen to paper, even sitting down in this restless, unfocused and painful state was almost impossible. I submitted two weeks after the deadline. My final extension was not even enough to force me to work until the final five days. Something switched. The fear, sufficiently gripping, pushed me into a frenzy. I didn’t see anyone for five days except to leave my room for a bit of food. I was up the entire final night. I handed in my submission, exhausted, miserable and utterly finished with education.

The whole experience of writing at university had so upset me that I didn’t even go to my own graduation. These three years had been tiring and lonely, I had all but withdrawn from daily life. I was, at the same time, furious. How could the education system fail me so extensively? Support was minimal and I had even experienced cruel and callous departmental sanctions for my truancy (actually depression, dissolution and social anxiety). I would have burned that paper certificate, had I not worked so hard against these odds to complete the course.

Still, I struggled to reconcile the practice of writing, the stress of university and the cold overseers in the department, with the idea that I had succeeded. To this day, I still struggle to look at that certificate with anything other than contempt.

After this time, I began to work full time, not in a job I wanted to do, but in something with a routine that paid reasonably well. I started to heal a bit from the experience. I started to go to counselling, started to eat better, started to meditate more, started to be more comfortable around other people. My only real experience with writing had been as a student and within the frame of an essay. I had also written a few articles at university and some personal blog posts on this site during the time, however I had not reached a point where I believed that writing could help do anything other than prove a point. I had not reached the point I am at now, where I believe that writing is better used to heal and to teach.

I think a shift in perspective and being outside the bubble of the institution taught me to re-frame writing. To use it for myself as a way to learn about who I am and what I can do in this life.

I have to add that I do have University to thank for the discipline and development of my relationship with language. If I had not entered into it in this way, I do not know whether I would have gained so many tools to command it. I can communicate what I mean, but I am no longer confined by the restraints of a sluggish system which does not cater to someone like me. It is looking optimistic from here, as I continue to search for what inspires me. Christian Mihai’s blog, The Art of Writing, talks about pursuing your values in your writing and using it to help people. I hope that my experiences and reflections will help myself and others find and keep their passion in writing.

In time, I do not know what shape this blog will take, but hopefully, with a new found passion and enjoyment, a direction and purpose, it can only take even more beautiful forms.

Find your bliss and use writing as your map,

J

How Meditation Can Help You Become a Better Writer

Many here will be into the art of writing.

Chances are, you clicked through to this article because you are interested in writing better content, in becoming a better communicator. And if you’re passionate and open minded, you clicked through because you can see how practising other skills can benefit your writing as well.

I am, technically speaking, a good written communicator. I have a big vocabulary, I have a knack for constructing sentences and I’m an excellent speller. Great, right?

Well, actually, no, not really.

You see, being a good writer is not about being able to spell or use fancy words or even primly perseverate your grammatical constructs (oh the artistic license).

It’s really about direction, meaning and flow.

Direction, the ability to pursue a destination tenaciously, often a thought or an idea we wish to explore. Meaning, being the ability to convey something that resonates with people. Something people are longing to understand, either about the world itself or about themselves. Flow, especially relevant to the practice of meditation, is the ability to allow your spirit to pour out onto paper without your mind putting a word in and interrupting you.

Direction is so relevant to meditation. When we meditate, we are often asked to enter our meditations with a thought or question which we are to ask of our subconscious and observe any thoughts or ideas it returns. We approach meditation with a controlled and intended trajectory. We want to know something and are ready to ask the questions we need to in order to listen to our subconscious for answers. Writing is the same. We write on a topic or an idea and as we begin on our path, our writing reveals knowledge we did not know we had to give. Our pen is a powerful exit point for the subconscious in much the same way that meditation is. Stretching our minds through meditation can allow us to claim even more direction in our writing than we may have already trained ourselves to create.

Meaning is why so many people enter meditation in the first place and often why we turn to writing too. We want to understand why we are here, who we are meant to be, why the world is the way that it is, and what we can do to make it better. Our search for meaning, the gargantuan existential questions we seek to address in meditation, will also help us tap into the meaning in our writing. When we meditate, we are constantly asking, ‘what can I discover? what can I learn about myself?’ and when we apply that to our writing, we can start to really dig into the stuff that makes writing so powerful, the meaning behind the words.

Finally, and arguably one of the things I have noticed has most greatly impacted my ability to write well, flow. Flow is the ability to focus on the task at hand and to acknowledge, but quietly and calmly relieve ourselves of interruptive thoughts. Being a naturally anxious person, I had a tendency to over analyse everything I wrote. I would scrutinise so intensely the authorial choices I had made, that often I would gridlock myself onto an island of misery. I began to hate writing because I was a perfectionist. I wanted everything, down to the last synonym, to be perfect. As with anything where we expect too much, it had the opposite effect, making me miserable in the process.

Meditation has allowed me to acknowledge my reservations about my writing. To acknowledge, but also to let them rest in the lay-bys of my mind as I drive to my destination. I now focus on what I am trying to say and not how I am trying to say it. I let my sense of direction, purpose and flow guide me as I write, where before I struggled to map my direction, find the meaning or write without my own thoughts interrupting, and even sabotaging me. I am a better writer because meditation has allowed me to let go of the finer details for the pursuit of the bigger picture. It is liberating and transformative, and I strongly recommend anyone who has the time and loves to write, take ten minutes out of their day to try it.

I hope you find direction, purpose and flow in your writing and may these principles allow you to achieve the joy in writing that I have.

J