My 1,500th post on this blog

Woo hoo!

I have handed in my last assignment and finished my studies for the year. Now it’s time to celebrate, I’ve been so long forward to writing this post, number 1,500.

Did you know I’ve written a total of almost 800,000 words since starting in August 2011? Wowee. In that time this blog has had over 100,000 visitors. That’s amazing.

At the Melbourne State Library for The World of the Book Exhibition. Image shows a woman in purple lipstick looking happy in a large library room several stories tall.

I used to write about one post (article) a day, over the past few years since my kids came along I dropped back to about twice a week. I now average about 55,000 words a year, spread across around 100 posts.

My topics shift and have been difficult to categorise helpfully for readers. Posts are often either about art, personal updates, or an educational/thought post, reflecting on or explaining something. Often these merge back and forth. The content is determined partly by whatever I’m encountering in my personal and professional life, and partly by requests from readers, moving across mental health, grief, love, parenting, and work… Everything is approached with an eye to authenticity, compassion, and engaging complexity and depth in accessible ways.

I knew very little about blogging, online accessibility, or SEO when I started out, which is pretty evident from the unhelpful titles I tended to use and the lack of image descriptions on photos. Looking back there’s plenty I’d change! But the task of updating and upgrading such a huge collection has been too daunting so I march along as it evolves, muddling through. What started as a way to update family and friends without having to copy and paste across multiple emails evolved into education and activism, and then most bewilderingly into something that closes some employment opportunities to me while launching me into consulting and freelance work. My readership has grown modestly, expanding across different topics and socioeconomic groups.

My most popular posts are often found through Google searches for help, especially around mental health. Here’s a few of them:

Blogging has been a strange, wonderful, painful, complicated, and delightful part of my life. I have strict boundaries about what I share, and there’s several threads of reasons why I’ve chosen to blog. My blog has been a voice, a call to connect with a broader community than I could find face to face, it’s been a way to humanise multiplicity and mental illness and madness. It’s been about developing inside out language – experiential language that shares from a place of how something feels when you are experiencing it, not viewing it from outside – reclaiming language about suffering from the clinical sector who observe rather than embody it. It’s been a legacy in case I didn’t make it. A set of keys to understand me if I wasn’t here anymore to try and explain my life, my thoughts, my suffering, my love, my art. A bridge, an invitation. It’s been about loneliness and alienation and wanting to ease that for others because they are heartbreaking and skin searing and soul crushing to experience and silence and shame perpuates devastating myths of singularity, of being the only one to feel or think or hurt or need or experience the world the way you do.

It’s been about the informal and imperfect, a zine instead of a book, a conversation rather than a lecture, a brush of the arm instead of a handshake for someone not sure how to be in this world or claim space or speak truths without doing harm or being harmed.

Sometimes I lose the threads. I wake up and can’t remember why I write here and I go silent for awhile. At times I’ve felt embarrassed by my relationship to my blog and my readers, I’ve felt anxious about any sense of my own need, more comfortable with the distance of altruism. I’ve celebrated numbing and felt strong when I didn’t want to write. I’ve been embarrassed by previous sharing or in a new context, confused and frustrated that blogging comes easy to me now but sources of income from these skills have eluded me. I’ve been depressed by the way staying grounded in the story I have the right to tell – mine – has left me with a body of work entirely wrapped around my own life and perspective. At other times I’ve celebrated that. Cast off the master narratives we’ve all heard before and gone deeper into something strange, raw, ideosyncratic, utterly my own. This is my experience, my life, my reality.

I made a large, strange, beautiful thing. 1,500 strong, and I’m proud.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Blog!

Wow. On August 1st in 2011, I posted “What am I up to at the moment?” sharing my artworks She Blooms in oil and New Growth in ink and talking about my plans. Funnily enough I’ve just started making prints of She Blooms and I’m working on gilding one for sale… Funny how life goes!

Four years on, and 1,151 posts later, here we are. Wow.

I’m really proud of this blog. Like nearly everything I do in life, I started it without having a clue what I was getting myself into, and felt my way along learning and adjusting as I went. Intuitive and process driven. It’s been an amazing experience! I now consider it a massive ongoing work of public art.

I’m often asked if it helps me to write a blog, or costs me to be so public. The answer is yes.

There’s a cost to it, like everything we choose to do in life. I’ve found myself feeling exposed, stretched, confronted, intruded upon, misunderstood, mocked, and way out of my depths at times. I’ve doubted myself and my work, accused myself of narcissism, hated my impulse to expose my vulnerability even when people are telling me to be more professional and only show my polished side. I’ve wrestled with the uncertainly of process driven art – feeling completely at sea at times – what am I doing and why?? I’ve had the occasional nasty comment, confronting discovery, challenging cross over of being out into a space I wasn’t out yet, and so on.

But I’ve also had some amazing experiences. I’ve made a lot of friends, many of whom write blogs I follow too. (I’ve just added a blogs I follow widget which will show up on a pc!) I’ve had people write to tell me something I wrote saved their life, or saved a relationship, or helped them handle something really hard or feel less suicidal, which makes me cry (every time).

I’ve had people I don’t know come up to me in public or at face painting gigs and tell me how much they love this blog, which is surreal but wonderful. A couple of years ago the lovely Amanda came up to me at Feast and said you don’t know me, but I love your blog, and took a photo of herself with me. I wish I had a copy of that photo. We became friends. When she killed herself a year later I was heartbroken. I’m so damn glad I got to meet her, she was amazing.

I’ve had people reach out across the cyberspace and be with me, in some of the hardest and darkest times. People sending me back the same message I send out – I’m here. You’re not alone. You’re not the only one. You’re okay.

I’ve had people send me money. Recently someone has contacted me to let me know they value my work and are funding me monthly for the next 9 months. I went to bed and cried hysterically for a couple of hours, Rose rubbing my back. I ran out of money for fuel at a mental health conference out rural and asked for help and people rallied around me and I was breathless and wordless with gratitude. People are helping me with marketing, mental health research, higher education options, information and emotional support. I give and my tribe gives back to me.

Since writing this blog, a tribe has formed around me. Not some homogeneous unit, but a huge, varied, organically grown network of people in diverse overlapping communities, affiliations, passions, identities. They range from the closest of friends to someone who sent me a tweet sometime, or answered my question as a friend of a friend on Facebook. They connect with me, teach me, support me, need me, love me, learn from me, argue with me, and witness my life. I have come from a place of bitter isolation and loss, running from a world that was killing me and burning all the bridges behind me. I’ve endured and everything is different now. This blog has been an essential part of that.

So yes, I benefit from blogging. I used this blog to out myself, in stages as I felt able to. About having a mental illness, about being multiple, being bisexual, being genderqueer, being psychotic, being pregnant and our baby dying in my womb. About being ‘high functioning’ but still having bad days. About having physical illnesses, gynaecological disorders, invisible disabilities. Being out and public helps my mental health. It connects me to communities, it helps people understand me better and treat me better. It helps me find people like me.

I use this blog as a place to reflect. I use it as a place to be relentlessly human. I use it as a place to help other people feel less intimidated by the polished versions of self we present to each other in our lives, the imitations of intimacy and chronic dishonesty that characterise so many of our interactions with other people – online and in real life, with the burden of constant ‘professionalism’ and chronically degrading ideas about what it is to grow up and be an adult, with the misery of loneliness in crowded places, feeling broken and unseen and unknown, like the only one of your species. I write here because I need these things too, because they kill me too, and in creating spaces that are more authentic and connected, I thrive too. In making the private public, with care and sensitivity and attention to how and why, I am able to see and be seen, to see myself, to be present woth less anxious disguise and less unthinking obedience to cultures of taboo that keep the complacent comfortable and silence the different and the suffering among us.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Holding my childhood to ransom. You’ve been special. I love you. Thankyou too, all those of you who read here, even if we never cross paths or talk. Hope it’s been good for you too.

This blog is official!

Whoo hoo! Google has discovered this blog! Rather excited it. I moved my 2 year old blog here, with all 650+ posts, in August when my blogger account crashed and locked me out for a fortnight. Then I decided to stay. The original blog is still running however because I discovered one small, but important details – every single backlink I’ve ever made (ie when I’ve written about multiplicity and provided an in text link to my page about that so that those who want to know more can easily find it) all point back to my old blog. I’m in the process of going through every single post, improving the formatting that’s been altered in the transfer, occasionally replacing a photo that’s gone missing, and fixing the backlinks so that they point to that post on this blog. It’s going to take me a little while!

Unfortunately, having the previous blog still listed on the net has penalised this blog – the duplicate content means that google initially treated this blog as a spam site, a valuable process designed to prevent buggers who steal all your content to create fake spam sites from getting higher up the search engine ranks than your real site. But, now that this site has been running for a couple of months and the old blog has delisted from search engines, things have been corrected. This site now shows up in google instead of the other one when people search for it. I had my first referral from google today. Yay!

The clean up process is definitely daunting… but on the other hand it’s been good to re-read. I do this with my own journals pretty regularly and I always learn a lot, gain a new perspective… Bear with me. 🙂

In other exciting news, I’ve added a ‘random post’ button. How awesome! Now that I’ve so much material online, I’m always looking for ways to make it easier to access relevant stuff. I’ve also started a couple of new, more specific topic categories such as multiplicity. On that note, if you’re looking for a good reader to keep up with your favourite blogs now that google reader is dead, I’ve been using feedly and really liking it.

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