Manchester Metropolitan University
Yesterday was quite a big day for me – guest lecturing at Manchester University about my blogging journey. After arriving very late because of traffic and having a few technical difficulties with my presentation, I stood in from of the the first year journalism students in the auditorium like a dear in head lights.
Public speaking is a phobia I’ve been battling with for about 18 months. I’ve gone from tears streaming down my eyes because I was so embarrassed to say who I was and what I did for living to now giving presentations, delivering workshops and feeling ‘happy’ interacting with big groups.
I truly believe it was the day that I took up mountain biking to give me something else to be scared of that got me over public speaking. And it’s been the continuous journey in the great outdoors which has pushed me to be better in everything that I do. It’s amazing what a mountain can do for you…
But yesterday was a defining moment for me purely because I’ve had no formal education and then suddenly to be in a university, is, well, overwhelming!
My Blogging Journey
I talked about my grandparents and how they had their script and books stolen and published as well as my my nan and mum who both love to write and lack the confidence to publish (although my mum changed that and published her book). I grew up with the idea of one day becoming a writer (my grandparents would have wanted that) but it was discouraged as soon as I got to high school. I was a bullied child, harassed out of my home, put in to hospital and so I was taken out and home-schooled. During the ages of 13-16 writing was my only form of dealing with it. I was isolated during my teen years purely because I had a mistrust of people and I disliked anything to do with education. I flunked all of my GCSE’s except my English.
That Memorable Moment
Then I went to college, it was here that I begun to trust again, learn the ways of the real ‘adult world’ and I liked it here. Of course I wasn’t studying anything to do with writing because that was just a ‘fantasy’ but it was my 50 something teacher who during a lecture on media in the beauty industry (beauty therapy – that what I was studying) mentioned blogging. It was ironic that a bunch of 16/17 y.o in 2007 had not heard of something that’s been going since the 90’s! Curious, I went home and stumbled upon something called WordPress and I had no idea what it was except I could use it to write and it was free (good enough for 17 year old me). It was here I started a lifestyle blog, it was nothing special but it was only through blogging that I realised I had a voice and for someone who’s been bullied, that’s a big thing.
I used my blog to practice my skills, improve on my technique and get used to the idea of people being able to read what I was thinking. I didn’t consider myself a writer but media as I knew it was changing and things like magazines and newspapers where going online and so I joined in with a trend.
Then, I went after a job with an online fashion magazine as they wanted a new lifestyle and fashion writer. I had no experience in fashion what so ever but I thought what the hell?! After 6 weeks of hearing nothing, I was easily discouraged, maybe this line of career wasn’t right for me? After a further few weeks the editor got back to me and said he’d be delighted to have me, apparently I was rough around the edges but I had potential.
I enjoyed my time at the magazine, I learnt lots, built up my readership and it lead to other opportunities such as writing for printed magazines and contributing to the likes of Virgin. I quickly realised though that with being an online author, I had a huge responsibility to post stuff that positively contributed to people’s lives. I felt as though I wasn’t doing this – the magazine was aimed at the more, how do I say it? Bitchier and competitive markets, and that wasn’t me even though I had such a sarcastic style of writing and ruffled a few feathers with my opinions.
So I quit and I shut down my blog, I no longer knew what it was like to blog for passion or things that I believed in. At around the same time, my friend was setting up her business and asked me to write some web copy for her – my initial reaction was to say no as being responsible for someone’s sales is a big thing. I said yes anyway, and yes to her friends which lead me on to freelancing.
It was a weird time in my life because I was still so shy at telling people what I did. I didn’t feel like I had a lot to offer, others had been around a lot longer than me and where was my formal education?
It wasn’t until back in 2010 when I set up a new blog (this one) to document my new lifestyle changes, that I meant a WordPress web agency (who are now friends of mine) and encouraged me to get a website and make everything official and that’s what I did. It was a nerve racking time… I also found out more about WordPress and found myself welcomed with wide arms into the community. I went to WordCamps and gave presentations and lightening talks there and I met people who were passionate about the same stuff as me, which encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing and get bigger and better at it.
And here I am, standing in front of a group of first years all a bit nervous as to whether they should blog or not… I made a point of mentioning a quote from Emma Watson’s speech that she did on feminism “If not you, who, if not now, when?” I really, really, wish I would have had that quote in my mind whilst growing up because I would have been a different person, maybe somewhat more of a faster achiever. But hey, there’s no point in being a shoulda-coulda!
From all that I said, I wanted the students to take this point away with them… We are blessed and cursed to be able to have a voice and share what we are passionate about, so use it, whilst we have it and use it to promote what we love.
I’m deeply thankful of where I am and what I’m able to do for myself and others. I love learning, teaching, listening, talking, people and opportunities.
All of which was made possible by blogging.