Sometimes I forget how powerful stories can be. Then, I find myself holding a spear in front of a class of wide-eyed American seventh graders as I tell them about a typical day in the deep South of Madagascar. And then I remember.
Last month, eight bloggers from around the world were selected as winners for Peace Corps’ annual Blog It Home contest. I was one of them! We spent five days in Washington D.C. sharing culture from our host countries. Now, I'm back to telling stories from the field.
Here are some tips I find helpful when writing them:
1. Write with intention. Before you start writing, ask yourself: ‘Why? Who am I writing this for and what do I aim to accomplish by putting these words out into the world?’ Knowing your purpose in writing a blog post can help you avoid rambling and more importantly, help share a meaningful story.
2. Be mindful of your audience. Maybe you started your blog to update your friends and family on your adventures while living abroad, but stay aware of your unintentional audience, too. Before you know it, that kid, Joe from high school’s uncle’s half-sister’s twin from Minnesota is sharing your post with her friends on Facebook. Unless password protected, your blog is the world’s to see.
3. What are you curious about? What excites you? What do you find confusing? Write about that. Let these ideas guide you in your writing. Answer the questions that pop into your head as you are walking through town or something you’ve never thought about before experiencing it firsthand. Most likely what you find interesting, exciting and confusing, others will, too.
4. Benefit from your vulnerability. Take note of how something makes you feel and write that down. Feelings can be a lot more powerful than how something looks, smells, tastes and sounds.
5. Write a post. Then wait. You have no editor and no deadlines. After writing, tuck it away for a day or so and re-read it. Read it aloud a few times. Give it to a friend. Proofread. Restructure. Take advantage of your freedom in writing and make it your best work.
6. Keep a list of blog ideas. Never stop brainstorming for a good story. They are everywhere – you just have to look.
7. Focus on the story. We as humans like to read about other humans. Connect with your readers through the stories of the people around you. The more someone can relate, the bigger the impact your post will have on the reader.
8. Go for the photo. Taking photos is a great way to connect with the people around you. If you feel uncomfortable taking the photo, most likely the subject of the photo will feel uncomfortable, too. Smile. Always be respectful. Show them your photo screen afterward or consider printing out a hard copy. They will be grateful.
9. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. More often than not, we believe we are right. (Everyone makes sense to themselves.) When someone else’s behavior confuses you, consider a different lens. Compassion is the highest form of critical thinking.
10. Write about what you’re passionate about. If you deeply care about something, it shows through your writing.
11. Stay humble. The world is a beautiful place with so many stories to tell. When writing, be grateful for the stories and the people they belong to.
For some blog inspo, check out the past Blog It Home winners, here.