I was a real skeptic about the use of social media ten years ago, until my son, computer whiz and techno enthusiast, helped me out on my 2005 municipal election campaign.
He told me in no uncertain terms that I “had to get with the program.” The “program” he was talking about was social media. “Mother,” (he always calls me “mother” when he’s trying to make a point) “you love to write and communicate so why not take your passion for writing and communicating to the next level?” To the next level? What did that mean exactly?
So he took the time to explain how far the reach is through the use of blogging. Initially, I had no confidence about writing publicly, let alone using the computer and a website in this way. What would I write about, who would want to read it anyway and, gosh son, I’m not a writer, it’s just a hobby! Then I remembered as a kid living in the United States in the 1960s, like a lot of teenagers, I was mesmerized with movies and movie stars. This, combined with an active imagination, often found me composing and delivering my own acceptance speeches at Oscar time, standing alone in front of the family’s bathroom mirror. Maybe my son was right, maybe it was time to take my writing out of the family bathroom.
My love of writing and words began in early childhood, resulting from a severe stutter. Stuttering is a difficult burden for a child and adolescent to bear, believe me. It eats away at one’s self confidence and sense of self worth. It is a huge barrier to forming relationships with peers, to making positive first impressions and to communicating with teachers and other students at school, and one is often written off as not smart enough to learn and to succeed. But what makes you vulnerable also makes you strong and so, I took to writing like a duck to water — everything I couldn’t say with my voice I could say with my pen. My writing flourished during those years of intense speech therapy, until I finally learned to manage my stutter and regain my confidence to speak. The happy ending is that I chose professions where I had to speak and write, skills that led me to community activism and later, to public life.
What’s more, from this very personal experience, I eventually learned the significance of expressing voice, its power to compel, move, inform and engage.
I remember those early months of blogging (which unfortunately rhymed with slogging) — I would sit down and my fingers would hover like helicopters over the keyboard without landing. I agonized — what do I write about, what do I say and who will want to read it? Getting started, tugging at those first few words, is the hardest part. But I’ve learned that as words lead to sentences and sentences lead to paragraphs then, suddenly, fingers fly over the keys with a certain kind of urgency.
It was ten years ago that I penned my first article about being a newly-minted North Saanich Councillor. And the best thing for me about all of this ten years later? I learned to trust my son’s advice, my family’s encouragement and my own voice. My son got me started and my sister has kept me going.
“So what’s it like, writing for an internet audience?” people have asked. Well, it’s a lot like writing to myself. That may sound strange but writing is solitary, sitting alone with your own thoughts and ideas. There is no editor to guide or refine words and content; I am author, editor and publisher all in one. Yes, there are times when I still run something past my sister, son or husband for their input and as my biggest fans, they are also my most valuable critics.
“The power of the pen” is still a truism — writing is indeed a powerful tool that brings its own kind of responsibility, one that makes me always consider the need for research, caution and respect. There are a lot of concerns about the use of social media now and I share them — social media can empower but if used in the wrong way, it can also harm.
Deciding to launch another website following the end of my public career last fall was a big decision but I have no regrets. My goal is to continue to provide a public service, one that keeps me in touch with my community and my community in touch with me. I have no idea about the extent of my readership, but using the complementary tools of Twitter and Facebook, I am finding that this website reaches a much wider audience.
I will continue writing as long as I feel that I have something worthwhile to say and information to share. Ten years ago, my goal was to keep local residents informed about local government and community affairs. Ten years later, that goal has not changed. Finally, if you are reading this article, thank you for following along. My hope is that you, as reader, will take away information that inspires you to continue to seek out information about “where we live.”