|"I ♥ My Blog": Shifting Perspectives in Your Writing|
“Was there anybody else there?” I asked in my response email.
“Yes, lots of people,” came her reply, “but they aren’t really a part of the story.”
I pride myself on being someone who writes well-explained email responses to student questions, but in this case my response was short, a mere two sentences: “So what? Touch their lives to yours.”
the “I” complex
A common problem that arises with both creative nonfiction writers (whether writing articles, memoirs, essays, etc.) and bloggers is what I call The “I” Complex. It’s the idea that “My piece”—or, “My blog”—“has to be about me.” While it’s true that blogging is very personal, and while many nonfiction pieces are based in the selfhood and perspective of the author, it’s a false perception that these pieces have to be all about you. And when the issue becomes, “I feel like I’m talking too much about myself,” it’s a good indication that you’ve stumbled onto something important: When it’s all about you, it’s not appealing to other people.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe that blogs need to have self-revelatory elements to them. It’s wonderful, and useful, to begin with a personal narrative, or share a personal update. In fact, for writers, it’s desirable; readers want to know what you do in your daily life besides writing. But so much of what we do on our blogs is about making connections, relating to those who are reading what we’ve presented … and you can’t connect if the only person involved is “I” or “me” or “my.”
the touch remedy
Shifting perspectives, in any narrative, is a great way to keep yourself from either becoming or feeling too self-centered in your writing. It also helps you avoid losing reader’s attention because they aren’t included in the narrative or work you’re sharing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be visible in your posts at all … but finding that “touch” moment is important to keep readers engaged and interested!
When teaching both editorial and persuasive writing, I had many students who struggled with the idea their writing was weak. Many of them realized it was because, in their writing or their attempt to persuade, they focused so much on their own opinions, experiences, and thoughts that there wasn’t much room for anybody else’s. One student said in a response to another student’s editorial essay: “It was interesting, but it didn’t persuade me of anything because you just told me personal stories. I couldn’t find my way into it.” Through comments like this, we developed a three-tier writing method to create multiplicity of voices within singular pieces. It’s called “The Touch Remedy,” and it looks a little something like this:
|"The Touch Remedy" diagram some students and I created|
It’s essentially “a sideways Ven diagram with triangles” (as one student put it, deflating all our egos as we realized it wasn’t quite as unique as we’d thought). It’s a method that can be applied to editorials or blog posts quite nicely. Here’s the breakdown:
“I”: Beginning with a personal story grants the reader access to your life and experiences
“We”: Focusing in on “we” statements shows the reader, “I’m as much a part of this as you are, and vice versa”; when you say, “Something we struggle with,” your reader is able to say, “Yes, I [the reader] struggle with this … isn’t it nice that he/she [the author] struggles with the same thing!”
“You”: Now your reader is prepared for “calls to action,” your claims of what he/she should do with the information you’ve provided.
Sometimes “we” becomes “he,” “she,” or “they.” Sometimes “I” is unspoken, as is “you.” But the foundation remains the same: shifting perspectives within a piece grants readers many access points into whatever it is you’re sharing, whether it’s a personal story, an editorial, an advice column, or something else. (This, by the way, is what we called the “basic” way of doing it. It’s also how I try to write most blog posts. The Touch Remedy can be much more fun, however, when applied to, say, a creative nonfiction piece, or even fiction. Click here for a sample passage from an essay that shows how a piece changes with the Touch Remedy.)
Today’s task is simply to consider how you address your audience. Are you “I”-centric? Could you be too “You”-centric? How can you “shift” the perspective within your posts to create a conversational “touch”? (A secondary task is to experiment with a shifting perspectives piece for your blog: begin with a personal narrative, shift into second/third person, and see how the shifts change the tone and engagement level of your post.) Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic in the comments below!
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Catch up on the Our Lost Jungle "I ♥ My Blog" Challenge: