Monday, April 01, 2013

A Blog About Blogging

After some of the emails I've received over the past several weeks and months, I feel a need to write a blog about blogging. When I go back to the reason I started this blog, in fact further than that, back to when I considered starting a blog I remember thinking about what this would mean to my life. I recognize now, I had no idea. But back to how it began. My friend Belinda was the first person to talk to me about blogging. It seemed so exotic back then, I began following her blog and then reading other blogs about the disability experience. I found voices that, until then, I'm not really heard before, I found a community of bloggers that I wanted to be a part of ... and therefore decided to start my blog. I called the blog, 'Chewing the Fat' and, in those early days, I relied heavily on Belinda and her assistance. I dubbed her the 'blog princess' because she was a ready and able guide for me.

I wanted to write a blog about my experiences both as a newly disabled man as well as as a person who works in the 'disability industry.' As I was experiencing my world in an entirely different way, I wanted some way to document, for myself, and hopefully others, what that journey was like. I was surprised to find, that within a short period of time, I had readers, a community of commenters, and I felt that I was part of the growing disability presence on the web. In short I loved it. I had made the determination back then that I would blog for a year and then move on to other ways of expressing myself, other ways of being part of the community to which I now belonged. Obviously, that didn't happen, I'm still here, years later.

From the outset, from the absolute get-go, this blog was intentionally, a personal blog. I resisted all urges to make it anything more than that. I have been pressured, sometimes almost forcibly, to carry advertising or to promote various causes, or to write on every major disability news story. I write what I want to write, it's a daily blog so that means that I need to draw on day to day experiences. Most often I try to put these things in a disability context, most often, but not always. Sometimes I write about things that I'm thinking or feeling, sometimes I write about things from my past - a past wherein I was different but not disabled, sometimes I write about who I am as a gay person, or as a person of faith, or as someone who likes pie. It's a personal blog after all.

However, it seems that there are those who relate to me, not as a person, but as an entity, like I've stopped being 'Dave Hingsburger - the person' and become 'Dave Hingsburger - the commodity.' That's not expressed well, I know, but I don't know how else to say it. For those who see me more as an employee of the giant disability movement, I am held to extremely high standards and there are proscriptions put on what i should and should not write about. I am at the point that I grit my teeth if I'm going to write a post with gay content, I near get the vapours when I feel called to write about faith issues, I know, without failing that when I do those things I will get letters telling me that what I've written is 'inappropriate for a public blog.' I will get advice that sounds threatening, that I will lose my readership, that am endangering my reputation, that 'people don't come to this blog for that kind of thing.' Sometimes those letters are a bit frightening because of the intensity of the opinion. I am blasted for writing about faith by those who don't have faith, I am exhorted to leave my sexuality out of it by those who do.

And yet, this has always been, intentionally, a personal blog, a personal journal. I share the pages of that journal for those who wish to read. I don't charge a subscription fee, I allow my blog posts to be published and republished in newsletters or on other blog pages, even sometimes in journals and newspapers - without charge or without financial gain of any kind. I don't ask for donations, I don't have a wish list of gifts that people can send me (although I have received, on occasion cards and, maybe twice, small gifts from readers - lovely things that arrive out of the blue),    I don't take any kind of cut from anyone. I wanted this to simply be mine and simply be a place where I can be who I am and write what I want.

It is interesting that those who write me don't often comment on various blogs, their letters always seem to presume a relationship with me that they do not have, that they are writing me because they are concerned about me and want to be a guide for me, that they are expressing concerns that my voice will be muted. I write every person back, I try to be respectful in my tone and in the content. I let them know that my voice comes from me, all of me, not part of me. That my history as a gay person and my experiences of discrimination and of oppression informs my opinions and world view more than anything else in my life. That my faith, the comfort I receive from those moments of silence and communion, give me the space to both reflect on my life and to challenge my life. Faith, sought only for confirmation, to me, is suspect, faith that challenges assumptions and demands growth, however, is valuable. To me, these things matter, so as someone writing a personal blog, they will both be here.

I have received these emails occasionally over the years. In the last year or so, they have become tiresomely frequent. I am always taken aback by the anger, and sometimes almost hatred, that lurks behind them. I am writing this now because it was only a few hours ago that I recognized that what was happening was a kind of bullying that I find unacceptable. When I was in high school I was bullied because I wasn't quite what people thought I should be. Now, again, I am being bullied because I'm not quite who people think I should be. It wasn't acceptable then, and it's not acceptable now.

A few weeks ago, I found myself starting to freeze when I came to writing a blog. I was beginning to fear what would result if I wrote about this or that, if I expressed myself honestly. I had things I wanted to say but I found myself editing myself even before writing a single word. Suddenly I was writing for the wrong reasons, I was writing for a 'readership with expectatioins' rather than writing a personal journal and inviting people to read if they so choose. For the most part I think I've managed to write what I've wanted to write, but there was a kind of dread in pushing the 'publish' button.

The point of today's blog is to remind you all, and I know that I've got some of the best and most supportive readers that a blogger could want, that this is a personal blog. I value your opinions on what I write, I find that my comment section is often more interesting that what I write here on the blog itself. I value you all. I want to get back to valuing myself and my life and my voice. I'm going to attempt to push aside the fears that fill me when I sit down to write something here. I don't think that you'll notice much of a difference in content, but I want to experience a difference in writing. I want it to be a joyous, or a thoughtful, experience - not one that frightens me.

I apologize for writing a long blog about blogging ... all the experts say not to do this ... but to hell with the experts, this is my blog about my life and therefore it's my choice.

My choice.


Louise said...

This is good stuff! SO important to be able to write with joy and not anxiety over how it will be received.....

I think you put your finger on it when you said 'their letters always seem to presume a relationship with me that they do not have'. It's a direct consequence of writing so personally, that as a reader it's easy to think we know you. When I met you for the first time at a training not so long ago, I know I greeted you and Joe with some sense of ....... what? Friendship? Almost. After all, we know what you think on so many things, and the lovely anecdotes you share about Ruby and others, it's easy to forget it's not mutual. And I guess for some that means some confusion when you write about parts of your life they're uncomfortable with.

I'd love to think I don't try to correct my friends when their values are not my own, but I don't think it's true.

I'm not sure I really have a point to make here, just, it's very interesting..... the virtual world, so near and yet so far from the real one.

Anonymous said...

Dave, There are some subjects on your blog that really interest me, some less so. I could write to you with suggestions of the things you should include. However, it would never cross my mind to do this, as this is your blog. You can write what you wish and my only decision is whether or not to read it.

Im sure your response to those who try to tell you what to write is kinder then they deserve.

Karthik said...

Good post.. but my head is swinging a little. :D Happy Blogging Cheers :)

painting with fire said...

Rarely comment but read you daily. I read you precisely because you write a personal blog and are not a mouthpiece for an organization but are talking about your own experiences with your own voice. Am not impressed with those who feel a need to tell you what to do - not surprised either. I think it's very easy to invent a relationship that doesn't exist when reading such a personal voice. I hope you don't stop though. I don't come at the world from the same place you do for a variety of reasons but I really respect and value getting your perspective!

Sasha Smithy said...

I love your blog, I think it's brilliant. And since it's your blog you should be able to write about whatever you want. There are the few posts that I don't care to read, generally the religious ones, but they mean something to you and that's what matters. If I said hey, don't write about Christian stuff because I'm not Christian, that's the same thing as going into someone's house and telling them they shouldn't have decorated their place in such a way because I wouldn't have done it.
It's your blog. It's your home. You can decorate it how you choose. :)

Jan Goldfield said...

Don't stop being Dave. You are the reason we read your words. And keep reading them.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's time to name the bullies, and call them out?

I would post a fair warning to all who presume to write you with the intent of censoring your content:

"If you write to me, I reserve the right to publish your letter, with your name, on this blog for my readers to see and comment upon. Your opinion WILL have your name attached to it. Proceed accordingly."

Internet bullies rely on anonymity to spew their threats/opinions like so much garbage. Shine a light on their shenanigans! Like a letter to the editor of a newspaper--if you want your opinion to be heard, you'd better be willing to attach your name to your thoughts, and let the world know them as yours.


Anonymous said...

Hah! Says the gal who posts anonymously (but never rudely, I hope). I guess it's time to figure out how to choose a "real" identity.


Louna said...

I love your blog. I love the personal voice, and the fact that, although it focuses on disability, it is not just about disability, it is about a personal perspective on a variety of issues (and contains great story telling). I would not have chosen to read a Christian blog, because I'm not religious, and still I find some of what you write about your faith enlightening. In this sense, the fact that you don't always write about what I expect you'll write about makes the blog engaging. And if sometimes an article doesn't interest me, what's the problem? Your not my personal entertainer or informer!
The people who dislike your blog will write letters, those who love it too often stay silent. Don't let the letter-writers gain power over you by inspiring fear! And if you don't feel like writing another polite answer, just link them to this blog article.

Anonymous said...

Just a note to say that I appreciate everything you write in your blog. I rarely comment, but I support your decision to post about the things you post about. And from the perspective of a gay, disabled, progressive Christian, it's a breath of fresh air to read a blog by a gay disabled person who isn't vehemently anti-religion! Thanks for everything you write, it's a huge gift to your readers.


Wordshurtorheal said...

Your heart is beautiful. Keep writing from within it.

Anonymous said...

Ugh so sorry this has happened to you. I read every post and love your daily observations.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that anxiety has stiffened your fingers even once. The great joy I find in your blog comes from its fluency (as well as the elegant interaction between personal and political). Best wishes and I'll be reading, no matter what you're writing.

Belinda said...

Rachel Douglas said it--"Your heart is beautiful. Keep writing from within it."

Those who want to read a one dimensional blog with a political agenda have come to the wrong place, but could find that elsewhere and be happy. I think that those of us who love what you write as a whole and colourful person, would scatter in disappointment if we didn't find "you" here.

And I caught the artfully hidden pie hint. :) It's time for replenishment's--pie is such a comfort at times like this!

Shan said...

I wrote about being a Christian once in seven years of blogging and lost twenty percent of my followers that same day. I stopped posting regular photos of knitting and my comments dropped into the basement and have never recovered.

This is all to say that people show up to blogs armed with a set of expectations and, like any other consumers, they want satisfaction from the product they're "buying" with their time and attention. I guess this is why the niche blogs, particularly the ones with lots of shiny, pro-quality photos, seem to do the best over the long term. The visual format is easy to "digest", so to speak, and viewers always get what they came for in terms of content.

Stay strong! It seems to me that the truer a person's writing is, the fewer readers it gets.

Flemisa said...

Hope you continue to write with joy and honesty. I certainly cannot relate directly to all aspects of your life but there is a common human experience. There is also laughter, tears, hopes, fears, challenges and lessons is a well written essay.
Thank you. A daily reader.

Deborah said...

I really like your blog - and I appreciate that you share your thoughts and experiences so openly. I don't always agree with you, but you provide me with much food for thought.

Anonymous said...


Your blog is your blog. Whatever you want to write about is on topic because it's your blog, and the topic is "things Dave is thinking about and wants to write about."

I am a stranger to you. I don't get to come into your living room and criticise your knick-knacks, or say that your snowglobe is out of place on the table, because it's your table and you placed your snowglobe there because that's where you wanted it! (I don't know if you have a snowglobe or a living room table, but pretend that you do.) Similarly, the words that you place on your own blog are placed there on purpose by you because you feel they belong here and no one has a right to say that's not so.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave, I'm so grateful for your reflections that I read daily - and appreciate that we have some common views and some divergent views about life. What a rich relationship we have had - on that has had a tremendous bearing on my professional and personal life! I don't get to see you as often as I would like - AND I find that your blog makes me feel like we still connect.
Thank you for "taking it for the team" - and if I were to have the nerve to offer you advice, it would be:
Illegitimi non carborundum

Best Regards Susan Ludwig Goharriz

krlr said...

Oh, yes - Illegitimi non carborundum!
(It sounds so much nicer in latin).

Write for the love of writing. We read because what pours out is always interesting, well written, and often unexpected and new. And, as several people pointed out, the naysayers will always write in - the rest of your fans may not always comment (sorry!) but we're here, always happy for another story or tidbit or bit of enlightenment from Dave.

[That said, did someone ask you to write about Robert Saylor? Sorry, my peeps are pretty fired up about him. Please forgive our excessive & apparently clumsy advocacy]

wheeliecrone said...

I have often thought, as I read your blog, that you sound like an interesting person. Someone who would be interesting to have coffee (or tea!) with, and a chat.
It has never once occurred to me that you "should" - that you should have a certain set of beliefs, or attitudes, or behaviours. Never once.

I cannot decide who you are, you decide that. If I tell you who I am, that is sharing. If I tell you who you are or who you should be, that's abuse. Every time.

What I'm trying to say is, you do not need my permission or anyone else's to be who you are. Speaking personally, I am grateful for who you are. Please keep on writing your blog using your personal set of rules. Please keep on showing me your thoughts.

Kristine said...

.....April Fools..? Hard to believe people can be so awful sometimes. Ok, well, maybe not that hard to believe... Anyway, I love your blog exactly as it is. :) I can't imagine reading something, but deciding ahead of time what I want it to say. Then what's the point? If I want to read specifically about a given topic, then I can find plenty of reading on that topic. But here, I absolutely enjoy reading your thoughts and your unique perspectives. No agenda or party lines, just raw humanity. :)

I love how your identity integrates your membership in the disability community, the faith community, the gay community... I also consider myself a member of the first two, and supporter of the third. They're all important to me. And the most interesting, most complex, and often most painful stuff comes, for me, when those components overlap and conflict!

For the record, I also enjoy reading anecdotes about Ruby and Sadie, about the arts, about Canada, about places you visit, and whatever else is rolling around in your head. ;)

Anonymous said...

I hope you will get back to valuing yourself, your life and your voice. I also hope the joy of writing will win over the misery of others.

wendy said...


Thank goodness you don't have to run your blog posts by a committee for approval! Who are these people who think they know more about what you should write than you do??? If they want a particular kind of blog and you aren't writing it then perhaps they should take up writing it themselves!

Anonymous said...

Adding my two cents that of course you should keep writing what you like, and ignore anyone who says otherwise.

Moomin Girl said...

Dave, I have never met you in real life, but I am so, so, so sorry to hear that people have been bullying you about what you have been writing! :(

I have never found any of your content inappropriate. It is thoughtful and personal. You are not writing on behalf of your employer(s), it is clearly just your personal views.

I find it interesting and thought provoking.

How dare people tell you it is inappropriate to write about a loving, longterm relationship between two consenting adults! :(

I feel angry and indignant on your behalf just hearing that!

Writing about you and Joe helps model a loving, mutually supportive relationship for your readers and their children.

It also helps gay and lesbian teenagers know that there is a place for them, there is a future for them. Your blog is a tiny spoonful against the tide of hate and prejudice that drives so many gay and lesbian teenagers to take their own lives.

Love is what makes life worthwhile. Love helps us get through physical pain and illness, through prejudice, through bad days.

Thank you for your blog.

Please don't ever feel the need to censor yourself.

If people don't like what you write, they can choose not to read it!

Deb said...

I've just discovered your blog in these last few days and am enjoying it enormously. Just wanted to express my appreciation for your willingness to be honest and nothing other than what you are, and for sharing that with us, your readers.

As we said back in the 60's;
Peace Out...

Cynthia F. said...

I'm so sad you've got these "concern trolls" after you, Dave.

Personally, I enjoy your blog exactly because it's personal, and because you're a whole, interesting, complicated person. Who thinks really carefully about disability and other issues and tells stories in a way that's taught me SO much over the years. (I still have you bookmarked as "Chewing the Fat."

Change of topic; a question that came up for me from your description of how being gay and discriminated against is the biggest shaper of your worldview. I wonder, is gay something you ARE and disability is something that HAPPENED to you? And does that make a big difference in a way that's important?

Anonymous said...

I'm sad, and frustrated, and a bit angry that people are treating you this way, Dave. I can't believe that people are running around trying to dictate what you should put in your blog! I mean, if you were occasionally putting in x-rated episodes, I'd understand why someone would be taken aback, but you talking in a polite-enough-for-company manner about your life just seems like...well, what a blog is for.

We don't know each other well. I'm a sometimes reader and a less-times commenter, but I keep periodically coming around because I like the you I've gotten to meet via your blog. You seem to keep a hopeful way of looking at people. It reminds me a bit of my fiance, who tends to have that same positive outlook on people - a lot of reading your blog sounds like I imagine his thoughts do. It is something that I have always struggled with, but especially since I joined the disability community.

Be well, Dave, and write what you are drawn to write. It's your space, after all. We're just guests, and guests should be polite to their hosts.