A Birthday Lookback

A few weeks ago wordpress invited me to celebrate the Headtail Connection’s birthday! I knew when I sat down and started blogging that this was something I really had a lot of time and love for, but I never thought that I’d end up known in my department as “the blogger,” I never thought I’d wind up going toe to toe with Hofesh and co. or shared by Neil Gaiman… I never thought I’d have such an awesome bunch of readers interested in what I have to say. I hope you’ll stick around for the next birthday, and as long as I can keep this blog going.

Since blogs are THE medium of the 21st century for getting your opinion out there, and since they’re so, well, free to start, here are some of the things that I’ve learned in a year of blogging for all of you who might want to give this a go.

Things I’ve learned in a year of blogs:

  • Keep to a schedule. It seems trite, but your audience will only be as consistent as you are. I (as I’m sure you’ll all have noticed) have a couple of shorter formats that help me keep putting posts out (just about) once a week. I’ve started to keep a list of topics in a scrap book as well for when I really run dry. Is writing a blog post sometimes the last thing I want to do? Yes. Is it worth it to see people reading and responding? Has it got much harder since I’ve been asked to maintain organizational blogs as well as my own? Hell. Yes.
  • Know your own conscience. This blog is my official professional platform, and sometimes that means not writing about topics that I can’t maintain a professional demeanour about. On the other hand, some of my favourite posts have been the ones where I’ve pushed that boundary. Little old me a year ago wouldn’t have said a word publically against three giants of the choreographic world, but then they messed with my students, and I couldn’t NOT say anything. Keeping a blogs helps you know what you want to say and how you want to say it, and I’ve also pulled a guest post on another, larger blog this year because they edited my viewpoint to the point where my conscience was distorted.
  • Which leads me nicely on to… you cannot be anonymous on the Internet, and you cannot restrict how you get used. When I wrote “A Rebuttal,” I wrote it mainly for my students’ eyes… and then someone tweeted it directly at the big three. I got a lot of lovely responses from all over the dance world, and I got some horrible ones too. One chap thought he could say appalling things and disguise his identity behind a false name. Unfortunately he forgot that the dance world is too small for that… Five minutes later I knew his full name, age, email address, career history, and where he’s hiding. I’m not going to tell all of you that because I’m But be warned.
  • Twitter is your friend – if you use it wisely. Do not spam.

Do not spam. Do not spam. Do not spam. Do not spam. Do not spam. Do not spam. Do not spam. Do not spam. Do not spam. Do not spam. Do not spam. Do not spam.

But do send posts to people you think will like them. At the very least they will share them on and you’ll get more people looking at what you do. At best, Neil Gaiman reads your blog and you twitter like a ditzy fangirl for the rest of the day.

  • You don’t have to attack someone when you state an opinion. I’ve covered some emotionally laden subjects this year, and I intend to keep doing so. In part because more of you seem to care about LGBTQ visibility and educational ethics than you do about comic book characters reviewing critical theory. (I’m still going to do the comics too though, if only for my pleasure). My aim has always been to state my point in such as way that someone who disagreed with me could hear what I had to say without feeling insulted or alienated. Sometimes that means walking more of a middle line than you’d find me holding down in conversation with my friends, but this is a public forum, and I want it to stay that way.
  • You can speak about difficult topics in simple words. I’m always surprised how much people LOVE the In Three Sentences posts. Among by dance academia buddies they are an absolute hit, and I know that students have made use of more than one. I always knew I wanted an academic dance blog that could be read by people from outside dance academia, which has meant cracking down on the Derrida, the intertextual-hyphenating, r(and)om brackets that PhDs love to play with. Is that the route for everyone? No. Do I think there’s a valid place for non-specialist writing? I think it’s essential.
  • Practice what you preach. Your students have read your blog. Your friends have read your blog. People who hire you, your relatives, and people in China who you’ve never met but who happen to be involved in dance will tell your brother in China that they’ve read your blog. So if you start telling people what you believe the ethics of a particular situation are? You’d better be prepared to stick to them. I’ve started to really hold myself accountable for which photos I use since I wrote my piece about pay – I Google search through creative commons and I only use what comes up. I recommend it for everyone, even though it makes it much harder to find the pretty.

Last but not least? I’ve learned that I love blogging. I love having people talk to me about posts, and I love seeing in my statistics that I’ve got readers in a new country. Thanks to all of you for sticking around and making this such a happy birthday. See you next week!

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