What did I learn about blogging and memoir writing?
What were my rewards?
What was difficult?
Making a commitment to record my training log for over ten months, and to write an associated story or article at least once a week, was sometimes challenging. But the rewards were many.
I started posting to my blog regularly almost a year ago, but my readership picked up dramatically one day in November when I started my Olympic Training Log. The initial excitement and large readership was temporary, but there was a core group of followers who read my posts every week and offered encouragement, compliments, and shared memories of events.
Connecting with my readers was one of the big rewards of keeping a blog—and I’ll be writing more about this below. Another positive thing for me was learning more about WordPress. I’m not a “techie” person, and I felt some pride about each feature of WordPress I became familiar with. I also used Photoshop regularly. One of the most time-consuming aspects of keeping the blog was finding appropriate photos or other visual artifacts that could make my stories more appealing.
I enjoyed the process of creating a record of that 10-month period leading up to my Olympic final in Seoul. My training log from that time was the factual basis for what I wrote, but I also had to dig into other printed materials and photos I had saved. At times I did research on the Internet to verify race times and find out rankings and records.
I was grateful that many years ago, my husband Paul Tinari had made a scrapbook using the hundreds of newspaper clippings I had stuffed into shoeboxes. I kept a rather random assortment of other printed materials over the years: race results, World Cross Country programs, and a few running magazines. I was saddened by the thought that I could have saved so much more—I would have appreciated those mementoes now. I have very few old photos of myself running.
As I perused my 1988 training log and various race results, I was often struck by how unreliable memory can be. I like to think of myself as a truthful person, but I discovered that I had been telling warped versions of some events for years.
Blogging is a very personal form of writing
I like the spontaneity of blogging. Even though I was writing a memoir of sorts, I was free to incorporate stories that weren’t part of my 10-month narrative. I didn’t plan my blog posts very far in advance of publishing them. All kinds of things stimulated ideas of what to write about. Once I started going back in my memory banks, I discovered that the wealth of stories there is almost infinite. Often it was the races or injuries described in the training log itself that I wrote about, or training tips gleaned from many years of running. However, blogging is a very personal kind of writing. It seemed natural (and unavoidable, at times) to incorporate current events of my life into my posts. Also, blogging encourages interaction with readers, and some of my best posts were sparked by comments or questions from my readers.
The first six months of writing my Olympic Training Log was a time of crisis in my life; my coach George Gluppe’s health was declining rapidly, my marriage was over, and I was trying to establish myself in a new career as a freelance writer and editor. I had to find new homes for both myself and George, and I recognized that I couldn’t be George’s caregiver any longer.
When George passed away in April, my blog took on a whole new significance and function. My posts about George reached many people, often with the help of Facebook and emails. Friends and acquaintances I hadn’t heard from for decades (most of them from the running world) got in touch with me. Their stories about how George had inspired them and influenced their lives gave me enormous comfort. In a sense, these stories gave me back the strong, athletic, fanatically encouraging coach and friend George had been to me for so many years; the painful memories of the past year weren’t erased, but they were put into the larger perspective of George’s immensely successful life as an athlete, teacher, and coach.
Who reads my blog?
Most writers want to have readers, and like most writers, I found getting feedback about my blog both rewarding and helpful. It’s exciting to connect with others who share common memories, passions, and emotions.
I’ve read that a blog should have a clearly-defined focus, with a specific target audience, if the purpose of the blog is to reach and retain readers. In my case, it was true that my blog became more popular after I narrowed its focus to my Olympic preparation. Since running is the area of my life in which I’ve gained the most recognition and expertise, it makes sense that people might want to read what I write about running. Initially, most of my blog views came via Facebook links, and many of my Facebook friends are runners.
However, as I continued to post regularly, with appropriate tags added to each article, the majority of my views started coming from search engines. It surprised me that a small blog like mine would be found so frequently.
The tagline for my blog is “Reading, Running & Relationships”—and so far, my blog has been almost entirely about running!
I don’t plan to give up posting about running. I have many more stories to share.
But I’m in the process of developing another blog that will show my “professional face” as a writer and editor.
As for writing about relationships, that’s a tricky business. How can anyone write about relationships without getting personal? How do writers decide how much to reveal about themselves and those close to them? And in this age of social media, we all have to choose how much of our “true self” we will show in our online personas. Sometimes I rebel inwardly about the almost relentlessly positive vibe of most online messages. My negative side screams to be let out. But I too feel the responsibility of trying to be a positive role model of sorts, to maintain the positive attitude that I do feel (at least most of the time!) about running and other parts of my life.