|Banner by Cody Underwood|
Several years ago, I participated in a scholarship competition hosted by ProgressiveU.org which required participants to blog on social justice issues throughout the course of the competition. Until that point, I'd kind of figured I had nothing to say that anyone would particularly want to read. The competition quickly showed me the error of my thinking. By the end, I was lucky enough to have consistently high-rated entries that received thousands of hits and sparked numerous discussions on issues ranging from politics to religion to education to writing and everything in between.
Eventually, I joined ProgressiveU as a staff member, and later as a member of the board. During my time there, I watched so many young people come to the competition with the belief that nothing they said would really make a difference for anyone, and leave with the realization that people not only wanted to hear what they had to say, but that what they had to say could make a difference. Some of those individuals have gone on to do great things. One now writes for Scientific American, another has found his niche in research into evolution, others found the courage to come out to their friends or parents, to pursue their dreams, or to channel their passion for writing or social justice issues into fulfilling careers.
While I don't think we can solely credit blogging for these successes, I do know that blogging helped instill confidence in these students, in myself, and in thousands of others just like us. My experience taught me that words have power, and that taking the chance and saying something, no matter if it will be well received or not, is infinitely better than remaining silent.
Time constraints don't allow me to do much with ProgressiveU anymore, but I still firmly believe that blogging can be a powerful tool whether you're a writer, a professional, or a college kid with no clue where to begin. That's not only why I blog, but why I write. I may not always have a lot to say, but having the platform to say those important things when they do come up matters to me. So is having the ability to educate others on topics that are important to me.
Writing Fade, for instance, has given me the opportunity to learn more about the plight of gray wolves in the United States, and to share that information with others. Writing Empty Panes gave me the opportunity to connect with people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and to educate others on the reality of the condition. Rapture allowed me to share what I know about drug trafficking and the serious consequences drug abuse can have not only on addicts, but on the people around them.
I can't promise that anything I say on any given subject will make a difference, but I can promise that having a voice and not using it does no good for anyone. And I can promise that, even if you never hear a word from the people reading your work, it has touched someone out there in some way, and they do value that experience.
So I guess you can say my goal here is to share what I've learned in the hopes that it will give someone else the courage to do the same whether they're writers, readers, parents, or the college kid sitting in the back row. I also want to share my writing journey in the hopes that someone out there will find the courage to stop making excuses, take that first step, and write!
Life will always be busy. There will always be a million things standing in the way of your goals if you let them. So don't. Ignore that little voice whispering that you don't have time to do this or do that, and stand up to live. Once you're done, sit down, and write! What you have to offer the world is more important than you think it is, and so are you.
Lofty goals for a blog, perhaps, but what can I say? I'm an idealist, and I am perfectly okay with that. :)