There are countless ‘tips’ articles and blog entries about how to write a blog, including this helpful one from Peace Corps. By no means am I claiming to be an expert blogger. Below you will only find suggestions to avoid struggles I experienced or experience on a recurring basis:
- Set up your blog before coming to country. You do not know what access to internet will be like during PST and we all have grand intentions of starting a blog and writing from day one of training. Help yourself out by eliminating the tedious task of picking a blog name and template to use well before staging, when it is more likely you have fast and reliable WiFi. I did not have access and time to do this until after swearing in. I also took an embarrassing amount of time choosing a layout. This does not mean that there is no point anymore if you are already at site! If you are at post, set it up where you have safe access to WiFi (e.g. PC office, internet café you trust). Or this one time you could spend a little extra time hotspotting from your phone.
- Before you write blog entry #1, think about your audience. Who are you writing to? It will give you focus and set the tone of your blog. I decided to write for my family, friends and future PCVs. Whenever I review an entry before publishing, I ask myself these questions:
a. is this something I want to share with my family and friends?
b. Is this something a future PCV could find helpful, especially one coming to Ghana?
- Really think about what you are writing. Are you saying something that could be construed as insensitive or a display of your [likely] privileged American upbringing? By all means, record your thoughts and experiences but before you hit that publish button, leave that draft be for some time and come back to it later with fresh eyes. I cannot tell you how often I go off on a tangent when drafting a post and later realize how inappropriate it would be to publish. If you catch yourself in the midst of drafting, by all means do not stop writing – allowing yourself to privately vent can be therapeutic and cathartic. No doubt it has been for me.
- If you are unsure you are actually being thoughtful and informative on a sensitive subject, get someone you know will be honest with you to proofread before you publish. I have asked a best friend and other PCVs to read some of my entries to make sure I was not unwittingly crossing any lines. For example, my entry on being called silimiŋa .The last thing you want is a hashtag created in your dishonor.
- Write all your ideas for blog entries down. You think you will remember because it is such a cool topic. But no. You will forget. I do not care how good you think your memory is. Write it down. Keep a little notebook, organizer or start a list on your phone – whatever thing you carry with you everywhere, that can be the keeper of your ideas. Because I do not have electricity at site, I have a notebook where I draft my entries and on the inside of the cover flap, is a list of ideas. I also have a planner – on various pages, potential topics are scribbled.