The 20th of May 2017 is the five year anniversary of my first D4Dementia blog post. I'm not sure how many years you have to be a blogger before people consider you experienced, but with over 200 posts on D4Dementia, over 50 on HuffPost, and numerous guest blogs I certainly feel like a seasoned blogger.
I've gone from being a sceptic ("Do I really want to start a blog?") to a total convert, but what is it about blogging that I've come to love so much, and what would be my tips to anyone about to become a blogger?
One vital piece of advice I was given when I was contemplating blogging was: blog about something you love (which should also be a topic that you know really well).
To fulfill this aim, I could only ever have begun a blog about dementia. A very 'uncool' topic maybe, but much like my dad's 19 years with dementia, blogging about dementia has taught me a lot. It's also been an amazing therapy. But why?
As the saying goes 'Sharing is caring', and where a topic like dementia is concerned that is definitely true. Sharing our experiences of my dad's dementia has been hugely beneficial to more people than I will probably ever know. Why do I make such a bold claim? Because over the last five years I've met so many people who've commented on how useful they've found my blog in numerous different ways, from coming to terms with a diagnosis of dementia to coping with incontinence or dysphagia.
So if you are going to be a blogger, share your experiences genuinely and completely. Your readership deserve nothing less.
If my blog is the gateway to understanding our experiences of dementia, the many emails, blog comments, tweets and Facebook comments are the personal touch. The great thing about a well-known blog is that it reaches people worldwide, often prompting them to share their own experiences or ask for help.
I love helping people, always have, and for me blogging is another extension of that.
So if you are going to be a blogger, be generous with your time when those in need ask for a little of it.
Teaching families and professionals
When describing D4Dementia's purpose, I specified that the blog would 'Inform and educate care professionals and the wider population'. Formal education is expensive, but a blog is a way of giving something back that is accessible to anyone with a device and an internet connection.
All of my consultancy work, training and mentoring materials are inspired by my blog and why not? I write every post with the hope that I will teach a reader sometime in the future somewhere around the world something that they didn't know before.
So if you are going to be a blogger, think about how you can educate your audience - the gift of knowledge is a powerful thing.
Loving memories of my dad
Doubtless there are numerous blogs based on the many different aspects of love. I never set out specifically to make mine one of them, but in sharing memories of my dad and his life with dementia I hope that my love for him shines through. For many people, dementia could be considered an unrelentingly dark topic, shrouded in struggle and misery. For me, the lightness comes in sharing some of the happiness (yes, we had some happy times), the fun and laughter (yes, we had some of that too), and the love.
So if you are going to be a blogger, even if you choose a really tough topic, remember to make your audience feel the love that fuels your inspiration.
Grieving for my dad
I mentioned earlier that blogging had been a bit of a therapy for me. Bereavement is a really strange experience, particularly in the early days. It's impossible to really find the words for how you feel, which is a bit tricky when you're a blogger.
I began D4Dementia less than a month after my dad had died, when dad's death was still very raw. That rawness has since given way to an acceptance of sorts, but undoubtedly writing about my dad, and keeping his memory alive, have been hugely cathartic for me.
That's not to say it would work for every bereaved person, but if you are going to be a blogger and your motivation for blogging comes from a really tough personal experience - be it bereavement or something else life-changing - and you are unsure if the world is quite ready for that content, be brave. You might just surprise yourself, and your audience might surprise you too.