Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Finding your voice

Instead of weekly threaded discussions, I have required students this term to create blogs and begin posting commentary and reactions to professional readings of their choice. Many of these students are starting their first semester in the program. I know this is asking a lot of them, and hope they don't feel overwhelmed.

One student, a second-year student more experienced with the technology, wrote me a note. It's not the technical part of blogging that has her hesitating – rather, it's putting her thoughts out there for the public to see. "I'm struggling to come up with any original content that is worth posting."

Most of us, once past elementary school, are our own most severe critics. I have always wanted to be a songwriter, but can't get past feeling that my lyrics are trite and obvious, and not worth someone actually singing. How do bloggers have the nerve to just put out their opinions, and not expect to be laughed at?

"I've always been a bit skeptical of blogs," she continues. "The more of them I read, the more I find that a lot of them are either redundant or too lacking in original/interesting content to be worthwhile."

The profusion of bad blogs – that could make it harder to participate. We don't want to be one of those bad blogs out there!

"I've always been hesitant to speak up unless I felt that I had something particularly valuable or profound to say, which has usually meant that I stay fairly quiet!"

Shyness isn't usually a universal thing. We keep quiet in some circles, and dominate others. We can laugh and be funny among friends, but clam up around someone we're trying to impress.

As a teenager I had a problem reading in public. By the second sentence I would be nervous and get all shaky-voiced, barely able to breathe. I was embarrassed, but I figured, hey these people don't hate me. Just finish the paragraph and give them some relief – they don't like listening to you anymore than you like getting nervous. So I never declined an invitation to read; I just lived with the shaky voice. Over the years the problem has become less noticeable, but it's still there in milder form.

Blogs must be like my reading problem – kind of embarrassing, but it's not going to stop me from asserting myself. With some practice I'll develop my voice, and come to feel comfortable sharing my opinion with anyone willing to read!