When I was at school, I never won the popularity contest. Girls didn't want me in their cliques, and boys didn't want to hold my hand during the barn dance. I wasn't cool. For some reason, I raised the topic of Dolly Model of the Year competition with a girl at highschool. Because back then, in year nine, looks were everything. Of course they were, when all I wanted to do is be accepted for the way I look. I said that I couldn't enter the modeling competition because I was too short. She said I couldn't enter the modeling competition because I was too red. "And you'd have to chop all your skin off anyway" she told me. Yep. Because chopping off my skin would leave me dead. So dead girls can enter modeling competitions, but red girls can't? Makes sense. People are dumb.
I've been doing a lot of research for my Masters of Communication thesis. My thesis is about blogging - specifically my own blog, and how it has shaped my identity. I've read literature by academics - the motives for blogging, how blogging is "empowered exhibitionism" and how it "evokes sympathy" in the readers (yes and yes). I've read my own blog entries - the pivotal ones that have been written after an event or impacted my life in some way (and these blog entries usually fall into both categories). Autoethnography as a research method is pretty narcissistic, but then again so is blogging. And I write what I know, so it makes sense to research what I know.
Anyway, through my research, and discussions with my thesis supervisor, I have come to realise that so many of my blog entries have shaped my identity and paved my way. Since I've had my blog, it is the most comfortable I've ever felt with myself. The work I've put into the writing on my blog is the same type and level of work I've put into my day job, my volunteer work at the hospital and on TV and freelance work (though writing could be classed as volunteer work too, because so much of it is unpaid!). It's helped me find myself and validate myself to an extent. And having this blog has made me find amazing people - online and in real life. Wait! Blogging is in real life! It is as valid as the conversations we have on the phone or over a cup of tea. It's as valid as a journal. It's more real than watching a soap opera. The community generated by blogging is warm and embracing and supportive - for the most part. And blogging is one of the best ways to get writing out for the world to see. Most importantly, my blog allows me to be me, finally.
So when the finalists for the Sydney Writer's Centre Best Australian Blogs 2012 competition were announced yesterday, I held my breath. I wondered if I would be a finalist again. Between reading academic literature, I refreshed the browser and updated my Twitter feed.
Turns out, the judges like me. I am a finalist in the personal/lifestyle blogs category. Along with some amazing writers. Amazing writers. And what's more, supermodel and writer, Tara Moss, is a finalist in the words category. So, take that year nine girl - I am getting my chance to shine against a model! Winners are announced on 10 May 2012.
When I first started out blogging, way back in 2000, I was 18. I didn't put my name to my blog, nor my face. It was a Diaryland platform and I don't even think Diaryland exists anymore. Then I moved onto Deviantart, Blogsome as a uni new media assignment, and then MySpace. I started Tune into Radio Carly in December 2009. My first posts on this blog weren't that great. I didn't expect much. But my motivators were to develop and improve my writing and become a part of the blogging community - that for a while, I was just a spectator in via reading blogs and tweeting to bloggers.
And now, wow. It's given me so much. A voice to help educate people a little. A passion. New friends. Confidence. Improved skills in writing, photography (if you count iPhoneography), observation and self promotion. It's also given me the ability to be introspective and reflective, and write out my thoughts. Sometimes it's hard to be 'on' all the time as a blogger. People expect a lot of you, particularly if you stand for some sort of cause. I try my best to represent well, but in the end, I'm just me, having opinions and making mistakes like everyone else. As for the criticism - it can be tough, but I get more walking down the street than online. It's nice to be sort of popular.
I was nominated for this Best Australian Blogs competition by someone I don't know. Thank you, whoever you are.
Thank you to the Sydney Writers Centre for judging me as worthy. It is nice to be recognised as a real writer and included in this list.
Thank you to everyone who comes to read this blog, those who leave comments here, who share my links and who join in the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you to the beautiful friends I've met through blogging - those who I've met in person and over the screen, you're wonderful.
Thank you to the wonderful bloggers who make me want to be a better blogger. I admire your writing, your honesty and your lives so much.
Thank you to my parents who are my best publicists (would you believe that they met someone in a Flinders Island (off Tasmania) pub who reads my blog?! - it came up in conversation as Mum's into giving randoms my business card!) and my friends and colleagues in real life who support me (and probably roll their eyes at my passion!).
Thank you to my hospital team who are more than just skin specialists - they're an ear and a laugh, and are now convinced that putting a picture of myself on my blog was for the best. And they believe in me so much that they're helping me get to the UK to speak at Appearance Matters! Now that's a brilliant sponsorship of sorts!
Thanks to the Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation for helping me out too - so exciting to be a grant recipient.
Thank you to that boy for breaking my heart several times (and for giving me permission to write about it!).
And thank you to anyone who has ever doubted, teased, patronised, harassed or insulted me for how I look.
Thank you for believing in me.
(Should I ever win an Oscar, that will be my speech. How very Gwynneth.)
If this hasn't convinced you about the power of blogging, wait til you read my thesis. It's due in on 11 June. ;)
Lastly - I don't think blogging, nor this competition, is a popularity contest unless you let it be. Yes, this competition is one that is judged by writing experts and the peoples' choice is, er, voted by the people (and you can vote for me here). But blogging's about writing. It's about sharing stories and photos. Being authentic. Having a voice. Making a difference. Amongst the blogging community, I believe we're all running our own race. To be the best we can be at our own measure. To write the best we possibly can.