7 April 2014

Happy Birthday!

Warning: this post contains lines of self-congratulation and sentiment which some readers may find distressing (though probably only the British ones).

On 8 April 2013, this blog was born, making tomorrow its first birthday.

After 52 weekly posts, I have a confession to make in this, my 53rd: I only started blogging under duress - more The Reluctant Blogger than The Reluctant Perfectionist. Again and again at writing events, though, I'd heard that agents and publishers expected authors to have an online presence. If I were to stand any chance of securing either representation or a publishing deal for my novel, I needed to build an audience first.

Image courtesy of mrsiraphol/
My novel's central character suffers from OCD and I really did want to get her (hopefully page-turning) story on shelves to promote greater understanding of mental health issues. But I feared blogging would eat into the time I needed to put together submission packages and to keep up my fiction writing.

What I hadn't anticipated was how much I would enjoy writing non-fiction and also the impact my blog itself would have in terms of raising awareness. 

It took a few months for me to see the light. By then, I had engaged with the fantastic mental health community on Twitter, was getting great feedback on my posts and gaining more followers every week. And I'd discovered that I loved the whole blogging process - from the research and writing, to sourcing photos and engaging with readers, and everything in between.

My blog was no longer a means to an end, but an end in itself.

It has led to other opportunities, too, such as writing a guest blog post for the charity Mind, featuring twice on the website of Emily Benet (whose blogging workshop got me started), and giving me the confidence to ask my workplace to promote Time to Talk Day.

At the risk of sounding like a Miss World contestant, I have to say it has also been immensely rewarding to know that my blog has helped people.

Last Christmas, I jotted a note about my website in the cards of anyone who wasn't already aware of it. An old school friend, whom I haven't seen for 20+ years, subsequently texted at length to tell me about her son's diagnosis with OCD. She said my posts had helped her and her husband, and added 'I thank you so much for what you do and for letting us know. It is so important to talk openly.' Her words made me cry - in true Miss World style.

The highlight of my blogging year came this January, when a magazine based in Mumbai, India - Complete Wellbeing - found my site and asked me to write a feature about OCD for them. The resulting two-page article was in last month's issue of the magazine, which has a circulation of about 50,000 in print and 5,000 online. Unexpectedly, I have ended up reaching an audience of a size I could only dream of in book sales.

Writing as The Reluctant Perfectionist has been a wonderful journey so far. Thank you for sharing it with me.


Tina Fariss Barbour said...

Happy Blogging Birthday, Helen! And congratulations on all your accomplishments! I have found blogging to be very rewarding, too. I've connected with so many great people (like you) and feel so much less alone with my OCD. Thank you for what you do to raise awareness. And good luck with your novel! :-)

Helen Barbour said...

Thank you, Tina, it has been great to share our experiences across the Atlantic. I'm still planning to self-publish my novel this year, but have had to delay my plans somewhat, due to other unforeseen events! (as detailed in recent blog posts...)

Lindsay said...

Congratulations, Helen. It's a great blog and will hopefully attract more readers in its second year. Looking forward to the novel

Lindsay said...

Just realised my last comment sounds as if you don't have many readers! What I meant was 'even more' readers!

Anonymous said...

Wow, we have similar blogging stories, Helen. I also started my blog because I realized it was something I "should" do and it has become just as important and rewarding to me as my memoir. Congratulations on reaching this milestone!

Helen Barbour said...

Lindsay and ocdtalk, thank you both for your support and the great feedback.

Emily Benet said...

Happy Blog Birthday! I'm thrilled to hear your news and how rewarding it's been. The good things have happened because you've been so dedicated and consistent! Well done and thanks for providing me with a successful blog story to share at my next workshop!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Emily, I'm delighted to know that my story will be material for your next workshop! Your initial input has, of course, also contributed to my being able to help people through my blog, so thanks again for all your guidance.