On Friday, I attended Northern Voice, an annual personal blogging conference here in Vancouver. Last year, I presented at #NV10 as part of a panel discussion on using Social Media in the Arts. In March, Lorraine Murphy, Kazia Mullin and I were all staying at the Serenata Guest House in Penticton, as we were presenters at the Eat.Drink.Tweet Conference. While polishing off a bottle of wine, we decided to pitch a session to the organizers of #NV11. We were accepted, and presented a panel discussion on Friday morning called Courting Controversy: Dancing With the Devil.
I’ve written about controversy before. I don’t consider myself to be a controversial blogger. I’m too nice, and furthermore, I write a marketing blog. I don’t think it fits within my mandate to slag folks, although I have on occasion.
Courting controversy on your blog has its pros and cons. We looked at the example of Nerdy Apple Bottom. She’s a blogger from the American Midwest, and she wrote a post around Hallowe’en called My Son Is Gay. You see, Nerdy’s five-year-old son decided he wanted to dress up as Daphne from Scooby-Doo for Hallowe’en. So, they got him the costume and all, but there was a lot of controversy when they showed up at school that day. So, she wrote a post about it. The post got 140 Million hits in 48 hours and to date, has 46,592 comments.
Wow. So: upside: hits. Traffic. People that have never heard of your wee little blog are finding you. And many people are very supportive of your point of view.
The downside: trolls. Site crashing if you don’t have the bandwidth. And all the negative criticism. Do you have a thick enough skin to stand it?
For me, as a writer, maybe not so much here on this blog, but in other places, I feel like it is my responsibility to expose truths. To peel back layers. To force people to look at things they’ve always seen in a different way. Lorraine’s favorite quote on this (she attributes it to Oscar Wilde, but I think it’s Brecht) is:
Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.
At the end of the day, you have to be true to your own voice. Don’t write about things that are controversial just to get hits. People will see through that. Don’t engage in a flame war. But if something bugs you, and you can express that in a way that doesn’t slander anyone, then you have every right to do that. It’s your blog. And your blog, by its very definition, is your voice, your experience, your life. I’m not saying you shouldn’t research your facts, and put stuff on your blog that is not backed up with solid research. The truth is, if you speak from your heart, there may be times when you will be controversial, whether you are trying to be or not.