Health Blogging Panel for BlogHer Conference

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

March 28th, 2009 • Chronic Pain LiteraturePrint Print

I’ve been invited to be part of a health blogging panel, for the upcoming BlogHer conference. The moderator asked each panelist to share some topics we’d like to discuss about health blogging. Here’s what’s on my mind:

1.       Commercial vs. personal:

Blogging can be a way of making money, networking with other bloggers, etc. You can get super promotional. But how might that damper your own expression? In the year I’ve been blogging, I have turned organically in a more personal direction. I like it that way much more.

I think that ultimately I’ll build up a stable base, but for now, I may lose some readers because I’m less about, “Come here and learn how to manage your pain” and more, “This is what I feel like talking about, related to my own damn pain.”

2.       Connection between a particular health issue and general issues of wellness:

I’m also moving more in the direction of talking about seemingly general topics – sexuality, family drama, etc. I find that at the end of the day, they are all inextricably intertwined with my experience of chronic pain and my path of healing from it. The more I’ve self-taught about energy healing, mind-body medicine, and such, the more I’ve realized that there are no separations between any part of my life.

How much that is translatable to the general audience remains to be seen. I have been very hesitant to write about this stuff. I’ve been on this kind of pause button on my site, because I’m trying to gather up the courage to really make this blog mine.

3.       Balance between personal life, professional life, blogging life…

…All of this against the backdrop of the need for consistency in the world of blogging – ie, you don’t blog for a week, you lose people. Issues like do we have the newsletter option? I find newsletter to be a pain in the f***ing ass, so I’ve ditched mine. But I haven’t taken it off my site yet, because I am procrastinating the basic changes, because I’m trying to take care of personal and professional life…which brings us back full-circle to the topic at hand.

4.       Legal issues vs. the power of “outing” medical creeps:

Radical feminist thinking suggests that we name names, as a way of taking shame off us and putting it where it belongs. What’s more, it’s useful to know which medical people to stay away from, and it’s cool and empowering to expose medical negligence. But how does that get into legal issues?

Like we don’t have enough going on, when we have health issues to deal with. A lawsuit on top of it? Yikes! What’s more, is it useful for us to be in combat mode, or does that further exacerbate our condition?

5.       Blogging as a platform for magazine and book writing:

Because I can write unrestricted on my blog, I’m able to get out ideas in a comprehensive way. Magazines that like tidy narratives can see where I’m going and take pieces that work for them. They might not “get it” if they didn’t see the whole enchilada — which they wouldn’t, if I were just writing a pitch. The blog is how I got assigned a cover story on chronic pain, for example, for AARP magazine.

6.       Blogging as a platform for connecting with leading “experts” on the cutting edge of medicine:

Blogging is also how I have connected to leading complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) experts – people who don’t do any one-on-one sessions or speak individually with “the masses.” I’ve been able to talk with them for hours at a shot, because they’ve been interested in my work, and because I have given them a platform for theirs.

I’ve gotten to ask whatever questions I wanted about natural pain relief. It was like having a free f***ing session with them – yeah! Very cool, helped me in my healing path, also made for excellent blogging and article material. That involvement of medical experts on my blog in turn amps up the visibility and appeal of my blog, which in turn amps up magazine interest, which in turn amps up medical expert interest…a very lovely cycle.

7.       Comments — in general and from weird and annoying people:

What do we take to heart? Where do we say, “Yeah, I’m generating real and important discussion and helping people,” and where do we take it all with a big fat grain of salt, because who the hell are these invisible people anyhow? Could be anyone saying anything.

I’m considering taking the “comments” option off my site. I don’t want to deal with snarky, rude, random people, even though it’s only occasionally that I hear from them.

8.       Disability issues:

B logging with limited mobility and pain. Voice activated software dilemmas. What happens when the software sucks, and you end up getting laryngitis from so much talking? Then you have no hands or voice to use. I have struggled with this one!

9.       Tech Issues:

How much do we bother working the whole Search Engine Optimization method? In what ways is it useful for our site (through attracting readers, building up the profile, and therefore being more of a magnet for medical experts and periodicals), and where does that focus take us away from a more personal and/or authentic vibe?

10.   Distinguishing self-expression and evaluating gender roles:

What’s the line between critiquing and complaining? Between storytelling and wallowing in self-pity? What is useful and what is counter-productive – to us, to our readers? How much do we care about how useful our writing is to others? (Gets back to #1 – commercial vs. personal.) Do we stay away from expressing anger etc because we’re afraid of being labeled bitchy or losing readers? How does this relate to gender training and expectations?

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