Find Your Voice, Shape Your Story

Photo of the author at 33 weeks pregnantSeveral years ago I reconnected with a woman I had known from grade school in Augusta, Georgia. It was 2009 and I was expecting my first child. I found myself yearning for greater connection with my own childhood as I contemplated the impending arrival of our little girl, and was delighted to find through Facebook that several of my friends from grade school were also pregnant, including her. We hadn’t talked in years, so had some catching up to do. This was made difficult by the fact that we lived on opposite sides of the country.

 

Enter her fabulous blog: The Cagles

She started blogging in 2008 and hasn’t stopped – through two pregnancies, two moves, and her 34 year old brother’s stroke in 2012. She blogs about those children, her home renovation project, life in a small Southern city, her extended family, and her photography business (bonus! Lots of beautiful original photography on her blog).

What I love about her blog is that she has a unique and consistent voice. Her posts are written in a style that is intimate, informative, and often very funny. It’s clear when reading a post from 2014 that this is the same person who wrote the 2010 posts, but with a little more living behind her. This gets to the heart of what keeps people coming back to their favorite blogs: great writing about things, people, or situations the reader cares about.

Sometimes you don’t know how much you care until you’re reading it. As I said, she and I lost touch for a number of years, and I haven’t seen her family in ages. Reading the raw, emotional posts about her brother’s stroke hit me hard. This was a man I barely knew – the older brother of my classmate – and yet her writing drew me into his community of concern. When she reported small victories in his recovery, I cheered. When the news wasn’t as good, I prayed. Good blogs create community around shared interests – whether those interests are the health of one person, issues facing a neighborhood, or matters of global concern.

Beyond her consistent voice and descriptive prose, I appreciate that the blog has grown and changed as her life has changed. The theme and navigation have been updated several times over the years without losing the essence of the story she is telling. The blog is called “The Cagles” and has a little tagline underneath the main title. The tagline has changed as circumstances have changed:

  • “Little Family. Growing.” (when they were expecting)
  • “Little Family. Big City.” (when her husband’s job took them to Washington, D.C. for a few years)
  • “Little Family. Big House.” (current status with the aforementioned home renovation)

The site navigation has expanded as she’s added more pages, and as the screenshot below demonstrates, she currently has ten pages that give background to the stories she tells in her posts.Screenshot of Meet the Cagles landing page showing the top navigation bar

I think many blogs suffer from disorganization. Some don’t provide enough pages or categories to really be navigable in a meaningful way. Others go so far down into the weeds with too many categories and tags that it starts to be too cluttered to be enjoyable. The Cagles’ blog hits the sweet spot bloggers should shoot for: it’s organized in a logical way with a user-friendly interface. It’s also searchable and has those aforementioned background pages so readers can jump in and get up to speed on the narrative rather quickly.

All told, this personal blog demonstrates how finding your voice and being thoughtful about design can help you shape your story as a blogger, no matter what the topic.

 

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7 thoughts on “Find Your Voice, Shape Your Story

  1. Thanks for sharing! I am often annoyed when I want background info on others, but either have to read pages of info that I don’t want (because it’s not related to this particular blog). I like the outline of your friend’s blog. I also think the personal aspect is very important. The readers need something to keep engaged.

  2. I think you bring up a really important point here – that social media in general is very powerful at creating community. There is so much press about how isolating our obsession with screens has become, but there are so many aspects to this technological shift that has enabled connection and the creation of networks.

    • Yes! I never would have reconnected with her if it hadn’t been for Facebook (unless, of course, I moved back to Augusta). I think anyone of a certain age who has used Facebook has had this same experience. It rekindles latent communities and helps form new ones.

  3. Kristen, you have highlighted what I think is essential for blog to work: a consistent voice. Readers yearn for connection with the author’s real self, which leads back to the importance of authenticity.

    • So true – authenticity, whether in a personal blog or the blog of an organization, is essential. I have read a few blogs supposedly written by the heads of major organizations. I have also talked to the communications staffers who actually wrote them. You can tell when it’s the true voice of the author or when it’s been ghostwritten.

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