Hi all!

 

I thought I’d hand my worries over to outsider perspective and see what ya’ll have to say! I’ve been writing content for a blog that I’ve wanted to launch for a while now but I’m having anxiety about ACTUALLY putting it out there to the world and hence haven’t got the blog up and running. I found reading this guide to starting an effective blog SUPER helpful but I've still got a few outstanding anxieties that I was hoping for some perspective on.  

 

I’ve got personal and professional interests in health, mental health and wellbeing, ethics, and various EA cause areas. I’ve been writing about topics broadly in the space of the human experience, mental and emotional health, and EA-related cause areas (climate change, systems change, a little bit about AI, animal welfare etc.) and outlining the “link” between them. It’s also about helping people overcome mental/emotional barriers that prohibit them from doing effective work in the world.

 

I appreciate there’s a bit of imposter syndrome here and I’m happy and willing to work through this for the broader goal of what I want to do. But still, a few worries remain. Here are a few (from the specific to the broad) that I was hoping some of you might help me to get a different perspective on.

 

  • The blog title: While the title I have makes sense to me and I think it would to others too, I can foresee a way that some might choose to interpret it in a less favorable way (that would make me seem like I'm trying to say I have it all figured out, which is actually the opposite to the theme of the blog!). Do I change my title based on the projected dissatisfaction of a couple of people, or do I keep my title? 
  • The articles/content: I can only write about what I know. My writing draws on my own human experiences but also from my work as a doctor where I have glimpsed into the inner world of 1000s of people over the years (and, well, just from being a person in the world I’ve met a lot of people too!). I would never claim to “know it all” or have it all figured out but I worry about negative feedback from people assuming I’m writing with this intention / being narcissistic or arrogant (which would never be my intention). How else can I think about this?
  • Content reception: What if people don’t “get” what I’m trying to write about…? What if it's too esoteric (I don't actually think it is but it's not your average opinion/mental health type writing). I’m not really sure how else to phrase this, this is probably an incompletely thought out concern. 

 

Readers / engagement 

  • Falling on deaf ears: What if no one actually reads it? 
  • Putting my writing out there: How do I put myself out there without seeming like I’m advertising myself/my work? (I struggle a bit with this because although I know I have genuinely valid things to say, I’m the sort of person that puts my ideas out gently into the world. By the same token, it would be nice for people to actually read my articles…! So I realise I'll need to strike a balance here). How can I think about this?

 

EA specific concerns

  •  Perception of the EA community: I’m worried about what the EA community at large will think about my writing/ideas (I can appreciate writing this out that this isn't a concern I should hold onto because everyone in the community has their own perspectives, yet still it remains. I think it echoes some broader “imposter syndrome” I have within the EA community because I don’t think I “know enough” to have an opinion). How else can I think about this?
  • Differing opinions on certain EA topics: Some of my ideas about certain aspects of EA might not always align with the broader community at large (I don’t have any big examples here but just perhaps differences in cause prioritization, how to think about EA in general etc. - again I can see this probably just makes me a normal human with my own opinions but I worry about being perceived in a certain way by the community at large). How else can I think about this?
  • EA content to non-EA'ers: My content to non-EA’ers: I worry that non-EA’ers “won’t get it” and might see some of the principles of EA as not aligned with their values / off-putting etc. How do I think about this? 

 

Getting feedback/mentorship as a writer

- Any general tips from writers out there on how to get honest feedback on my writing? I worry that if I’m just writing my blog it could be a bit of an echo chamber type situation where I’m just reading my own perspective and not getting feedback about the writing itself. 

 

Epistemic concerns 

  • Changing opinions: Because my articles are a combination of factual and opinion, sometimes I worry that I’ll have written an article and may form a different opinion later on and this stops me from actually committing to putting that opinion out there now. How else can I think about this?
  • What if I get something wrong: I might be writing about certain things and cause areas where I'm not an expert. I may misinterpret or misrepresent something in the midst of that. How do I think about this / recitfy this? 

 

Being a doctor specific concerns 

  • I'm not writing as a doctor, I just happen to be a doctor too: With respect to writing about mental health/wellbeing, I am anxious about the Dr. tag attached (not that this is a huge focus of my writing nor would I hugely promote this BUT my experience in life is undoubtedly informed by my work). I don't want to be seen as writing as a Dr. (because I worry that I'll be perceived as purporting to "know it all", because I'm anxious about the differing perceptions the Dr. tag might afford etc). even if some articles do relate to my work or are informed by my work. 
  • The 'doctors don't get mental health' brush stroke: I always find this attitude really trick because in SO MANY ways I understand and agree. Yet I undoubtedly see both sides to this notion. I don't want to be boxed in as being 'one of those' doctors who 'doesn't get it' (quotations because I think this is often an unfair tag and is such a dense, layered topic that doesn't have just one perspective to it). How can I think about this?
  • The perception by the medical community factor: I worry about how the medical community would perceive me writing about mental health, especially with regards to areas where my view might differ or where I might have negative comment on the way things are done (although this is not a large focus of anything I write about). 
  • The medicolegal stuff: I worry about someone construing my writing as giving health advice (which it isn't). I feel like I always need to caveat and disclaimer my writing and this just starts to feel like I'm losing authenticity. 
  • The medical community and Dr's mental health stigma factor: Although I am writing to tackle this particular anxiety, there is a bit of a worry about my work getting out there and then it being made aware that I am a Dr. who has struggled with mental health issues. Part of the reason I DO sometimes write about my experiences with mental health issues as a Dr. is that in the past, I didn't get help when I needed it because I was worried about what the medical community would think and I now see this as completely unacceptable that I've become extremely vocal about my own experiences. Still, a bit of stigma looms over my head. Any general thoughts on sharing vulnerable things in writing?

 

General vulnerability concerns

- I am writing about things including mental health and well-being and I often write about my own lived experiences. Some of these include sharing experiences with mental illness and various garden variety type struggles / “things” (for want of another word!) that can be a bit vulnerable to share. While I am completely willing to do this and that is part of the point of the blog, there is a little bit of anxiety about putting something out there into the ether that I then can’t take back. Any thoughts about this?

 

Comment/criticism on systems

- Some inevitable points that I will touch on include comment on certain systems that I see as damaging and corrosive to people's health and wellbeing. Some of these include certain governments/policies (which I can’t perceive copping any flack for) but others include broader systems I’ve worked in (like health - which has a WHOLE host of things I’d touch on). I worry that commenting negatively on the health system in Australia (for example) might have professional ramifications if I want to work again in health. How do you make public comment on something without shooting yourself in the foot?  

 

I think those are sort of the general concerns I have. Anyway, any general or specific tips would be super appreciated! Also happy to be DM’d or emailed if that is preferable. 

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7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:46 AM
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Hey, this is very relatable! With regards to finding an audience, one thing that can work really well is if you can get to know some other people in EA (or who are generally the type of audience you're looking for), and let them know when you have a new post out.

If your target reader is someone who's pretty involved in EA, you might try: -reading and commenting on the blogs of other people in EA, and they might read yours in return -sharing with your EA friends on Twitter or Facebook (people will just scroll past if they're not interested, as long as it's not the only thing you post don't worry about annoying people) -cross-posting to the EA Forum

You can also ask people from those groups for feedback on your title and your first few posts - lots of people are happy to help out!

Hey, thanks for your input, those are all helpful points. Yes, perhaps I’ll seek out a few people to ask for feedback.

If your blog posts are similar to this post, you'll probably be fine. In this post, you seemed transparent about your thoughts and didn't seem arrogant. Although, I do agree that something like a blog title could be taken out of context. Maybe you should share the title you're considering in your post or with friends so people can provide feedback?

Similarly, I'd guess that if you explain your reasoning and confidence in your claims, you'll be more willing to update them after publishing. Then I'd guess you'd be less likely to feel like you've staked your reputation on a statement.

And if nobody reads it, so what? That would be the same outcome as not publishing anyway.

I don't know enough about how your posts would affect your career. But unless your audience is huge, I'd presume you could delete your posts before you apply to jobs.

I'm pretty anxious too about posting in the EA forum, I have probably 15 or so posts in draft. I should totally post one of them today

So, no magic bullets, but here's what I do:

  1. I check my posts so I know they're actually good
    1. This post didn't get many upvotes, but let me tell you, it's amazing. I wouldn't be too surprised if an RCT discovered it's worth a 10% salary increase for people (sometimes way more). I totally stand behind it
  2. I practice slowly. I try to post something instead of nothing, but I don't push myself too far outside of my comfort zone at once. I think about it as exposure therapy (see Scott Alexander's post)

OMG I only had 2 ideas for you?.. [inner voice is disappointed in myself. but it suggests to just write this concern explicitly and reply anyway]

Regarding titles, ultimately, the content is what is most important. Titles can be just a way to remember where a certain blog post is or to tell someone else where it is. Even if it doesn't make sense initially, I imagine after your content is read it is likely that the reader will see how the title fits the content.

Regarding coming across as a "know-it-all," I would say just put in caveats and notes about the limitations of your knowledge. Perhaps you could make the posts somewhat open-ended in that regard and edit them later with updates.

Regarding readability, maybe you could experiment with sending a draft of your post to different people to have them rate how readable/understandable it is, and then make appropriate adjustments.

Regarding it not being read, maybe it is valuable to be out there if at least somehow does eventually read it. 

Regarding potentially looking like you are advertising yourself, I would say not to think about it and let your posts be people's basis for making judgements about your intent. This might be related to trust. Trust takes time to build, so it might take a while for people to realize you're not just advertising yourself.

Regarding the first two EA concerns, my response would be that EA is supposed to be a self-correcting community. It should be expected that they will have thoughts about what you post. It is helpful to the EA community that you have disagreements.

Regarding changing opinions, maybe you could make posts that are updates to previous ones and somehow make it noticeable that it is typical for you to make posts that are updates to previous posts.

Regarding getting things wrong, I would offer the same advice as for the issue of coming across as a "know-it-all."

Regarding your doctor title, people may seem it as normal that a doctor would have a blog. My understanding is that all kinds of people write opinion pieces/blogs.

Regarding the stereotype about doctors, maybe don't think about it and let your writing eventually lead to whatever judgements people may make of your understanding about mental health. If you express yourself well enough, they should form an accurate impression of your view of mental health.

I can tell you my experience with setting up a blog, and maybe you can glean something from that.

I had made my own Reddit page so I could write about the mission of The Borgen Project. I was interning for them and thought that a blog would be a helpful way to draw attention to them and their cause. I didn't have much in mind that I would write about, but I was having difficulty fundraising for them so I was just trying random things.

For the Reddit blog, I listed various statistics about global poverty and raised various questions and speculations in the hopes that I would bring about a large conversation. No one responded to my posts. I am not sure whether anyone read the posts. I did not make many posts. The blog wasn't that productive maybe because of the underlying reasons I had for making it in the first place. I did get somewhat excited when I was working on it. I thought that it might develop into a lively discussion.

giving health advice (which it isn't). I feel like I always need to caveat and disclaimer my writing and this just starts to feel like I'm losing authenticity. 

If you make it clear somewhere that you are not giving health advice, then you do not need to repeat it.

might have professional ramifications if I want to work again in health.

If the critique is valid, you'd probably continue to be well-received.

(I edited this for concision)