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On blogging and advocacy

WV interviewed award-winning writer, speaker and appearance activist Carly Findlay in the lead-up to her Writeability advocacy writing workshops at this year’s Emerging Writers’ Festival.

When did you first start your blog and how has it developed you as a writer?

I started this blog in 2009, while I was at university studying my masters of communication. I wanted to practise my writing and develop a portfolio of work. I had been blogging on and off for years prior – since 2001.

This blog has definitely developed me as a writer. I can see how I’ve grown, that my blog has narrowed its focus and how it’s a self-reflective exercise. I submit many blog posts to be published elsewhere and when they’re accepted by editors, I know I’ve done a good job on my blog! I have also won a number of awards for my blog and freelance writing – which I am extremely proud of.

What’s your daily writing schedule like? Where do you do most of your writing? Do you ever handwrite or only use a computer?

I sometimes batch write blog posts on a Friday or Saturday night – usually over a glass (bottle!) of wine and by the fourth glass, my writing gets more animated! I schedule my posts for 7am weekdays. I write a lot after I finish my day job – maybe two hours two or three nights a week, and if I haven’t finished something I wake up early and write before work. I try to set aside three hours on the weekend to write too – either freelance articles or blog posts. I write in my day job too – a different type of writing though.

I use my iPhone and iPad notes function the most. They are synced so I can pick up where I left off anytime and anywhere. I often write whole blog posts or articles using my phone on the train to work or while I am waiting for a friend. I don’t often use a computer. Sometimes I handwrite notes for myself but most of my writing is electronic. I’ve always got drafts on the go.

What inspires you to write?

Things that happen to me in daily life – stares, comments, conversations, events I attend. A lot of my writing is about how people react to my facial difference. Sometimes I worry that I might seem like a ranter because I write about these observations. Writing helps me process and discuss these things. But there’s a lot I don’t write about too. And I try to keep a balance – writing about the good stuff and the bad.

I also write a little social commentary – inspired by issues, TV shows, social media discussions and hot topics – usually around appearance diversity or disability. For example, I’ve done blog posts on my dislike of ‘Embarrassing Bodies’, plus the idea of “scary face” at Halloween – which have generated a lot of conversation.

Have you set boundaries for how much of yourself you reveal in your writing?

I don’t write about my day job. I keep that very separate. I also don’t blog or social media about my views on government policy – which can be hard when my focus is on diversity.

I ask people before I write about them on my blog or share their photo on social media.

I don’t write when I’m angry at someone I know, but I do write when I’m angry at something that’s happened to me – for example, last year I was discriminated against by a taxi driver and I wrote about it immediately after. It made me clarify my thoughts, call the taxi driver and wider industry out on this behaviour, was a record and complaint, and has helped to shape disability training in the taxi industry. It made national media, and I have recently been appointed as a member of the disability advisory committee for the taxi industry.

I also don’t write about my sex life, although I do write about love – which I alert my boyfriend to before publishing. He loves reading my blog posts about him, proudly showing his family and friends “that’s my girl” – and I realise they know so much about me!

Why is it important for people with disability to tell their own stories?

It’s empowering, reduces discrimination and exploitation and gets first person stories out there. It increases the expectations about people with disability – showing that people with disability are intelligent, funny, insightful, and great storytellers with stories deserving of an audience. Perceptions about disability can be changed when it’s the person with a disability telling their own story.

Is there any disability area that you feel hasn’t been written about enough?

Perhaps fashion for people with disability, or disability and sexuality that’s not about using a sex worker.

Could you live without social media? (Do you ever turn off the internet and hide your phone!)

No! I use the internet way too much than I care to admit! My phone or iPad is always in my reach. I tweet, I Facebook, I listen to podcasts, I blog and write for online publications. I connect. I don’t switch off.

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