Carrying the Message: How Sharing in a 12-Step Group is Like Writing a Successful Blog Post

Hi, I’m Venus, and I’m a blogging addict.  (Hi, Venus!)

But seriously, a lot of aspects of a successful blog post are similar to a “successful” share at a 12-step meeting.

First, what do I mean by “successful?” I believe that most people blogging want their posts to be read and liked, just like I believe most people sharing at a 12-step meeting want their audience to pay attention an find something valuable in what they have to say.  In 12-step programs, this concept is called, “carrying the message.”  If each person only shared a self-centered, narcissistic view of what was going on in their own lives or an egocentric monologue about the topic of the day, 12-step meetings could not work as they do.  Instead, each sharer (in theory, as they gain more experience in their recovery) is supposed to blend a share from both what is cathartic to say with what will inspire their listeners.

This blending consists of what is called, “experience, strength, and hope.” Say that I’m sharing at a Blogging Anonymous meeting. (Disclaimer: Blogging Anonymous, like 12-step groups for pretty much every type of addiction known to mankind, may indeed exist despite my ignorance of its existence.  I am not a member of that group, therefore I am not breaking anonymity by using this hypothetical statement and thereby breaking any of the Traditions that accompany the 12 Steps of that group.)  Like all the other members at that meeting, it is generally expected that I will, during my share, do all of the following:
a) Share on my experience of events and situations related to the topic chosen for that meeting.
b) Talk about how I dealt or am dealing with those events and situations in a way that demonstrates or increases my strength as a person, focusing on solutions rather than allowing myself to get mired in the problems.
c) Explain what insights and realizations I gained by working through those problems toward the intended (or unintentional/incidental) solution or other resolution of the central events/situations related to the topic at hand.

If this formula was not fulfilled by at least a noticeable portion of people sharing at a meeting, if each person simply vomited forth their complaints, issues, and problems — this is what is called “sharing the mess instead of the message” — then 12-step groups could not sustain themselves.  People would simply not stay at meetings to listen to anyone.  Newcomers who start attending meetings need a reasonable motivation to return for the next meeting, to invest themselves in the group, in order to start turning away from whatever addiction is common to the membership of the group, and to eventually find recovery from said addiction.  That motivation — to stay, listen, pay attention to others’ shares, and absorb each message for use in their own lives — cannot exist in an environment of selfish pseudo-sharing.

Similarly, if a blog consists only of self-centered and/or superficial diary entries that no one else can relate to, then few, if any, would choose to “follow” that blog, return to it to read later entries, recommend it to acquaintances, or comment on the blog’s entries.  These are, I’m fairly certain, some of the main goals many bloggers seek to inspire, in order to gain a regular and expanding audience of followers who enjoy or otherwise get satisfaction from revisiting a blogger’s site again and again, to re-read valuable posts or see what’s new.

When you write a post, read it over before you publish and ask yourself these questions:
– If this post wasn’t about me or my life, would I be interested enough to come back this blog later?
– What about this post relates to many other people’s experiences?
– What can others get out of this post that they haven’t already found somewhere else?
– What information do I present that others can use in their own lives?

It’s alright to write exclusively about your own life, but if it’s all about your own unique life experiences and views of the world, try to include some humor or insights that will inspire others to achieve something better in their own lives.  Add some sort of value: a moral to the story, a point that provokes thoughts for others that will draw their attention and make your post memorable.  Remember to carry the message.

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