Saturday, 2 May 2015

The First of The Five Ps of Blogging & Writing: Be Passionate

I’ve been writing a blog since 2008.  Entitled Mel Menzies: An Author’s Look at Life, with the subtitle, Resources to Inform, Inspire & Encourage, I guess it must do what it says – not ‘on the tin’ as the saying goes, but on the banner of my website.  Why?  Because of the number of viewers it attracts.  And because I was asked, a few years ago, to participate in running a seminar at The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, on the process of blogging.

It occurs to me, however, that many of the strategies and procedures surrounding blogging may, also, be relevant to any type of writing.  So here, in the hope of improving writing skills, is my view on The First of the Five Ps of Blogging & Writing: Be Passionate.

BE PASSIONATE - Write about issues that are near and dear to your heart
A Facebook friend, worried about possible repercussions, recently posed the question, should she reveal all and publish details about her disabled daughter?  It’s a good question.  There’s no doubt that stories – particularly true stories - resonate with readers more deeply and meaningfully than a didactic or academic approach.

Why?  Because as I wrote last in last month’s blog, rather than Telling your reader what they should do in specific circumstances, story is about Showing them the mental, emotional, and spiritual experience of another human being.

Learned behaviour
Isn’t that the way all human beings learn?  And not just human beings!  Bruce, our Alsatian puppy and much loved family pet when I was a child, learned instinctively from the more mature – and far superior – behaviour of our black and white cat, Beauty.  In my parents’ large London garden, with a busy road nearby, her kittens needed protection.  She, clever creature that she was, showed Bruce what was necessary and thus trained him to be the Nanny, carrying her kittens around in his mouth, rescuing them from the pond, even teaching them to lap.  He did all the running, so that she, lady of the house, might take a more leisurely approach to life, lazing around, grooming her coat, trimming her whiskers.

Using Anecdotal Material
Am I becoming boring?  I’ve already written about my passion for story in a previous blog From Fact to FictionBut what I’m trying to say here is not that we should all become novelists.  Nor that testimony carries more weight than other forms of writing.  Simply that the use of anecdotal material brings to life and reinforces what we’re trying to say.

Take my book, Stepfamilies, which is neither fiction nor testimony, but is a How-to-Book.  The topic under consideration in the following quote is how a stepchild should address their parent’s new spouse.  Here’s the teaching format from the book:

 ·      Whatever the situation, our part as adults is to provide a sympathetic listening ear
·      an acceptance of whatever makes the child comfortable
·      and an assurance that no pressure will ever be brought to bear when it comes to forms of address.

 And here’s the anecdote that supports that teaching.

“When Sonia was thirteen and wanted to call me by my Christian name, I objected and wouldn’t allow her,” said Maggie.

But gradually it became apparent that Maggie’s stepdaughter, though grappling with feelings of disloyalty to her natural mother, actually felt excluded every time she heard Maggie’s two girls calling their mother ‘Mummy’.  Only through the intervention of one of Maggie’s friends was the matter ultimately resolved.  Maggie realised that her stepdaughter had been side-stepping the issue.

“She’d never really called me anything,” she said.  “Eventually, a friend asked her what she would really like to call me and she said: ‘Mummy’.  I think she felt left out being the only one of the three girls not to call me ‘Mummy’.”

Can you see how much more the story engages the imagination of the reader?  As this photo of me in the studio on BBC Radio Scotland shows, that book has brought me more radio and TV speaking engagements than almost any other.  I'll be discussing possible reasons for that in a future post on The Five Ps of Blogging & Writing.  But for now, let's look at one specific possibility as to Why?

Left Brain v Right Brain
In a theory known as lateralisation of brain function, each side of the brain is said to control different types of thinking.  The left side is understood to be more logical, analytical and objective, while the right side is believed to be more thoughtful, intuitive and subjective.

So where the bulleted teaching material above would utilise only the left hemisphere of the brain, I would suggest that both right and left hemispheres would be brought into play when reading the real life example.  This, I would dare to say, is because the left side of the brain - in a detached manner - is examining the logic presented by the words in the story, while at the same time the right side is assimilating the information in a way that pictures the scene the story paints, and embraces that image by adapting it to suit the reader’s own personal situation.

In other words, the brain is using all its functions, rather than only some.  And in doing so, your reader has absorbed, analytically as well as by osmosis, the issues that you, the author, have presented in a passionate manner, as being near and dear to your heart.  Very much like my Facebook friend, in fact, whose Open Letter to George Osborne about her disabled daughter has received more hits on her blog than ever before.
Simples.  Mission accomplished!

NEXT TIME WE’LL LOOK AT THE SECOND OF THE FIVE P’s: BE PROTECTIVE – Guard your integrity and that of your subject

Author, Merrilyn Williams, recently retired ACW Chair, writes also under the name of Mel Menzies.  Her latest book, Time to Shine, a psychological mystery, is written in the style of Jodi Picoult but substitutes counselling practices for police procedures.  Set in Exeter Cathedral Yard, and with themes of forgiveness and wholeness, this book has already received several 5* reviews.  Publication date is 26th June, or pre-order now from Waterstones

Merrilyn blogs on creative writing, speaking and relationships.  Her website, An Author’s Look at Life, provides Resources to Inform, Inspire & Encourage Twitter: Facebook:


  1. Such an interesting perspective - thank you.

  2. Excellent advice and eminently helpful info. Thanks, Mel! I look forward to the next instalment. :)

  3. Thank you ladies. It occurred to me, afterwards, that Telling about Right Brain activity was exactly the opposite of the Showing I was trying to advocate. Duh!