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A Year in Review: How I Create Content for The Aidis Trust

I’ve been volunteering for The Aidis Trust since early June 2016, with my first blog post having been published on 28 June 2016 , a year ago. So now, seeing as it’s been just over a year since my first post was published, I thought I’d write a blog about how I’ve found the experience of volunteering for The Aidis Trust so far, what I do for the blog and a bit about how my creative process works.

So, let’s walk through the stages of creating a blog post. To start off with the blog post needs a theme. Sometimes Richard who oversees the blog at the Aidis Trust, will say that he’d like content on certain topics, but other things I’ve come up with myself. When I first started, I’d come up with the theme each time I needed to write a post, however, as with most writing, you can’t always instantaneously have the right idea, so I’ve started keeping lists of ideas for future posts, so that I’ve always got a list of ideas to look at if I’m stuck. This is useful because I find that the best ideas are the ones that happen randomly while I’m doing something unrelated like eating dinner, getting dressed or having a shower or when I’m out and I do something or someone says something that gives me an idea for a blog post. So, by keeping a list and trying to write things down as soon as I can after having thought of them, I find it helps to give me the best ideas. I do the same for other types of writing and find it helpful.

I also find that advanced planning helps with allowing me to write posts that would require quite a bit of research so that I can do the research over a longer period of time. It’s also useful for interview posts, to have plenty of time to prepare and to make mutually convenient arrangements with the interviewee. We’ll talk about interviews in a little more detail later.

After planning, the blog has to be actually written and then edited. I tend to just write it out how ever it comes in to my head and then edit it. Many writers and I include myself in this, really worry about writing a bad first draft, but I’m actively trying to train myself that that’s okay. This is because I’m finding that often, I can’t make something as good as I’d like in the first draft. I have to come back and edit it to do that. And I’m not alone in this, many other writers say the same. And actually, the posts that I’ve just written and then totally reformed in editing are some of my best. That doesn’t mean that I spend loads of extra time on the post because of the editing process, it just means that I type my post fast, just putting it down how ever it comes out into my brain and spend the time I would have spent mulling over the wording in the initial draft, in the editing stage instead.

With most blog posts, I do two edits. The first edit is mainly about making them say what I want to say as we’ve just discussed, which will often involve big changes such as: totally rephrasing sentences, adding in new sentences and paragraphs, rearranging ideas, deleting sentences, paragraphs and other fundamental things like that. The second edit is more about proofreading, tidying up spelling, grammar, changing phrases, making sure everything flows and so on.

Then it has to be uploaded. The Aidis Trust blog, like many other blogs and websites, is made using a piece of software called WordPress. What WordPress basically allows you to do is build a website without knowing a programming language. So, I have to upload my post to WordPress once I’m done writing and editing it, so that it can become a part of the site.

WordPress is a lovely piece of software in terms of accessibility. It’s very logical, in the sense that pretty much everything is presented to you on the screen in a way that’s screen reader accessible. So, unless there’s a problem, it is a joy to use. It might be useful to explain here, that WordPress works a bit like a website itself, it works out of whatever web browser you use and most of the places where you input information are either edit boxes, checkboxes or buttons just like you’d find in web forms, more often than not divided up by headings. There are really useful lists at the top of the page with all the different parts of WordPress that you can access, such as the place to add a new post, the place to view all the posts you’ve created and so on. When you go in to a section you want, most of the things that you can do therein, are grouped under relevant headings. WordPress itself and using it, is a topic of its own and something I’m hoping to write more about in the coming months.

Then, I have to submit the post and email Richard at The Aidis Trust, who will edit it again and prepare it for publication by doing tasks such as choosing an image. Then, it’s published and you lovely people get to read it.

What’s interesting about this process, is that the period of time over which it takes place varies widely, but when the post is published is never when it is written, it’s a much bigger process than that, particularly with more complicated posts like interviews, which I’ll talk about.

I’ve been lucky enough to do a few interviews and have some absolutely fascinating conversations with some amazing people. I’d say that the interviews are my favourite posts, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the interviewing I’ve done and am currently doing, mainly because I think it’s fascinating learning about how other people experience things. I find it interesting to learn what other people think about things and to learn about new perspectives about issues that are important.

I think something that cannot be emphasised enough is that people are often very eager to be interviewed. If they’ve got an online platform or you’re asking them to talk about something they’re passionate about, they’re often eager to be interviewed. Having sent around quite a few emails about Disabled Voices Online, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how enthusiastic some of the people have been and how often I’ve received emails where people have said it’s really nice to have another disabled person contact them whose also doing stuff online. So I would say, that generally, so long as you’re polite to people and you don’t make unrealistic requests of them, they’re generally happy to help. There are of course people who will say no. There are also people who just won’t respond, either because that’s how they deal with enquiries they’re not interested in or because they are that inundated with enquiries.

The thing I do find though, is that the people who are making a positive difference to a community, are usually busy doing the things they do and with asking them to do things, so I’ve had a lot of email conversations where people have said, they’d love to help out and they will but not just yet. So, I often find I have to wait a while to get interviews done, but I also find that it’s worth it. I’d rather have people help out with stuff when they’ve got the time, so that they give me the best possible answers rather than rushed answers. For the most part, I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to plan the content in advance and just publish interviews when people are ready to have them done.

I am quite conscious that most of the content on the blog is written by me and I’m blind, yet The Aidis Trust supports people with a range of disabilities. While I know people with a range of disabilities, I don’t have experience of the things they experience, therefore I don’t feel that qualified to say that they experience such and such a thing in a specific way. Also, I think it’s more compelling and useful, for people to tell their own stories. That is why I am actively trying to get more people on the blog, because I think it’s important. We are a community, so there should be more than just my voice.

I think volunteering for The Aidis Trust has been and continues to be a useful experience. I also think that for people who are looking at the idea of starting their own blog or website, helping out someone else to start with, can be really useful. This is because it gives you someone who’s been doing it for some time to ask questions to. It also gives you the space and freedom to learn on a platform that you’re not ultimately responsible for. So I will finish by saying, I am very grateful to The Aidis Trust for having me and to you wonderful readers for stopping by and reading. I look forward to another year of exciting blog content.

What blog posts have you enjoyed on this blog? What would you like to see posts about in the future? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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