I found my voice as a blogger by borrowing someone else’s. Someone who doesn’t exist.
About 10 months ago, I launched Cupid’s Laboratory, a blog about the peculiar world of online dating. It’s a world I spent a couple of years navigating, and where I met a more diverse cross-section of my local single population than I could ever have anticipated. Professors and plumbers, athletes and artists, sous chefs and scout snipers. Oh, and a Fortune-500 CEO, to boot.
All of them looking online—and browsing endless profiles—for their next date, soulmate, or fling.
Since I had approached online dating with infinite curiosity and my favorite V-7 Pilot purple pen, I’d acquired an impressive pile of journaled observations. Oh, I was just itching to share my nuggets of hard-won wisdom (and, of course, a smattering of awkward-first-date tales) with my fellow 40-something online pilgrims.
The creation of a new me
I had also compiled a fair amount of compelling, split-tested “market research” on how to outshine and outwrite one’s dating-profile competition. Yes, I was both strategic and hopelessly nerdy in my optimization tactics. Moreover, I couldn’t wait to shine my contrarian spotlight on all of the smarmy, sexist advice foisted upon women by “dating experts.”
And so, I adopted a pseudonym—just picked the name Gina Kerrigan out of the pre-caffeine ether one morning. After all, I have teen-aged kids. And what teenager wants to know about Mom’s online dating blog, for goodness sake?
Though the pen name sprang from my desire for privacy, it had an unexpected side effect. I found, as I began to post one blog entry after another, that a new, distinct writing voice was emerging. One that was livelier and bolder than the restrained, self-censoring reporter/editor/teacher I had spent a lifetime becoming. Gina was too exuberant and too sassy to give a flip whether all her i’s were dotted and her t’s crossed.
Gina had already dated—and dumped—numerous would-be censors. My buttoned-up superego didn’t faze that vixen one little bit—if she even noticed her arching an eyebrow and shaking her head over in the corner.
And, eventually, that shush-ing librarian vanished altogether—probably to go haunt some aspiring novelist chewing anxiously on a pencil stub somewhere. For the first time in 35 years of writing stories, poems, essays, academic papers, and articles; I felt free to write whatever I most needed to say.
A writing transformation
Then something else unprecedented happened. I … well, actually, Gina … scored a handful of page-one Google rankings for sharing personal examples of successful dating profiles. Single gals who happened upon Cupid’s Laboratory while looking for Match or OKCupid “templates” began emailing to share their experiences. Many of their stories were deeply personal. Some made me giggle. One or two made me all verklempt. But no matter what the story, each woman who wrote seemed to trust Gina to empathize with her dating travails.
And to have the answers to her many questions.
How do I write a decent dating profile?
How do I keep the creepers away?
How should I respond when someone contacts me?
Is it possible to actually have fun with this whole weird online dating thing?
The dialogues that ensued — all centering on the big question of how to optimize the experience of dating online — led to a series of case studies in which I played a role that was half cheerleader, half writing instructor, for each brave volunteer. Those case studies taught me how to break the daunting e-dating process into manageable steps — and how to help others save time through systematic screening.
After seeing a few hundred downloads of a tutorial guide I compiled, an idea for a book series took shape (the first of which I am now feverishly writing). And I’ll be damned if it isn’t the most fun I’ve ever had as a writer. But even better than my happy evenings at the keyboard, I am getting inquiries from readers who are eager to know when Book One will be done.
I adopted a pseudonym because I wanted a private space where I could experiment with subject matter that was personal …and a little risky. I learned through my pen name how to sidestep my inner censor to focus on my readers. And as a result, I planted — with generous handfuls of reader help — the seeds of new books. Books so personal that only a made-up stranger could write them.
Writing as new person … how would that impact you and your approach to blogging?
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