Straight from the Heart: Marybeth Whalen

I am honored to share the first interview in the Straight from the Heart series. Of course Marybeth may not need any introduction — you do follow her blog, right? Just in case you don’t, she is a wife to one, a mother to six, a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker, an author, and a blogger at Cheaper by the Half Dozen . Be sure to stop by her blog and leave her a comment — after you finish reading the interview of course!

When you started blogging, did you have a purpose for your blog? Has that purpose changed since the beginning? How?

Yes, I had a purpose — just to try to preserve the busy last days of my pregnancy with my sixth child and also document her life. I knew that chances were, I would not write anything down if I didn’t set up the blog and make myself! Yes, my purpose did change over time as I formed relationships and connections with other people who became faithful readers. I began to write less for personal reasons and more for a “public” that was out there reading what I was writing. While I still share personal things, I also write with a view towards what will best meet the needs of my readers.

Have you always been open about your faith? or reserved about sharing? Intentionally? or unintentionally?

I have always been open about my faith because I can’t not be open about it. My love for the Lord is an integral part of who I am — His working in my life is part of every story I tell. To not share that would be denying who I truly am. I will admit that it did freak me out slightly when I found out that my agnostic stepfather reads my blog!! I wondered what he must think to read in black and white my commitment to a God he doesn’t really believe in — and then I realized that perhaps God can use the Truth I share on the blog to impact him in a very non-threatening, take-it-or-leave-it way — I am able to share the gospel with him without saying a word! This realization was very exciting to me!

Do you have to be a writer to blog?

I don’t think you have to be a writer, per se, but you do need to have an interest in sharing through words. Otherwise you probably won’t stick with it. I do think blogging makes you a better writer. So no matter where you start as a writer — beginning or experienced — you will get better.

Any tips you’d give new bloggers?

Be willing to start small. Don’t expect a huge audience right away unless you are already a household name. You just have to build your audience little by little like the rest of us. Sometimes it is hard to feel like everyone else is getting more comments and more readers than you but with perseverance and patience, you will see your readership grow. Be hyperaware of what you can blog about — keep a notebook with you so you can jot down notes as reminders through your day. This will help you develop the habit of finding blog worthy topics everywhere you look! Consider having a specific topic you blog about if there is something in particular you are passionate about. For instance, I have a blog just on writing that I contribute to once a week.

Do you share information about your children? Do they realize you blog about them?

I do share information about them of course, but I do not use their names to protect their privacy. I just write “my two year old” or “my teenage son” etc. Yes, they know I blog about them but I also never blog about things that would embarrass them. I have teenagers who read my blog — and even their friends read it too!

Do you feel obligated to respond to every one who leaves a comment on your blog? Have you ever been overwhelmed by comments?

No, I do not feel obligated to respond to my comments. I couldn’t possibly and I let that go a long time ago. I do try to visit their blogs and leave a comment — but not every time. If I notice that there is a consistent question coming up in the comments, I will just write a blog post to address that question and post it. That seems to help meet any unmet needs.

Have you ever had to deal with rude or negative comments on your blog? If so, how did you deal with them?

I have had a few — and in the beginning it REALLY bothered me. But I had to realize that that person is probably just really miserable and needing to vent and I just happened to be in their path that day. I try to feel compassion and sympathy instead of anger and justification. One thing I have noticed is that, the more real and honest I am about my struggles, the more people cut me slack. If I try to come off as perfect, they hold me to a higher standard than I can meet. The fall from the pedestal is harder! But if I am not on the pedestal in the first place, there is less disappointment and judgment — in my humble opinion, of course.

Are there any bloggers you met online and then in person? Was it strange or different meeting them in person than reading their blogs?

I am looking forward to meeting many of them at the Proverbs 31 She Speaks [http://web.archive.org/web/20081121101005/http://www.shespeaksconference.com/] conference this summer — it should be fun! I did meet a blogger named Lindsey when she drove down and spent the day with me at my house. I was a faithful reader of her blog and commenter (semi stalker!) and found out she lived about an hour away from me, so I invited her over. I will admit it sounded a little strange but it felt totally natural and normal. She is no longer blogging now but remains a friend!

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Thank you so much Marybeth for sharing with us I have been following your blog for awhile now and I really appreciate your down-to-earth writing. I look forward to meeting you at She Speaks although I’m more of your semi stalker instead of the other way around!

I am working on some more interviews with bloggers with a Higher Purpose. Leave me your questions  and enter for a chance to win Marybeth’s book “For the Write Reason ” — I’ll be closing this out by Friday. You have an awesome chance to win an awesome book! Make sure you are writing for the “write” reasons!

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