I recently had the very good fortune of discovering a woman who has committed herself to exploring the outer limits and capabilities of the blogosphere, or blogging to you and me. Tania Pryputniewicz is a woman with a vision, which amounts to no less than the positive potential capabilities of the internet to connect individuals of like mind, leading eventually to intellectual, emotional and even spiritual transformation for all involved.
Intrigued? I was smitten by Tania’s ideas and concepts, her dreams of what might be possible. As a writer engaged in the daily practice of mindful writing, and thus already well acquainted with the healing properties of writing as a meditative practice, I was especially curious about Tania’s suggestions that this transformation could extend even further than I had previously imagined. Not only that, but it could all happen online, while connecting virtually with other like-minded people.
I was sold. I had to find out more – more about the woman who dreamed up this vision, more about her voyage of discovery and how she got here, and finally more about her message. In my bones I just knew Tania was the woman I had been waiting to meet. Now I would like you to meet Tania too. So without further ado, let me introduce Tania Pryputniewicz to all who read these words, and allow me to invite you all to join me as I put some questions to her.
Why transformative blogging? What is the connection between the spiritual and the personal? How does it impact upon the writer’s blogging voice?
For me, writing and spirituality are intertwined. Writing provides a direct conduit for experiencing the numinous. As we record our experiences in writing, we also listen, just as we might listen while in prayer and meditation, for guidance to find patterns that make life bearable. So it makes sense to me that blogging (which is after all, writing) and spirituality are intertwined.
But not everyone defines spirituality or blogging goals in the same way. After blogging for five years, I realized that the road-like linear structure and time-meted nature of a blog offers bloggers a chance to grow and transform while potentially transforming their readers. Adding that word “transformative” in front of “blogging” invites each blogger to ask, Transform how? And Transform who? I hope the terms together add a layer of playful urgency and excitement to one’s blogging practice.
Your stated aim is to form a community of women bloggers who will support one another as they each work towards building exactly the kind of blog they have dreamed of. How do you envisage this dream materializing?
I started teaching blogging in the summer of 2011 and by the end of 2012, felt drawn to taking the coursework to a new level. Already I’ve felt exhilarated by the process of searching out example posts by women bloggers. It brought you, Edith, into my life last week. I would love for women to converge on my Transformative Blogging site, share their favourite women bloggers, find others of like mind, and make their own connections. I’ve kept the site simple due to the many hats I already wear as teacher, writer and parent of three children.
How has interacting online with other sister bloggers impacted your own relationship to blogging, and indeed to your larger life beyond the blogosphere?
Beautiful question, Edith. Easily I’d say my blogging sisters saved my life. That sounds extreme, but blogging provided pivotal solace when I was a new mother and in thrall to the beautiful and gruelling initiation from private self to shared self (and all that it took to stay connected to my writer core despite hours of breastfeeding and learning how to love and be loved by my mate as each baby arrived).
The women who came and read my first blog entries and commented, and whose work I read—Ethel, Jeannette, and Elizabeth—gave me secret confidence and the joy of a mirror. The list has since grown modestly longer and is rife with women I both see in person regularly and women I aspire to meet in the future: heart sisters, or my wingmen as I like to say.
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey from the private world of personal journaling to the very public forum of online blogging? How do you straddle both spheres? Where do they connect? More importantly where do the dis-connects lie, and how do they fit into, and emerge/diverge from your other professional writing, especially your poetry?
Another set of great questions…I’m still evolving the answers.
I’ve kept a journal and written poetry since early childhood and pursued writing formally (at UC Davis and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop) so I feel I have always had an eye on the public/private line. But let’s face it, blogging immediately exposes one across a potentially extreme radius because of the visibility afforded by the Web. Every time I write a post, I examine the line. Especially for my blog Feral Mom, Feral Writer, where negotiations with my children, my circumstances, and my marriage tinge and charge my emotional lens.
The dilemma is that the two spheres (public and private) sometimes connect right at the most charged junctures where I stand the most to lose and the most to gain by the reveal (the alchemical nature of core subject writing). There’s a way to tap into the private transaction and diffuse the charge in a way that heals, rather than blames, and that for me has been the ongoing challenge. When in doubt, I wait. I run posts by my family and my trusted writing confidantes as well.
You also asked about the public/private line in terms of writing poetry. My poetry teacher Sandra McPherson at UC Davis gave her women poets a fabulous essay she’d written called, “Secrets, Beginning to Writing Them Out,” (available now in A Field Guide to Contemporary Poetry and Poetics) that helped me see how important it is to write the work and later consider when, where and how one might use it or not. Often it isn’t until I’m right on the verge of sending out a manuscript (close enough to imagine public response) that I will decide to pull or add poems in question. I take it poem by poem. A decision weighed by the heart and the gut; an ongoing process for me.
You have called this project “A Year of Inquiry.” Why a year? How do you envisage the year of work evolving?
I wanted to give the project borders, give myself a clear trajectory, and hold to a deadline as well: What could I learn in a year about women’s contributions to the blogosphere as I aggregated that information and passed it on for others to use as inspiration? Which questions might we discover and how might use such questions to push creativity past its former borders? Both my writer self and my “spiritual” self are intensely curious about our current fascination with instant and far-reaching communication (whether we are talking about Twitter or blogging). What might one see from the curve of the collective wave of all these forms? What do these forms have to do with the evolution of consciousness? Goodness? Grace?
For your Transformative Blogging courses, you have designed a series of worksheets which require the blogger to identify their own personal goals and plans for their blog, with a particular focus on problems often experienced by female bloggers, most notably feelings of self-doubt. You take a particular joy in encouraging women bloggers to overcome their fears and work towards achieving their blogging goals. Can you expand a little on the kinds of fears you have witnessed women dealing with? What sort of goals do women bloggers typically seek to achieve? What is the difference between male and female bloggers which you have noticed in your research?
I guess you could say I worked backwards, basing my first course on my own my stumbling blocks and hoping I had something to offer women bloggers. I feared vanishing without getting to my work and yet feared being seen, feared being judged, and noticed I was constantly walking the public/private line we discussed earlier. Eventually the metaphor of the mask took hold for me as a dual means of simultaneous protection and encouragement. This led to the urge to play beyond words with the concept by making three dimensional masks and bringing that concept to the course as well.
I am hesitant to put words in my students’ mouths, but I notice that I share the same fears and goals with my students which revolve around getting the work written and then getting it out there. My favorite part of teaching is what happens in the interactive dialogues we engage in during class. The online forum means we write our way towards our material as we move through exercises.
It is too early in my research to venture generalizations about the difference between male and female bloggers, except for the exposure they receive in existing research. Jill Walker Rettberg, Associate Professor of Digital Culture at the University of Bergen, talks about this in her book, Blogging, pointing to research that looks at the way media charts blogs. Because they track more of the filter blogs which tend to be written by male bloggers, we might assume that men are more actively blogging. In actuality we may have close to even numbers of male and female bloggers participating if you consider participation across all the various kinds of blogs.
I hope to have a stronger answer for you by the end of this year. I’d love for other women to pick up this question and give it a go. And of course, equally important questions follow, such as how do women want to shape the blogosphere, or how could women shape the blogosphere and to what end?
—This ends part 1 of the interview. Part 2 will follow on Easter Sunday. Why Easter Sunday? Simple – because it is a symbol of rising from the depths, of being re-born, a promise that transformation is possible. I cannot think of a better and more appropriate time to share Tania’s words with you all than on such an auspicious occasion.
For information about participating in Tania’s project, see here and scroll down until you find the ‘subscribe’ box.
For details of Tania’s online classes on Transformative Blogging and also on writing poetry, see here.