Nurturing Mental Health in the Somali Community

Towards the end of 2019, I was asked to speak at two events that focused on Mental within the Black/Somali community. Both invitations asked me to speak on trauma within the Somali community and the intergenerational impact.

This is always an difficult topic for me to discuss, because the lack of willingness in the Somali community to talk about mental health, and the lack of cultural sensitivity presented by mental health organisations, means that there is always an uncomfortable conversation that must follow whatever is discussed.

I want to be clear, the views I share here, are my own, but they stem from over 10 years of work with the Somali community on issues around education and mental health. In particular, within my professional career I have spent 6 years researching Somali masculinity and the experiences of boys and men. And it goes without saying that I have spent most of my adult life, in a personal and professional capacity, working with and supporting Somali girls and women who like me, are trying to make sense of what it means to be a Somali, British woman in a hostile political climate.

The issue of mental health and trauma within any community is complex and difficult to unpack and the Somali community is no exception. Mental health within the Somali community is usually presented through the lens of a refugee narrative, with a focus on war trauma, PTSD, social isolation, self-medication and depression, to name but a few.

Indeed, these are all very real issues that capture the impact of some of the collective trauma we have experienced over the last 30+ years. There is a lot of research and literature available to better understand the impact of these traumatic experiences on mental health. But a focus solely on these factors, risks positioning our community as victims of circumstance, failing to recognise that these circumstances have heightened, brought to the surface more complex issues that impact how we experience, understand, frame and talk about mental health with our families.

It is vital we understand the importance of language when we use terms like ‘trauma’. Trauma must be defined by those that experience it. It is contextual, which means that an event that may have been experienced as traumatic or abusive to one person may not be seen or experienced in that way by another.

There have been a number of traumatic encounters we have had as a community, war being the one people most recognise, but I would also like to draw our attention to generational cultural patterns that many of us have tried to maintain in a new context and the differing impact this has had between and across genders.

There are structures and systems that exist within our communities, that hold in place power dynamics, practices and beliefs. These dynamics allow us to understand the role of gender in family and social life for example, and like many cultures that norm presents men as the breadwinners and women as the homemakers.

Context is very important so to understand how these expectations now function for the Somali community in the UK and pass through to new generations, we must first understand how they functioned in Somalia and the turbulent events that led to cultural disorientation.

The majority of people in Somalia and Somaliland live as nomads, just as their ancestors did. This way of life functioned through collectivism and so although men and women had clearly defined roles, their roles existed within a collective system. Men were not only responsible for providing for their families, but also protecting the name and honour of their clan. Women were not only responsible for taking care of their homes and raising children, but also protecting the name and honour of their husband’s clan as well as their own.

When the civil war happened, families were torn apart, livestock was lost and many women were forced to flee with their children, leaving their husbands behind. These women, (like my mother) arrived in various places around the world with nothing more than their clothes on their back and their children (sometimes even additional children of relatives that they brought to safety).

Now in a new environment, perhaps still living close to people of cultural and clan connection but with no network of support, the women were faced with a dilemma. They arrived without their ‘providers’ and now had to find ways to keep themselves and their children alive. They arrived in a society that told them they could not stay at home and raise their children, they had to learn English, study and/or work. Their responsibilities within the family home remained unchanged, but in addition to all they had to do, they now also had to be the providers or rely on the state for support as they studied. The cultural expectation to maintain kinship and clan honour remained unchanged and so these women sent what little money they had left back home to support relatives and clan causes.

Meanwhile, the men who later arrived to join their families found themselves also without the extended support network. They surrounded themselves with men of the same clan but found that the clan did not have the same structural power or social influence in this new context. Many of the men who arrived had experienced the trauma of war much longer than the women had and so arrived with some level of PTSD.

But still the expectation to be providers remained. Many tried to find employment, but a language barrier, poor literacy and systemic racism made it difficult for many to find secure employment. Unable to provide for their families, and with a clan name that now had no real social status, the men experienced a crisis of their masculine identities. In the most extreme cases some self-medicated, some abandoned their families and some even committed suicide.

This description does not reflect the experiences of all, but it is does outline the experiences of many first arrivals post-civil war. Imagine this dynamic in the family home. The Somali mother arrives with all cultural expectations intact, with additional social expectations of education and employment in the new context. She occupies all roles for her family, and although being the provider is an additional burden, it also grants her more independence then she has ever known.

The Somali father on the other hand, does not feel he can fulfil any cultural expectation to a level of satisfaction for his family or his community. He sees his wife grow independently and sees her (if she works) or the state (if she doesn’t) as taking his role away from him. He may be resentful and try to assert his authority in other ways to maintain control and power within his home.

The mother is no longer financially dependent on her husband but carries the cultural expectation of honouring the family name and her husband’s clan, so she does all she can to keep the family unit intact. Divorce carries a cultural stigma and she would always be tied to her husband clan through her children anyway. Again, this is not the experience of all, but many of the families share these experiences.

The reason I set this scene is because I am from a generation of young people, who were raised in a home with a similar dynamic to this. These experiences filter through to children by the messages parents send indirectly through behaviours, practices and expectations. The messages that filter through each parent differs and are received differently by sons and daughters.

The mother raises her daughters to be strong, independent and self-reliant, telling the stories of how she came to be. Alongside these messages however, she reaffirms cultural expectations that honour for a girl lies in marriage, in raising children and in her family name, so the daughter is raised to excel academically, gain financial security and be domestically competent in the home… and she must not complain.

In homes where the father is not present, mothers raise their sons with a protective shield. The son carries the fathers name and it is to be honoured and respected. The son also by his positioning as a Black, Muslim man in the UK is socially vulnerable and so the mother makes it her priority to give her son what society and his father can not.

For fathers of that generation, raising daughters is about protecting their modesty, and that often equates to making sure she does not engage in unsolicited and culturally inappropriate social activities, and then when she is ready, to support her to get married.

Fathers of that generation however have a much more complex relationship with their sons. Sons are raised with knowledge of their clan and the importance of respect, status and being able to support and provide for the families they will come to have. For the young men who are able to see this modelled, the messages are retained. However, for the fathers who have struggled to demonstrate these ‘masculine traits’ they try to pass forward, there is a disconnect with their sons. They witness their sons adopt other representations of masculinity that society presents and the gap between fathers and sons widens.

So how can we begin to nurture well being within our homes? I don’t have an answer or a solution, but I think it starts with being honest about where we are and how we got here.

I’d like to ask us to reflect on the generational changes we have seen as a community and the impact this has had on our family dynamics and in turn the impact this has had on how we discuss and define mental well being with our children.

To survive.

I have been considering reflecting on my PhD journey for a while. I completed it in 2017 and I feel like enough time has passed to now process some of the challenging and conflicted encounters I had during that time. It cannot be captured in a single blog post, and so I offer this just an introduction to my reflections. The posts that follow will explore and unpack more intimate moments.

I want to start by sharing a power that has instrumental in my making sense of what it means to go through the PhD journey as a Black, Somali, Muslim woman, researching a topic that sits at the heart of my activism.

Audre Lorde is rarely mentioned in my thesis, but it could not have been written without her words. The poem I share below is entitled ‘The Brown Menace or a poem to the survival of roaches’, which formed part of her 1974 collection New York Head Shop and Museum.

This poem was written during a period of time in New York City where police brutality and killing of Black men was of growing concern. It addresses issues of white supremacy, anti-blackness and brutality. It speaks to the experience of living Black where Blackness is hated. Over four decades later and this poem could have been written to describe what is happening in the United States today as well as across Europe, Latin  America, Asia and the Pacific. Although the poem was written in a specific context, the power of the poem is as global as anti-Blackness.

When I read this poem initially, I kept returning to the imagery of violence; both self-inflicted and inflicted on others, and the language of survival. I reflected on my own experiences of growing up in Britain and the countless times I internalised the need to survive in a space. I reflected on the young men in this research and the countless times they had spoken to me about survival. Much like the ‘cockroaches’ in Lorde’s narrative, they represent what it means to survive despite being threatened with destruction.

I returned to this poem countless times during the research process and each time I reflected on one word: ‘survive’. What did it mean for the young men who took part in the research? What were the ways in which they learned to survive? How could I as a Black woman exist in academia? How do the choices we make allow us to survive? What could we have done in the research to make sure we did not harm each other and ourselves?  

Britain and the United States do not share the same history with regards to race, nor are the experiences of racism the same. Racism in both contexts is implicit and explicit, however; it is systematic and embedded in everyday interactions between people.

Lorde’s poem resonates so deeply with me because it remind me that the work that we do; the work that must be done, cannot be done with the exclusion of or at the cost of ourselves. By that I mean that we cannot talk about systematic violence without considering the ways in which we internalise such violence. We cannot talk about the binary of oppressed and oppressor without acknowledging that the oppressed internalises the oppression to become his own oppressor. When we talk about surviving the battles that exist in the world around us, we must also talk about surviving the battle within.

Although some may have interpreted the verse your itch to destroy the indestructible part of yourself to refer to the harm that Black men do to Black women, (which may well be what Lorde meant), I understand it to mean the ways in which Black men and women harm themselves and their own Blackness. Lorde’s poem, just as the writings of all the Black feminist authors I have read give me the tools to consider care (of self and others) in research.

The Brown Menace  

Call me
your deepest urge
toward survival
call me
and my brothers and sisters
in the sharp smell of your refusal
call me
roach and presumptuous
nightmare on your white pillow
your itch to destroy
the indestructible
part of yourself.

Call me
your own determination
in the most detestable shape
you can become
friend of your image
within me
I am you
in your most deeply cherished nightmare
scuttling through the painted cracks
you create to admit me
into your kitchens
into your fearful midnights
into your values at noon
in your most secret places
with hate
you learn to honor me
by imitation
as I alter—
through your greedy preoccupations
through your kitchen wars
and your poisonous refusal—
to survive.

To survive.
Survive.

‘White Ally’- A podcast episode not to miss!

Finally got around to writing down my reflections after listening to this brilliant podcast episode on Niall Alcock’s (@NiallAlcock) ‘We are in Beta’:  https://weareinbeta.substack.com/p/white-ally-patrick-ottley-oconnor

A discussion on ‘White Allyship’ with Patrick Ottley- O’Connor (@ottleyoconnor), Allana Gay (@AllanaG13) and Pran Patel (@MrPranPatel). This discussion is part two of a two part episode on BAME leadership, so definitely check out part one, where Allana Gay shares her journey and leadership experience and sets up a really good context for a discussion on White Allyship in education. I’m only focussing on part two for this particular reflection.

The podcasts is structured in such a way that the contributions of each of the speakers is held together by a guiding narrative by Niall.

There were so many important points raised, but I have just picked out a few to reflect on.

White allies have “access to speak to people” that we don’t

Allana starts the episode by highlighting this really important point. We think of ‘access’ has being able to be IN spaces, but often even in those spaces we are not heard. How many times have you made a point in a meeting and been ignored, only for a White colleague to say the exact same thing, and the response be very different?

As Allana continues to share her thoughts on White allyship, she discussed the significance of White allies speaking to other White people. I found the distinction between empathy and community really helpful here. There is a lot of research to support the notion that we are more likely to listen to people when there are percieved similiarities. It is important to understand that this does not mean only White people should speak to White people, but it helps us understand why working with allies helps to ensure that the conversation reaches a wider audience. It moves us beyond just ‘preaching to the converted’ so to speak.

“Become more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable”

Patrick shares his experience of imposter syndrome, which echoes so many conversations I have had with friends and colleagues who are White allies (not self- proclaimed but proven through consistent action). The White allies I know always seem to focus on the negatives of imposter syndrome; feelings of inadequancy, self-doubt etc. However, I think in any allyship work, having some ‘imposter syndrome’ isn’t neccessarily bad.

If being self- critical means we are constantly trying to improve, if not wanting to ‘fail’ motivate us, then surely that’s a good thing? We also need to remember that most people who experience imposter syndrome, are usually competant, they’re just not confident. Maybe we need to rethink how we frame it, to see how being uncomfortable helps us to do the work required, and as Patrick says “be a part of the solution”.

Patrick also reiterates the point made by Allana on the the importance of White allies amplifying (not speaking for), the voices of PoC.

Have the conversation “appropriately”

Another important point made by Patrick was about HOW we speak to people. I agree that ‘calling out’ can be percieved as aggressive, depending on how it is done (and who it is done by). We know that in order to communicate effectively we have to consider delivery and what works in particular contexts, and with particular people. Sometimes you have to call people out in public (although a conversation in private may follow), and however hard you try, that conversation may not be percieved as dignified or respectful by the other person. We have to unpack the language we use. The word ‘appropriate’ is often racialised and gendered and we need to be aware of this, especially when we are talking about the workplace and leadership.

You might lose ‘friends’ along the way

Patrick shared his experience of challenging and losing ‘friends’ in the process of doing allyship work. I wrote a guide on ‘advice for being an ally’ shared by BAMEed in 2019 (link below), and in this guide the 10th tip was to be brave. It advises that consistency in allyship is about pushing past feelings of discomfort to keep doing what is right, even if that means losing ‘friends’, status or power along the way. This, in my opinion is the defining difference between those that self-identify as allies, and those that are recognised as allies.

Patrick highlights the importance of having a community of White allies, to offer support and to model practice. He spoke on creating a ‘safe space’ to practice uncomfortable conversations. Although I don’t think we can really create spaces that are ‘safe’ we can create spaces that support brave conversations and I think that is what Patrick offers.

Niall shared his experience of witnessing racism during a dinner, he reflected on the defensiveness the person who was called out and their adament assertion that they are a ‘good person’ not a racist. Niall’s realisation that he has “ruined dinner” is a common aftertaste in allyship work. How many of us have found ourselves in situations; whether it is a function or family dinner, where we call out something and realise in that moment that we have ‘ruined’ the mood? Niall reiterated the need of action dispite discomfort and the support that comes with having a community of allies.

This consistency in practice, is what Allana referred to as what “builds up on bravery”.

Small steps can make a difference

Allana returned to speak on the importance of access to space and in doing what you can, however small. This is an important aspect of strategic allyship. As much as we need White allies to speak on Whiteness and to amplify the voices of PoC, we also need them behind the scenes to create space. The example Allana gave of giving feedback to conference organisers is one way, another might be to ask questions about opportunities at work. Quite simply “notice the room” and ask questions about the ethnic make up of that room.

Recognise and USE your privilege to “redress the balance”

Pran joins the discuss and highlights the importance of recognising privilege to redress the balance. Pran, again like the speakers before him, highlights that being an ally requires action. He explains that inaction makes you complicit and that sometimes action means sacrifice. If you have been asked to sit on a panel or contribute to an event that lacks diversity, you need to recognise your privilege. That is not to say that you should give up frequent work opportunities, nor is it to suggest that this is all you should do, it is just one of the ‘small steps’ you could take. I will say that not all actions are equal and what may be significant to one person may not be to another so we need to recognise the nuances. A male professor giving up space on an all male panel, may not be the same as a male early career academic for example. Actions are always possible, but sacrifice is relative.

Racism is about power

Looking at racism as a system that works across a power spectrum is necessary if we are to pay close attention and understand how oppression works and effects people differently. Not every person who is White has the same level of power within the system of racism, and not all PoC are effected by racist structures in equal measure. Pran talks about the importance of recognising the privileges we hold and being aware of where we exist within the power spectrum of racism.

Start where you are

Pran and Allana’s final points about allyship being a personal journey and in not being afraid to talk about race, brings me back to the tips I wrote in the guide for allies. We have to start where we are. If that means talking to other White allies and learning about Whiteness, then that is a good a start as any. The important thing is that you start, surround yourself with support, continue to learn and reflect and remember that you cannot change it all, but you can change something.

This podcast episode was brilliant. In less than half an hour it captured thoughtful, nuanced and practical discussion on White allyship.

‘Advice for being an ally’: https://www.bameednetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/advice-5c-20for_38970569.pdf

Running…

You, exile of the motherland,

Child of diaspora and asylum,

Running.

Tongue-tied with foreign eloquence,

Mistake words for wisdom

Tracing scars,

Running.

Need all of the globe to trace where your family went,

Need more soil than what runs through your fingers to bury their bodies.

Child of four languages and three countries, running.

Running.

Article 28

“He has the right to an education, but no longer at this school”,

They spoke through me,

As if my body were a permeable wall between them and my mother.

She sat,

Tongue tied, chained to the chair, forced to look ahead, stay silent and wait for permission to leave.

It felt all too familiar to me.

“He has the right to an education”,

Their words echoed,

And it’s funny, because I believed them.

I have the right to learn,

But only what is taught.

I’m a circle in a square classroom,

Asking too much,

Never doing enough,

Too visible to be contained,

Too different for classrooms to honour me, just as I am.

“Do you want to learn?”

Is this a trick question?

How about asking me if I have dreams?

I’m not sure I’ll answer though,

I’ve become far too comfortable with the right to remain silent.

I keep my dreams hidden,

Like fireflies in my stomach that keep my fears at bay.

I am afraid you will ask me a question, that you know the answer to,

I am afraid that one day you will hear it.

“What is in your bag?” she asks

Telling me “don’t come in here with weapons, like they did”.

I hold my books up, aim them at her and tell her, “these are the only weapons I need”

She doesn’t think it’s funny.

I can’t outsmart her,

My test scores almost match the number of times she’s sent me to isolation,

I’ve started collecting her words to wallpaper this prison cell

Writing myself into the walls I’ve been written off.

Maybe if I’m etched in its skin, the school will have no choice but to keep me.

Or at least keep my scars so I no longer have to carry them.

Every child matters, but to who?

‘Inclusion matters’ ‘diversity matters’ but to who?

Convincing bumper stickers, with no room for imagination

Slogans used on political platforms to get the voters on side

Your telling me education is important, like I don’t know that shit.

Like my mother didn’t work three jobs and average two hours of sleep a night to pay for tutors so I would know that shit,

Difference is education is freedom, school is anything but,

I cannot know what it is like to matter here,

Because my being, is the problem.

I do not know what my voice sounds like.

Because I cannot hear or see me in these walls.

The first time I read something from a Black writer, was last week,

John Agard,

The wind in my chest stood up

It had been 10 years of textbooks, filled with everything but me

And for the first time, my body knew a world that could hold it.

I thought I had no voice because you muted me.

And the surest way to silence a voice, is to treat it as if none had come before.

But I found myself in his words,

Lost myself in its truth,

Cradled each verse as if it were a prayer from my ancestors,

Telling me about mi history.

Telling me what my skin has seen.

I was lonely in your classroom, did you ever consider that?

That I craved to be seen, as more than a manifestation of your fears.

I wanted to learn,

If you were willing to teach.

But you were just trigger happy with those sanctions,

And you never missed your shot.

Telling me everyday, that I have the right to learn,

Just not here.

Recording available here:

The Space In-Between

Diaspora: the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland

The African diaspora identity is one of contradiction.

Our bodies tell the stories of our ancestors. Though we may sometimes feel we walk on foreign land, the Earth beneath our feet reminds us that nature brings us home wherever we are.

Our eyes are laced in collective memories of trauma and bondage. Pains of erasure, as we reconcile the broken pieces of a history we do not know. With this pain we carry the guilt of attachments formed to our adopted lands.

Our hearts are torn. For those who only have memories of their adopted lands, this now is home. And like a child seeking security, love, and acceptance, we spend generations yearning for this attachment to be reciprocated.

For those who have the opportunity to visit Africa, there is a feeling of peace, loss and confusion that cannot be articulated. The joy of being surrounded by your reflection, and simultaneously feeling a foreigner in the land. It is not so much that you speak in the language of your adopted land, but that you also bring with you all that it carries. But if this fractured state is the closest you have felt to finding ‘home’, then you embrace the confusion and try to hold on to the fragments of peace it allows, for as long as you can.

Our souls are severed, torn between two lands; and we carry these conflicts within, released only through art.

Images- capturing what our hearts long to see and what our eyes cannot understand.

Sounds- reaching places words cannot, forcing you to feel what you cannot say.

And poetry… poetry releases language from the tether of its terms—not to destroy, but to reveal the wounds therein.

Our diaspora identity is fraught, often hyphenated, sometimes hidden behind shadows of adopted nationalism… but we remain torn.

Not every movement is by choice, but there is purpose to every place we find ourselves.

Home may be where we are, it may be where we were… or it may just exist in-between.

Broken Beauty

Her beautiful silhouette explodes,

into a flock of birds,

scattering in all directions.

She scrambles to catch them all,

hoping to reassemble the original form.

Clutching on to feathers like dreams,

she prays,

and cries,

and wakes to find her beauty false.

She witnesses the sky split in two,

one half filled with doves,

one half wolves.

Her tears quenching the thirst of one,

her prayers like thunderstorms,

cursing those that dare fly

She cuts herself.

Bites with forceful hate,

pouring her blood onto streets below.

She lays here,

motionless,

watching the sun set,

hoping that the glowing orb,

can see her silhouette.

Nomadic Footprints

Nomads are a source of wonder, and threat.

With no settled home, no single identity, no adherence to man made boundaries, they exist through periodic movements. No space is theirs but they claim it (temporarily) as home. The ‘other’; whose transient presence is impossible to contain, is a threat to ‘order’ and regime. To be a nomad is to find comfort in the spaces in between, to understand that ‘home’ is not a tangible place and that places are produced by mobilities.

My nomadic footprints guide me through the world, as I learn, teach, move and stay (temporarily). The lens through which I see the world is informed by faith, bloodline and education.

In faith….

“Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a passing traveller.” (Al-Bukhāri)

In Islam this world is referred to in Arabic as al-dunya, which comes from a root meaning closeness, because it is closer to us than the Hereafter at this point in time. We are reminded that our ultimate aspirations are not of this world, and that this is a temporary abode. We are in fact moving towards another destination, the Hereafter, which will be our permanent home and resting place. We are therefore reminded to take care in planting our hearts and minds too firmly on this earth. Yes, we must live, learn, build, love, enjoy and embrace, whilst accepting that all things on earth, but our deeds are short lived.

My faith is my fuel.

A nomadic bloodline

Somalis are traditionally nomadic peoples, living as agro-pastoralists or nomadic livestock herders. Their lives consisted of moving to live; following paths that would allow them to find sustenance. They carry their homes with them, and adapt to every environment they find themselves in. Places have purpose and once that purpose is fulfilled, or denied, movement is inevitable. It is a culture, a custom, and way of life that is built on trust. Trusting that the earth will send you where you need to be. Trusting in your ability to survive and thrive. Trusting in time and the wisdom of its calling.

My bloodline is my anchor.

Educational spaces and places….

Education for me, was never bound by space and I resisted the confining assumption that it must be bound by place. Schools, colleges and universities serve a purpose, indeed they do (and i’ll explore this purpose in later articles), but education is life long, and to be lived. My education has taken place in formal educational settings, and also in playgrounds, in Saturday schools, in hospital rooms, in community centres, and around kitchen tables. I learn anywhere and everywhere, moving towards any place that offers knowledge that reflects what I need in that moment, and moving away from any place that denies or confines my yearning to learn. The nomadic learner is not confined by physical movement, so when ‘learning’ spaces that are toxic, become the spaces our bodies occupy, we must find ways to maintain freedom through mind, and spirit.

Education is my compass.

My First Blog Post

As we learn in every space, we learn to be in every space

‘Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am – and what I need – is something I have to find out myself.’

– Chinua Achebe

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more.

Topics will include reflections on: Education, Race, Mental Health, Identity and Belonging.

Guest Posts will also be hosted!

Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.