In this Telecom Toolbox Blog, we emailed with Molly Spence, a freelance writer and disability advocate about how she used her blog Molly’s Zone to build her confidence and experience. Since starting her blog in 2015, Molly has written articles for The Mighty, Project Wednesday, and now, Telecom Toolbox.
Telecom Toolbox (TT): Hi Molly! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Molly Spence (MS): Hi! Thank you so much for having me!
My job has evolved in the last few years. I first became a writer, and then the whole disability advocacy aspect of the journey seemed to just fall right into my lap and it has been an amazing ride so far. I have an extremely mild form of cerebral palsy, but I haven’t let that stop me in any way, shape, or form. You can’t. You just have to keep pushing. I’m a 25 year old from Hurricane, West Virginia who is just striving to make a positive impact on the disability community.
Aside from the blog, I also serve on the West Virginia Statewide Independent Living Council. I love my life and the joy it brings; there is nothing better than reaching that point in life where you accept yourself for who you are! I want to inspire others to have the same attitude.
(TT): Why did you decide to start a blog? How long have you been blogging?
(MS): Truth be told, becoming a writer wasn’t my first choice. I had always enjoyed my English classes and teachers begged me to pursue a career in journalism, but as I was going through that “trying to do my own thing” phase, I ignored that silent tug on my heart. My first choice was to do anything I could possibly do in pursuit of normalcy; at that point, I hadn’t accepted my disability for what it was just yet.
I earned a 2-year secretarial degree, hoping that I would achieve the goal of being viewed as your average individual. I graduated and subsequently returned for a second degree in medical coding. Job-hunting was not going well and my additional educational pursuits were leading to nothing but dead ends. I felt hopeless so I did the only thing I knew to do and that was to pray; I had never prayed that intensely in my entire life.
I was at my aunt’s wedding reception when I got offered the chance to start Molly’s Zone through a company called Next Right Steps, LLC, which is owned by a family member I kept in contact with through Facebook, as she had moved away in recent years. I knew nothing of her occupational therapy business venture, but as she was telling me about it, she remarked that she needed someone to be a cheerleader and an inspiration to her clients. She had noticed my writing ability via Facebook and thought I would be the perfect fit. She advised me to think it over, but without hesitation I said yes to her offer. It was so out-of-the-blue, and the craziest, most wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced.
That conversation took place on July 3, 2015 and Molly’s Zone first launched on September 1, 2015. Next Right Steps, LLC was not a paying opportunity, but I got to share my life stories, such as my battle with depression, life with cerebral palsy, and ways that my faith in God has worked in my life. The blog pulled me out of a severe depression and opened up a whole new world for me. I wrote for them to encourage and inspire others. That is the foundation of my passion for what I do.
(TT): What kinds of topics do you write about?
My blog really hasn’t changed much. I still try to cover several kinds of topics on my blog—mostly stories of my experiences as someone with a disability, exciting things that are going on in my life, my faith, and inspirational posts. I am hard at work hoping to break into the disability rights realm, and would like to do more posts on disability-related topics in the future.
As far as choosing topics, I typically like to browse and brainstorm a week before I start working on a new blog post. Sometimes, I can have something come to me in minutes and other times I have to sit and think for a good while. I’m still pursuing new platforms to publish on. I originally posted once a week, but since my career has grown into more than just writing, I keep up with the blog as much as I can. I still write at least three or four posts a month.
In addition to writing for several platforms, I am now a member of the WVSILC as well as the Social Media Liaison/Co-Chair of the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL)’s Youth Steering Committee. I love it! It entails weekly communication through emails, phone calls, and meetings. Fulfilling all of these duties has really helped me to evolve from a talking standpoint.
(TB): How has starting a blog helped you develop your confidence?
(MS): I am a relatively quiet person, and the blog has served as a way for me to express myself. Seeing the success of my writing has helped me to want to keep pursuing writing as much as I can.
(TT): What kinds of opportunities have you had because of your blog?
(MS): I have had the amazing opportunity to become part of the Independent Living movement. I attended the APRIL 2017 conference this past October in Spokane, WA, and that was a blast! I met so many inspiring fellow advocates and made a lot of new friends; a lot of cool connections were also made! I have grown so much advocacy-wise since attending the APRIL conference. My blog has led to so many amazing opportunities.
(TT): How do you use your blog to advocate?
(MS): Molly’s Zone from an advocacy standpoint stems from my personal experiences; that, to me, is the most relatable form of advocating. I am not a very outspoken advocate, but the written word can serve to be even more effective. I have several pieces published on the blog, as well as on the website The Mighty. I recently wrote and published an article on my vitamin D deficiency struggles. The Cerebral Palsy Foundation picked it up and I was amazed at how much of an impact it has made. That was a true blessing! I am evolving as I go along, but it is exciting! I can’t wait to do more of everything!
(TT): What other kinds of online tools do you use?
(MS): I have recently become a huge Twitter fan! (My Twitter handle is @mollys221). I am not on it often but I share my blog posts on there as well as my personal Facebook. I have a LinkedIn account as well but I haven’t quite figured it out just yet! Instagram is another platform I use. I have done a lot of networking through being a part of The Mighty as I’ve met and became friends with so many talented writers; they’ve helped me to find many new platforms and have been such a support to me as well and I’m thankful. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without all the love and support I’ve received from everyone around me. I am very blessed.
(TT): How do you make sure your online presence is professional?
(MS): One HUGE piece of advice I would give here is to be extremely careful what you post online! As I am beginning to network and grow my career, I am always cautious with what I write, whether it’s a blog post, an article for a big publication, or a post on my personal profiles. It is the reason why sometimes a piece takes a little longer to do; you have to consider your audience, what you are trying to convey, and you have to keep as much of your personal life out of your content as you possibly can. It is okay to share a little bit, but don’t overshare. Even on my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter you will see very little of my personal life. I mostly post about topics I’m writing on, my new writing endeavors, etc. Always try to stay professional, because you never know who could be watching. The written word can’t be retracted once it’s out there.
(TT): How have your blog and social media helped you to network? How has this networking helped with your writing career and with your advocacy?
(MS): Molly’s Zone and all of my social media profiles have helped me to grow immensely. I found The Mighty randomly one day while on Facebook. I clicked on the website link, sent one of my blog posts in, and the next thing I knew I was a published writer. I had no idea you could become a contributing writer for a website; I thought it was a one-time deal.
My blog led me to a spot on the WVSILC and to all things Independent Living. I found out about the WVSILC through a longtime family friend who had read my blog and asked me to contribute to their newsletter; of course, I said yes! I started attending the council meetings, ended up applying to be on the council, and I’ve now been a member for almost a year!
(TT): How do you think starting a blog could help someone who isn’t a writer?
(MS): Well, a blog doesn’t necessarily have to be in written format; some people are into film, so perhaps becoming a YouTuber might be a possibility. I’ve also seen blogs where people post artwork or their musical talents. Blogs are so simple to start nowadays; you can virtually post any variety of content. Social media has become awesome in that way. By sharing their talents, anyone can gain the confidence to do amazing things.
(TB): What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog?
(MS): My advice to anyone is to follow their passion no matter what it is; if you want to do a fiction blog, go for it. If you want to do YouTube, go for it. The sky is the limit and you have to push yourself to try as much as you can in this life. As a writer, I would say to really choose your topics wisely and let your mind sit on your ideas for a while. Don’t try to rush a piece. Let the material come to you. I have found that there are a ton of platforms to get published on; try them all. Becoming published really helped my passion to blossom and enhanced my content a great deal.
(TT): Do you have any resources you’d recommend to others who want to start their own blog?
(MS): The Mighty has been a great outlet for me. I have been a contributing writer there for almost two years and I love their community. Blogspot is the platform I use for Molly’s Zone. It is so easy to handle. The website is www.blogger.com. WordPress and Wix are also two easy personal blog platforms I’ve worked with in the past. Blogspot, WordPress, and Wix all let you set up a blog for free.
(TT): Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with us Molly! It’s been wonderful to chat with you and we can’t wait to read more of your writing in the future!
(MS): Thank you for having me! It was a blast!