Writing as therapy

Today I’m officially coming out as the first person to write a gay blog on a mainstream website in Israel.
How do I know it’s the first-ever gay blog?
One day in 2003, when I was working at the Israeli web company Tapuz, our bosses introduced us to a new and exciting thing called a “blog.” Until then we were mainly focusing on forums, which were so popular back then. But the fact that Tapuz considers itself a website in which the users create the content, well... blogs, personal web-diaries, seemed the natural thing to add to the portal.
“Why would anyone want to invest so much time in writing something so personal, and do it for free?” I remember asking myself when a colleague assigned me to find a couple of likely candidates to write the first blogs among the site’s regular forum members. I wasn’t sure that this blogging thing would work, especially if you had to plead for people to do it.
For the next few days, as I was spreading the word that we were looking for bloggers, it started sinking in that I might like to write about my own life. I used to write diaries when I was younger, and it helped me through the difficult times in school, especially because I was bullied for being different from the other boys, and I felt so lonely that unloading my feelings onto a Kylie-Minogue- covered-diary (I'm a huge fan!) was literally my own therapy session to myself without even knowing.
2003 was also about the time I started going to therapy, which opened up for me an amazing new way of thinking and understanding myself and the people around me. Writing a blog was a good way for me to share what I had learned in therapy and maybe help other people with similar problems that they were struggling with. Also, as a gay guy, I thought that writing about relationships would send a clear message that love is love, no matter your gender or sexual orientation. Getting a “gay blog” onto a “straight” website would be my small contribution to the visibility of gay people.
So I started my blog—called “Lessons in Love”—and called myself “Ashley Wallen” (randomly named after one of Kylie’s dancers) which was a name that could sound like a man's or a woman's.Thinking back, it was a wise choice of name, because some of the straight people thought it was a woman who was writing, and by the time they realized it was a man writing about love for another man, they’d already been deep into the content to discover that gay people experience love just as they do.
To my surprise “Lessons in Love” became one of the most popular features on the website, drawing thousands of readers every week. Though people at work knew I was gay, I didn’t really want to expose too many details about my personal life, so I didn’t tell them it was me. When the bosses sent out a list of the top five blogs each month, I made sure that my co-workers didn't see how proud I was of my little secret—that I was always on this list.
The response was really amazing to me. Parts of the blog were published in Tel Aviv’s gay magazine “Hazman Havarod." “Ashley Wallen” was asked to participate in an article in Ha’aretz about popular bloggers and a lot of gay people started sending me personal messages asking for advice. It was surreal.
“You’re the gay Israeli Carrie Bradshaw,” was probably the most repetitive comment on the blog, and it was so flattering and really encouraged me to continue writing, but what really kept me going was that it was proven to me, week after week, that by “arranging my thoughts” on a blog, I was helping other gay men who were struggling with their thoughts and emotions to become more accepting of themselves.
This week, twelve years later, I released a developed version of that blog as a book, in English, in America. It’s funny, but the reason behind releasing this book is almost similar to the initial decision to start the blog: I may not be the next J.K. Rowling in terms of sales, but sharing what I’ve learned as a gay man in therapy sessions, going through such a basic experience as a break up, not only needed to wrap itself nicely as a book, but may also serve as a case-study for other gays, that they can draw information from, especially after a breakup.
"Imperfect Thing Called Love" is now available on Amazon. Additional info and reading material can be found on the book's website