Ranting, Blogging and Self-Expression

By Helen Kenwright

We all love a good rant, right? 

That moment when things have built up inside you to fever pitch and all your frustration and tension bursts out of you in a torrent of words, faster than a pro rapper and frequently littered with expletives: you might rant out loud, on paper or perhaps you actually are a rapper and spit it out in bars on a stage. However you do it, it can be a really valuable release.

It can also be entertaining for an audience, readership or incidental bystanders. A lot of stand-up comedy routines are well-crafted rants which pick the audience up and carry them along with passion and humour (especially satire, sarcasm and irony), inviting the audience to agree, to applaud, to get all the benefits of the rant without having to peep a word themselves. 

But there are obstacles which can prevent us reaping the benefits of our ranting. In this post I’ll give some tips on how to get the best out of a rant, whether for your own wellbeing or to entertain others.

After all, the whole world has a lot to rant about right now. 

Ranting for Wellbeing

You may associate ‘writing for wellbeing’ with relaxation, mindfulness, and nature poetry composed in the presence of candles or piles of polished pebbles. These are all important parts of a writing for wellbeing practice. But sometimes we need to write expressively to unburden our minds, and what we write might not be pretty. It might not come out as a soothing contemplation of a riverside walk. Sometimes we simply need to express our frustration. And that’s where the rant comes in. 

Unfortunately, committing more angry thoughts and emotions to paper might go against the grain. There’s a clue in the word ‘committing’. By writing things down, even in a personal diary, we’re preserving them for posterity; making them in some sense official, or even public. We can trip ourselves up with thoughts like, ‘what if a relative reads this one day’, or ‘what if someone hacks my computer and finds it’. Even if we know rationally this is not likely to be the case, we are used to ‘putting things in writing’ as a way of making them official. 

Yet anger and frustration, like all emotions, are fleeting things. Just because you feel a certain way doesn’t mean you’ll feel that way forever. So use a fleeting method to reflect this. Write on loose leaf paper, or open a simple text app which isn’t linked to the Cloud. Turn off your Internet, lock the door and close the curtains if you want to be absolutely sure. Then write. Write whatever you want, whatever you think. Write it in the second person, write it as a letter, write it as a speech, write it as a chaotic waterfall of words; write whatever comes naturally to you. Write fast, from your heart and your gut, and don’t spare anyone’s feelings. Get it all out. 

Then shred, burn or delete it. (If you’re deleting, make sure to empty your trash bin!) Because sometimes writing isn’t for posterity or publication. Sometimes it’s just to give yourself a voice until the feelings move on, like clouds in the sky.

Having said that, if you’re unimpeded by worries about who might read your rants, by all means keep a journal for the purpose. It can be interesting to look back and see how you felt in the past, and what came of the energy behind that rant. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll want to publish it, or leave it for future generations. It’s all part of a reflection of our lives as human beings, after all. The choice of what to do with it is yours.

Ranting for Mutual Benefit

Human beings tend to feel better when they’re in the company of others with a similar world view: people who share our opinions and understand our struggles. When others say things we can relate to, it provides affirmation and reinforces our own views. Sometimes other people can make a point better than we can, and there’a thrill in getting swept up in it and feeling heard by proxy.

On the other hand, if someone forcefully puts forward an opinion with which you strongly disagree, it’s more likely to bring about conflict than a change of mind. A public rant isn’t a piece of persuasive writing: it’s an call to agreement from your audience, or at best a non-negotiable statement of views. Bear this in mind when you share your rants: any debate you start is likely to be heated, and if you want to engage civilised discussion with the hope of consensus, you may want to consider a well argued essay or reflective piece instead. Rants aren’t a good way of expressing considered thoughts – but they are a great way to express and validate emotions, for yourself and for a sympathetic audience.

If you would like to rant for an audience you could publish your rants on a blog, or write them for stand-up, open mics or YouTube videos or podcasts. If you wish, you can share the rant just as it comes out, without crafting or editing. This can give a really raw feel that some audiences appreciate. However, you can also use your writing skills to make it more effective.

1. Use a hook to draw your audience in.

An anecdote, a link, a quote, a simple observation. Fans of Adam Hills (warning, adult content!) will have noticed that he usually starts his famous rants with reference to a tweet or clip, either from an audience member or from the subject of his rant. This will instantly quicken the blood of anyone who’s familiar with the subject sympathetic with the ranter.

2. Introduce your rant.

Outline the main points of your rant. What’s happened that’s rant-worthy? Give a few firm facts, a bit of background – perhaps play devil’s advocate (with as much sarcasm as you wish). 

3. Build the pace.

Use similes, metaphor and sensory details to create a series of sharp images in your audience’s mind and build intensity. The more visceral the better. Shorten your sentences and your words. Make the rhythm of your writing quicker. As  rule of thumb, put facts first and then progress to more emotive content. Build the intensity of your argument. If you choose to use swear words, edit them for impact. Use staccato rhythms that feel like physical jabs. This quickens the heart and adrenaline in your audience and ups their investment. 

4. Hit the nail on the head.

As your rant reaches its climax, provide one definitive moment where you state your case and invite applause. This is the ‘Am I right?’ or ‘Join me!’ moment. You could use a long, breathless sentence with little punctuation that keeps raising intensity right to its full stop. Or you might use a simple, truncated phrase. Or a ‘rule of three’ – three quick statements such as ‘blood, sweat and tears’. (Again, the more visceral and immediate the better.)

5. Chill.

Pause after your climax, and then provide a cooler: a simple statement to sum up and bring the boil back to a simmer. It might be a call to action (‘This is why we must stop this madness!’ or ‘Are you with me?’) or a simple, impassioned statement: (‘Don’t be a dick.’ ‘Never again.’)

Bear in mind that you may need to manage opposition to a public rant. Think through in advance how you might deal with hecklers, haters or critics, and always take a breath before you answer them. Consider carefully what outcome you want, and whether your reply is likely to achieve that result. (If it’s an online comment, I’d recommend taking at least twenty four hours, and if in doubt, be prepared to block people who cause trouble.)

One last tip: music can really give us energy for ranting. It might be rap, death metal or Elgar, depending on your taste, but it can help a lot with rhythm, pacing and liberating emotion.

As with all writing ‘rules’, these are suggestions; rants are best from the heart so follow what feels right to you, if the rules don’t fit. The most important part of a rant is to give full rein to your own voice; to say all the passionate, true things that might otherwise be repressed. Whether you chose to say them to a private journal or to the whole world via the Internet, your voice is important. Try to give it the space it deserves. 

Happy ranting!

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