Blogging and Me: Three Years Later and Seven Lessons In
Three years ago yesterday I typed my first post called Climbing the Wall. It was a little 488 word ditty about starting something new. My public writing had always been confined to my high school paper or departmental newsletters. I once had a poem published in a town paper and that still remains the height of my writing career. I was 10.
This is all to say that the first post felt like a very big deal. I didn’t really understand blogging or the fact that there were a million people like me doing the exact same thing, shooting off their words into an echo chamber. With trepidation and anxiety, I hit the Publish button. And then nothing happened.
Three years and 259 blog posts later, here is what I’ve learned about blogging and about myself as a blogger:
Blogging, Inc. is not my thing. I’ve gone several rounds with myself over the notion that I’m a blogger or a writer who blogs or a blogger who is in denial about what kind of writing I need to be doing. If you’re setting out to be a blogger, to monetize or to just feel super special, there are a thousand and one articles about how to do this. It’s a shell game of deciding whether to value quality over quantity, or to be a writer or a click-baiter. I’m sure there’s a few people who manage to do it all, but I’m not one of them.
Freedom isn’t free. I hate advertising and have paid to avoid imposing it upon others. Financially this makes no sense, since this is not a moneymaking venture. But neither did buying cross country skis or material for that quilt I never finished. In this context, blogging is a hobby and I pay to make it more enjoyable for myself and for the readers. I’ve learned to rationalize this very well, don’t you think?
There’s no accounting for taste. WordPress has put me on their Freshly Pressed page 4 times since I started and that was pretty cool. The slow build towards readership would have been more lengthy without it, so I am grateful. What has appealed to the WordPress editors and to readers in general on this blog baffles me at times. Not being niche-oriented means that for any one reader, this blog is a hit-and-miss venture. Just me yakking at the wind.
How to walk the fine line between self-aggrandizement and an authentic voice. I occasionally repulse myself with some indulgent piece that comes off like a privileged whine. Reading a wide variety of blogs has made me incredibly self-conscious about being a white middle class middle aged woman in the United States. I wasn’t always middle class and barely qualified for womanhood, but my awareness that there are people whose daily lives are a nightmarish struggle means that I write with an evolving acuity. The flip side of this is that all experiences are valid and to deny one’s perspective is something akin to a lie of omission.
I prefer conversation to controversy. I argue with myself regularly about mediocrity and sometimes mistake the lack of “hot” topics on my post list as a sign that I’m a lame middle-of-the-road human and at best, a slightly competent writer who has nothing to say. The bottom line is that I’m circumspect in real life and don’t believe in easy answers. Sometimes I admire the phrases “staunch supporter” or “biggest fan”, but I could never imagine being either. There are no heroes or villains. There are humans who do amazing or awful things. We are all fallible and, on occasion, completely wrong. And it turns out, that includes me.
Grammar and punctuation matter. I’ve gone back to the books on this one. Up until the last year or so, I’ve been an intuitive writer. I’m a heavy reader and I have an eye for misspellings and typos, but sentence structure tends to elude me. I focus on rhythm and flow, and I’m acutely aware that I regularly break rules. As a reader, I find that mistakes in writing can be very disruptive to the flow.
While I generally recognize good writing, I can’t tell you why or what I need to do to get there myself (sort of like the old porn Supreme Court misquote “You’ll know it when you see it” deal). Alert: This is the only place on the planet where an envy of English majors will be expressed. And I really need to learn how the hell to use a semi-colon. And not for an emoticon.
People are just as delightful/annoying/smart/obstreperous online as they are offline. There is plenty of argument that anonymity has given a piñata bat to people who come out wildly swinging based on 140 characters or a post tag. My guess is that they’re likely that boorish in real life as well, but have other facets of their life that mask it. We talk about trolls as if they’re a new subspecies of human, but likely it’s that stupid kid who graffiti-ed your garage last year. With his name. Or it’s the city council member caught masturbating at the local library because books. With ladies. Or it’s the woman at the grocery store with the tight, murderous face because the little senior citizen in front of her has a few coupons. They’re miserable and they get to be doubly so online.
On the other hand, I’ve “met” some outstanding humans who I wish were my neighbors. And maybe some of them are. They’re kind, compassionate, thoughtful about issues and have a self-awareness that feeds their wisdom. There are writers whose masterful words make me want to be a better writer. Volunteers, who have dedicated themselves to improving the world around them. There are parents, anxious, in the face of all the advice and criticism, to raise children with added value to the world. Soldiers, who understand the ambiguities of war. The gracious, living with deadly illnesses, who are able to enunciate their experiences. The courageous, leading the front lines to a more accepting, diverse society.
I’ve exchanged lovely emails and comments over the last few years with people whose hearts are so big and so fragile it makes me feel like crying. Online as well as off, there are simply people who are a counterbalance to all the tragedy and despair in the world. They are hopeful and at times, downright funny. Some of them happen to blog.
I read somewhere that 60-80% of blogs are abandoned shortly after their creation and that the average lifespan of existing blogs is a little under three years. Sometimes I like to console myself with random numbers. Sometimes, I just feel lucky to have this little piece of real estate on the internet.
Thank you to the readers and engaged commenters that have spent time on this blog.
There’s nothing better for a writer than being read and I am extremely grateful to you.
Here’s to the next three years, my friends.