Blogging and Me: Three Years Later and Seven Lessons In

The Writing WallThree 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.

canstockphoto7296234This 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.

You wanted to click it, didn't you?

You wanted to click it, didn’t you?

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.

canstockphoto15632754I 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 outcanstockphoto22418900 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.

canstockphoto8155142I 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.

67 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Personal

67 responses to “Blogging and Me: Three Years Later and Seven Lessons In

  1. Congratulations on 3 yrs in the world of blogging. I’ve just started and your tips were very helpful.

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    • Thanks for the congrats. I think that it ends up being a different experience for each person, depending on the goals and intent. Enjoy the journey!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s 2 am for me. My first read was “(blogging) ends up being a different experience for each person, depending on the goats and intent.”
        Well, yes. They and their intent would make quite the difference.

        I am going back to sleep soon. If they choose to allow it. (Imagine: I am prohibited most especially from counting sheep. This is NOT the goat-free life of which I once dreamed.)

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        • I think the sheep might have something to say, this being their year and all. Maybe they are too busy celebrating to be helping mere humans get to sleep. My understanding is that goats simply eat the numbers one-by-one. I’d find all that chewing distracting. Hopefully, the sheep will sober up and get back to work.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. elysehaldeman

    I wanted to share with you a great book on learning English grammar, only because you mentioned going back to the books about it. I’ve been doing the same and found that understanding grammar rules improves my writing. The book is “The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage.” It’s been very helpful for me. I’m still learning, but now I finally understand ‘which vs that’ and other tricky issues of grammar.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the recommendation! I have a stack of books that I refer to, but I don’t have that one yet. I feel like, in some ways, I’m starting over, because I’ve forgotten even how to diagram a sentence. As I re-write my first novel, I’m reviewing all the rules and finding that I have a serious learning curve! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. fransiweinstein

    Congratulations Michelle. I know there have been times in the past you’ve thought about stopping, but I’m glad you’ve hung in. Yes, definitely, to the next 3 years (and counting).

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  4. pinklightsabre

    I remember when you first landed on my blog and it felt like I had been really discovered. You’ve been a real inspiration and meaningful part of my life, as a would-be writer. Here’s looking at you, kid. – Bill

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would just like to say that *you* are one of the bloggers I read that make *me* want to be a better writer. Thank you!
    Alison

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  6. Just for the heck of it, I asked Google … https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/607/04/

    Also, congratulations, and thank you. When I got started in this blog thing (not so long ago), one of the biggest challenges for me was to find my blogging “voice”. It’s different from my technical writing voice, and less disciplined than my “real writing” voice … but in trying to write conversationally I initially picked up some verbal tics that seem to be all over Blogland. (You know what they are.) One day I went back and read some of my stuff, and honestly … it wasn’t “me”; I wrote like a teenager! Or, worse, a hipster! Ugh!

    Your blog is one of a few that has helped ground me. It’s hard to explain this … Essentially, your honest but undramatic style, and your evocative but clear and simple use of language, served as a model when I was floundering around trying to figure it out. I don’t mean I want to be “just like you”, but the emotional place I was in at the time I started blogging was such that I was flailing around in the verbal equivalent of cosmic soup.

    Then a couple weeks after I found you, you took a break. Argh! Glad you came back… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I ask Google a lot of things, but it’s like a coworker of whom you ask a simple question and an hour later, you’re wishing you’d just remained ignorant. I have a lovely collection of grammar books and will likely track the one down recommended by another commenter.

      It takes a while to hit one’s stride and find that ever-elusive voice that everybody keeps yammering on about, but no one can truly define for you. While not fond of abbreviations or text-speak, there are some writers who make me laugh, who leave out entire parts of speech in a sentence. The timing and rhythm just works and I have picked up some of those “patter” habits in online writing. I have a very short attention span while reading online, so I take that into account when writing.

      I’m glad that you were able to find something here that helped. I do tend to be a bare bones writer, which I think serves me blogging, but not necessarily in my novel. There are challenges everywhere I look!

      I do tend to take breaks for several weeks at a time. Sorry about the timing, but so glad you came back and kept at working on your own blog!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I use the… then continue. Is that weird (?) Another oddity I employ to cover for my not knowing, ever or forgotten. Ik, eek, right? I am starting over, cracked skull, seizures (mostly gone, research and work, neuroplasticity, …I need to write to gain practice) Great writers worry and fear trends. I would be silly if I did not “quotes help me too”… I am glad to have read your comment and your style was warm, and “Aargh!” love that. Yet I spelled it wrong, accidently. I will leave it, it turned out to complete my hiding, if I notice, my looking for ways to not share I am learning relearning… but I am & I shared, & I will get better. Learning will come.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love The Green Study. You speak my language. You say things I think and kick myself because I didn’t write them. I’d like to be your IRL neighbor. That is, if you lived in a milder climate. I’m over shoveling snow. So, I happily remain your URL neighbor. Congratulations on sticking with the blogging thing. Keep writing. I’ll keep reading.

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    • Our yard is a perennial garden/weed bizarre, so our neighbors don’t actually like us much. But I have this weird thing about clean air, soil and water. And I think the guy across the street might be a vampire (shades always closed, moves under the cover of darkness).

      Needless to say, your voice and kind regards have always been in the “pro” column for blogging, Honie!

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      • We had neighbors years ago, a husband and wife, that we didn’t see together for the longest time. We’d see one and then the other for months. They were the same height and similar in shape. We affectionately referred to them as “The Charlies”. The husband, named Charlie, came over with sandwiches the day we moved in. They were good neighbors, and we’ve kept in touch for the last twenty years.

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  8. What a wonderful post! You’ve captured so well so much of what I think. thank you!

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  9. Thanks for this. As a middle aged middle class couple who have been blogging for three weeks this was insightful…and I too may pay to not have advertising

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    • Congrats are the start of your blog! The advertising abhorrence is something I feel in every aspect of my life. I’m glad that there is an option, albeit not free, to not have it on my blog. That being said, I know that not everyone can afford to do that, nor is as irritated by ads as I am. I read a lot of blogs that do have advertising and just ignore those embedded videos.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. If you have been a lifelong reader, most of the grammar stuff falls into place by instinct. Great post. All the best for 2015.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Congrats on three years. It’s hard to keep it going and often not worth the time and effort put in. Personally I think you are a masterful writer. Seriously. Your posts are always thought provoking and meaningful with a vocabulary that I could only dream of! 4 FPs is pretty impressive too! 🙂

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    • Thanks for the congrats. My frame of mind did a clear shift this year in regards to blogging. Once I placed the focus of my time on offline writing, it put blogging back in the hobby box and made it enjoyable again. I enjoy the interaction and feel connected to regular readers. It’s an entirely different writing experience than the sometimes frustrating slog through novel edits. Thanks for your kind words about the writing.

      I laughed about your vocabulary comment. I was in a face-to-face conversation with someone who stopped me dead. “What does that word mean?” I never felt more pretentious, but this is a side effect of reading a lot. I view language like music and enjoy how some words just roll off the tongue. And then I remind myself that the whole point of communication is to be understood and that context matters.

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  12. As a novice to this ambitious venture of mine, this was the motivation i needed . I’ll be taking this to my stride, and will be pitching my real estate in your neighborhood.
    Congratulations, and wishing you many more years ahead.

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  13. Occasionally, I feel petty resentment that I have blogged for three years and never been FP’d. Tonight, I read why. Apparently, it’s because the WP people do know what they’re doing when they hand those things out.

    It was surprising, at first, to read that you are trying to work on your language mechanics. For your brilliantly-crafted, silky writing is one of the pleasures of Michelle. But then, no surprise, either. For your deep and considered reflection on all things, including unblinded self-examination, is another of the pleasures of Michelle.

    Congratulations. I am grateful for the time spent within your words and thoughts, and look forward to every new opportunity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Petty resentment is a natural byproduct of what appears to be a random selection system. Without sounding too patronizing, you’re going to be Freshly Pressed eventually – your voice and experiences are unique, expressed well and with a level of quirkiness that’s appealing.

      Thanks for all your kind words about the writing. I’m simply a “Yes, but..” person. I never strive for perfection, but I always know that I could be better. Plus, I like the challenge.

      Thanks for the congrats and for taking the time to read and comment. You’re one of those people that makes the comment section more of a delight than the post!

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  14. Congrats on your anniversary.

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  15. mercyn620

    Congratulations on three years, a milestone. It is a labor of love and hard work. Keep up the great work!

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  16. Yaay for Three! Like others, I was worried for a while that you’d go away from Blogland. I’d miss your voice terribly. It cleaves sharp and clear to the heart of what matters–to me and to many others here.

    One of the surprises about blogging that I learned is that it made me a better fiction writer. Or maybe a *braver* fiction writer. And then that courage slopped over into my blog posts. Writers Write.

    Keep it up, my courageous friend.

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    • It was touch and go in year two, because I hadn’t really figured out where blogging fit into developing a writing career. It was starting to feel a little pointless. I found that I value the connection with other readers and writers and wanted to continue to foster those relationships.

      Between learning to write “out loud” and writing more, which blogging encourages, I was pulled out of a creative torpor. It made me really focus on writing the fiction I would like to read.

      Thanks for all your encouragement and kindness, Sandy. It means a lot to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. You said it! Happy anniversary and congratulations. There are a few bloggers I followed who dropped out. A couple I still hear from on Facebook but one I think of in particular just… stopped. And I actually worry about her and wonder if she’s okay. I’ve even considered emailing a couple of times simply to check. Someone I don’t actually know! So if that’s not a relationship, I don’t know what is.
    Keep on going, Michelle!

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    • Thanks, Ross. I’ve been experiencing some angst over a blogger who had to stop because of dealing with radiation treatment. I think of her frequently, like an old friend, hoping that she is recovering. But until she comes back online, I have no way of knowing how she is doing.

      I’ve seen the mocking of online communities and friendships, but these are not imaginary people. I feel connected to the other writers and readers here, no matter how tenuous the thread and that doesn’t mean I don’t have a full life offline or that I’m sending my life savings to someone I’ve never met. Wow, I can see writing a post on this subject alone.

      Anyway, thanks for the kind words and congrats. You are one of my favorite voices online, and I hope you don’t hate this, but I really appreciate what I’ve come to think of as your gentle humor.

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  18. Mel

    Fab post Michelle and well done on the three years so far. I’m afraid I one of the grammar gremlins and tend to ignore good practice but you have inspired me to sit up and make a bit more of an effort – probably a fairly small effort (I know myself so well) but an effort nonetheless!

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    • Thanks, Mel. I think it’s a tricky thing to maintain one’s voice while trying to implement new grammar habits. It can be easy, too, to get sidetracked by the new editor voices in one’s head. Learning to tear apart my writing after the fact has been a useful tool for me and I hope that it means I’ll integrate the information more as I write.

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  19. Happy blogging anniversay! I love the way you write and much of what you say rings true for me! Blogging is a funny old thing. Keep it up!

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  20. The only thing better than reading great writing is to read one of your own old posts and say, “hey, that’s great writing!” I hope you do that often.

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  21. Congratulations, Michelle. I often read your blog and feel like I’m reading my own thoughts already written out there for me. And I actually think I found you through one of your FP’d posts.

    Now I will give you a tip. Semi-colons are wonderful; use them in a compound sentence to break up two linked thoughts. Use it instead of “and.” I don’t know why they seem to add power to sentences. Perhaps the reader is forced to continue on where you are pointing them!

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  22. I think there’s something special about being a survivor in blog world and I think it has a lot to do with the wonderful obliviousness you described. I never know what’s coming next. I’d say it’s definitely worth celebrating. Your annual markers are an encouragement for me to continue though I can never seem to catch up.

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    • It’s always surprising to me how quickly these anniversaries arrive. I’m glad to still be here and I know I want to continue. Now I’m in that insecure phase of “after 3 years, shouldn’t I change templates or schedules or start a new feature?” It’s likely I won’t. Just rambling along in comfortable shoes and a reliable haircut…

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  23. My friend, I am so delighted that you not only got into this practice but that you’ve stuck with it, nay, excelled at it, for lo these three years. I relish your way of thinking and the remarkably cogent, sometimes passionate, frequently witty way that you express it, and so often I am also struck by how much I wish I could have said precisely the same thing, but as well as you said it.

    This post is no different in that regard, with the outstanding exception that you have been Freshly Pressed, and deservedly so, not once but four times. Whoever makes the choices and however they do it, I agree that you are more than worthy. More people should know about your blog, indeed, *because* (rather than in spite) of the wide-ranging thought and inspiration that appears here in such marvelously written form. Niche, schmiche. I will always prefer spending my time in thoughtful company that goes whither the day takes her and carries me along for the vicarious experience.

    Three cheers to you, and one cheer more for the year ahead!
    Kathryn

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you for liking my posts and following my blog. You’re a talented writer, and I really enjoyed this essay, which reflects a lot of my own thoughts about blogging. I’m still waiting to join the “Freshly Pressed” club, but regardless, I always appreciate when people like you recognize my scribblings. Happy Anniversary!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I read your material and noted that your age does not coincide with your maturity. You have hit the nail on the head as if you have experienced much. Interested to read more of your musings.

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  26. Thanks for sharing this. It was interesting to read as I have just this evening ‘hit publish’ on my first ever blog post, which was a scary thing. I have no idea if anyone will read it or what will come of it, but it’s blogs like yours that inspire me to want to write.

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  27. Thank you, it read beautifully, I just did my first one today! I am stay at home mother of two boys! I was nervous then I saw this once I read it I felt much better. I only tried this for myself to tell my tales and laugh at myself. I JUST Wanted 2 comment cause your post helps people starting out like myself feel more secure and not so alone. 🙂

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    • You’re definitely not alone and everyone has a first post. Don’t be discouraged about a slow buildup of readers, either. I think I was blogging into a vacuum for about 8 months before any significant growth. But really, for me, the point was getting in the practice of writing regularly and out loud. My favorite, sometimes least read posts, are the ones that amused me to no end. Enjoy your blogging journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. I’ve just found you and have only read two of your blogs, which have been beautifully written. I love to write. It’s my morning wake up. I have no aspirations, but if I had it would be to write as coherently and concisely ‘as what you do’!

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  29. Pingback: The Green Study Potpourri (or What’s that Smell?) | The Green Study

  30. Reblogged this on Writing Fiction Now.com and commented:
    Michelle at The Green Study shares some Blogging 101 tips.
    Informative, ineresting, and inciteful author to author words!
    Enjoy!

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  31. Just reblogged on my site. I am a new reader to your site, but see the wisdom! Like your thoughts very much!
    Thanks for sharing!

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  32. Wow, you have a very talented following. Three years, nice! I have two years, but never did anything with it wasn’t ready? I am glad I had it stand by. Many other newbies too. Other wordsmiths, what an awesome bunch. I have concluded, authors are the nicest encouraging people.

    I need autographs from everyone, zero trolling, yet.

    I am going to read some blogs from the comments.

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