Here We Go Again: The Blog Dilemma

canstockphoto14284461 The Green Study’s Positively Happy Nice Story Contest is a great way to win for your local American Red Cross and there’s a mug! The deadline is Monday, October 3rd, 12:00pm. See here for details.

I took the summer off in hopes of refilling my word reservoir and bringing needed engagement back to blogging. In September, I kicked off an annual contest, dipped my toes into politics, attached my face to the blog, freaked myself out by doing an inept podcast, tiptoed around other people’s blogs and flopped around with no direction or sense of purpose. I baited the hook, but nothing in my brain is really taking the bite.

At least once a year, if not more, I have to justify my reasons for blogging. They’ve shifted over the last five years, but this year seems to be tougher than most. Part of the reason is that I’m seeing longtime favorite bloggers close up shop or disappear in the vapors of the ethernet. It begs the question: what do they know that I should be paying attention to?

canstockphoto12000846Since it’s an election year, I’ve exhausted myself reading political articles with the accompanying online antics of partisan citizens. My online time has been spent engaging less and being indignant more. I’ve tried to disconnect, but at least once a day, I check The Washington Post and FiveThirtyEight (which feels like playing political roulette). And an angry hour later, I get up in disgust to go rake or do dishes – anything to shake off the sense that we’re about to implode as a nation and that humans are awful.

I made a halfhearted effort to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts, cussing through the entire process and attempting to change settings so that any public contact will be highly unlikely. It all feels like dilution of my soul and I have started thinking about the idea that maybe my writing is suffering simply because I am incapable of talking, blogging, twittering and bookfacing so damned much. Maybe our word reservoirs have a limit, especially if one is an introvert.

Anna Quindlen, a Pulitzer-winning writer, suggested the possibility in a lecture I attended last week. She never talks about ongoing work, because she felt, at times, that she only had so many words. I’ve thought about this a lot since. I sometimes conflate social platforms with writing, which is fine, if that kind of writing were my goal. It’s not, but some days it seems it’s the only kind of writing I’m capable of: 700-1000 word personal essays that often feel like me chasing my own tail.

canstockphoto18118414There are successful bloggers who have transformed their blogging into writing careers, but they are few and far between. Some sell compilations of blog posts and make a little money that way. Some sell advice on how to transform blogging into money or job opportunities or social media mega-stardom. And I think, good for them. Not so good for me.

It’s too easy to get confused about purpose and therefore start spinning off in a thousand different directions, as I did last month. I learned what happens when I don’t give the intended impression. I think it was expected that I’d be more bombastic, more entertaining for a podcast interview, but I was just me, moderate in most ways and not interested in flame wars or Twitter beefs. The narrative became disjointed and despite my excitement about trying something new, I ended up feeling deflated.

Writing or speaking publicly means giving up an element of control. You cannot control how you will be presented or interpreted. That’s a problem for someone like me, who has spent a lifetime trying to control my moods, my words, my intentions. I’m as much a wingnut as the next person, I just usually know how to parse myself a little better.

This is all to say that writing a personal essay blog is not a platform from where I launch Michelle 2.0. It doesn’t serve a marketing or branding purpose. There is no gain that is immutable and no loss from which it is impossible to recover. This is a good thing, because traffic measured by those standards means I’m likely to file WordPress bankruptcy at any moment.

canstockphoto15203159Over the years, in comment exchanges with other bloggers and writers, we talk about purpose and why we continue to blog. Perhaps my blog has simply matured and without mixed media, cross-platform branding, purchasing power or magical blogging pixie dust, this is it. Writing, commenting, and watching other bloggers come and go.

My discouragement at this point is also related to my disappointing lack of growth, as a person and a writer. My blog posts over the years bear witness to the topics I return to over and over again, personal issues that are on a rinse-and-repeat cycle. It’s like reading my teenage diary and realizing I’m still as awkward and insecure as ever – a caterpillar that never fully metamorphosizes.

So the challenge lies before me. What purpose does writing a public journal serve? Is it an obstacle to writing goals offline? Does it dilute writing quality? At this point, the only thing weighing in favor of continued blogging is you. I’ve made connections over the years that I value – writers, photographers, readers, up-and-coming millennials, stay-at-home parents, retirees, humorists, people coping with mental illness, people just coping with life.

I can’t imagine disconnecting from you. Blogging opened up a world for me in years when I worked from home and only had contact with someone who ate crayons and wanted me to sing that dinosaur song again. Now, as I struggle to finish writing a novel, it has kept me from becoming too isolated, churning too much in my own compost. I don’t know if that is reason enough, but it is reason enough for now.

So thank you.

37 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Personal, Writing

37 responses to “Here We Go Again: The Blog Dilemma

  1. fransiweinstein

    Until reading this post of yours I thought I blogged because: I am opinionated and have a need to share my opinions … because I’ll explode if I don’t get stuff off my chest … because I really love to write … because I’ve met smart, funny, talented, interesting people whose blogs I enjoy reading and with whom I have interesting, provocative, meaningul, inspiring conversations. But I just realized there is another reason: my career has been in advertising. I’ve had to write about what other people tell me to write about, which often times doesn’t interest me at all. They can shit all over my work and make me change it as often as they want, even if it turns it into mush. I have to write in someone else’s voice and not my own. And my blog is all mine. I get to say what I want, it sounds just like me, I hope my readers like what I have to say but if they don’t it changes nothing (and nothing changes). It lets me be me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You sound like you have a really good grip on why you blog. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so frequently thinking about this if my offline work were more productive and satisfying. That is likely where I need to make some changes.
      I have focused a long time on personal essays on this blog and that, too, may be where I’m seeing limitations now. How long can one person talk about themselves without becoming bored or boring others? Just things I have rolling around in my mind…

      Liked by 2 people

      • fransiweinstein

        It’s interesting. Yours is one of my favourite blogs. You are a wonderful writer and I really admire your honesty. You’re certainly not boring me. Maybe the question isn’t “why” you blog, but what you “expect” from it. They may sound like the same thing, but I don’t think they are.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi Michelle!
    Thank you for sharing this honest post. I hope you will not go away, as I have only just started blogging, and you are one of the people I look to for wisdom and companionship here!
    Your rinse-and-repeat line resonates with me, too… “Shoot, I thought I learned this lesson already–and over again! WHY do I keep coming back?!?” I wonder if you find though, that each time you come around, there is another layer to uncover? Perhaps a new connection to some other relationship or life realm previously thought to be separate? That’s what I find, if I allow it, so it makes the reiterations easier to take.
    I really want to enter your contest–noon tomorrow, got it!! Will be pounding away momentarily!! 😄
    More soon! 😊 Cathy

    Like

    • I did get your submission in time – I think I’m taking them until tomorrow AM since I have a couple of people who were worried about being late as well. Thanks, Cathy!
      Sometimes when I read through too many posts I’ve written, it does start to blur into one immovable mass. I hope there are nuances of growth, but I’m pretty frustrated right now. I imagine I’ll continue to blog, but I definitely need to be more committed to offline work and satisfaction. Always striving is exhausting, but sometimes sitting still too long is as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmm…good question here:
    “So the challenge lies before me. What purpose does writing a public journal serve? Is it an obstacle to writing goals offline? Does it dilute writing quality?”

    There are those who say it might. I’m of the mindset to say no.
    Writing is writing, regardless of where, when, or how often. For me, the blog stuff keeps me moving pen to paper, and that’s good enough for me!

    In fact, I’ll be musing on this in my Monday’s Muse post, so come on by and weigh in.

    Thanks for some good musing material!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your comment is something I would have said the first 3 or 4 years, but sometimes goals change and I think that must be where I’m at. I really want to get work published and some cash in hand. It’s not an artistic or creative way to approach things, but for me, it is likely the truth.
      Monday is a good day for musing. Thanks, Lisa!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. pinklightsabre

    For me I think it just comes down to what your goals are, are you enjoying it…and it sounds like the connection you’re making with people holds it up, that’s good. I wasn’t like that when I started but have become more so. Just do it as long as it’s fun, I’d say — I think the public ‘putting it out there’ helps you grow as a writer too, at least it does for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The connections definitely hold up. I just need to realign my priorities and stop screwing around with the offline work. Sent you an email on that, Bill (sorry for delayed reply). I’ve grown as a writer using blogging as a tool, but at some point, for me, it’s become less about the writing. Just time to shift gears, I think.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Michelle,
    Don’t go. Please. Your writing has a quality not found much anywhere in the public domain. You often express my exact thoughts about life experiences so many of us share. I think more about how I come across to others, not in a self-conscious or neurotic way, but in a way that makes me believe I can recover when I screw up. This is because I’ve discovered that I don’t owe anyone an apology for my choices, beliefs, or moods. You said this, or at least that’s what I have read into your posts, and I am grateful for it. Clarity is a word that comes to mind when I read your writing. You don’t need permission from anyone other than yourself to write, or not to write, in public. You should know, however, that the value of the words in your arsenal is not diminished by the number of times you reuse them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the incredibly kind words, Honie. I think I’ve felt more pressure about blogging and whether to continue lately, because offline, my writing productivity has not been good. Maybe because people are so decent and encouraging in their comments here, it became easy not to push myself more (that’s right, I’m blaming it on nice people). I need to take things a step further and submit work with pretty high odds for rejection or else my growth as a writer will be limited.
      And I really like what you wrote “…the value of the words in your arsenal is not diminished by the number of times you reuse them.” That made me laugh!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hey right on Michelle!
        I’ve been doing exactly that and getting a ton of the dreaded “R” word in return…and still, even after nearly finishing my MFA program! And yeah, it smacks u upside the face, at least me anyway, and makes me want to crawl back into my blogging hole!
        Got a bunch of stuff out on sub right now, and my thoughts are that the sub game is basically scandalous, and not entirely unbiased.
        But like u say, if u want to grow as a writer, gotta go through it!

        But the blogging….well, at least it’s a place to get your voice out!

        Keep writing all, regardless! And please feel free to visit me too! Your community here is a great one!

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh this is wonderful! I think we all go through this after a certain time of blogging because it takes time and energy and commitment to continue. I’ve already partly written my next blog post which is about – why I blog!
    I’m so glad to read you’ll continue. I, for one, simply enjoy your writing. So thank you.
    Alison

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  7. I follow about 3 blogs. I don’t enjoy reading on a screen and so I limit my time here. Your blog definitely speaks to me. I am a person who imagines blogging, but never goes there because I can’t see a way to sustain it from within me. How will it connect to the heart work I need? Much like your post, I wonder where the drive to continue would come from.
    In this case, your blog posts are totally selfish for me. Almost everything you write affirms something I am already thinking or feeling. This takes a good deal of work on your part and courage, and I love seeing you as a voice for me. I identify with you and that is how I am fed by your writing. Ultimately, it is a distant, intangible result which may not be enough to fuel the fire. We all need the irreplaceable physical connection, too.

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    • Thank you for following this blog – what a compliment! I like your reference to “heart work”. My heart work involves mending the gaps of the past, learning how to be happy with myself and finding some measure of satisfaction in being creative.
      I am very fortunate to have a supportive family and generous friends (listening to all my whinging!). This allows me the space to be more honest with myself and with those around me, as well as having the time to write. Thanks for your kind words and taking the time to comment.

      Like

  8. The thing about blogging is that “whatever works, works.” Trite, but true.

    Everyone finds his or her own path, reasons, voice– and then must accept how other people react to it. I cannot control who’ll show up to read what I’ve written, which is fun and frightening at the same time.

    Once upon a time I wanted more from the blogosphere, but now I’m pleased with less. Somehow I realized that just being myself online is about all I want to give to social media, and that if I pushed myself to be a bigger deal, a different version of me, I’d ultimately break or burnout.

    Which I refuse to allow to happen to me over a blog.

    Like

    • Trite is just another word for brevity and I like brevity. I write these “should I blog?” posts is to work out what my reasons are in the moment, to shore up the niggling doubts and to rework my sense of purpose.

      Like you, my reasons, needs and aspirations have changed over time. I am a rumbly-dissatisfied person on a regular basis, constantly grilling myself for the whys and wherefores. It’s one of the ways I keep myself on the path I need to be on.

      I have been fortunate that when I started blogging, I started as an open book – no pretense to maintain or audience to impress. That has been useful in that I can focus on the writing – the connections have been a happy side effect!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I began blogging as a way to break out of the vacuum I was writing in. My posts/columns are published in print but I lacked feedback. That was the impetus but then I got to know some people and enjoyed the community aspect. Alas, a lot of those people have folded up shop, as I say. And I have to admit, if I wasn’t still writing on deadline for print, I don’t know if I would still be here myself. Things cool off. It’s normal. But I still do quite like connecting in this weird, personal-yet-impersonal way.

    Like

    • Since I write at home, the connections have been invaluable. Plus, blogging ensures I write regularly when I’m being extremely unproductive. Which has been a little too frequent of late.

      I like this weird style of connection as well – at our own paces, when we can, how we can. Plus, no hugging or drop by visits.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. Please don’t go away! You’ve been one of my fave bloggers since I started out — yipes, four years ago! I often ask myself why I blog. It takes so much time, and I do believe that it uses words that might better be used elsewhere. I am currently trying *daily* blogging, which I’ve never done before, to see if it jumpstarts my “real” writing. So far, it does not. It drains words from a fixed allocation I seem to have been given. We shall see.
    I do enjoy the blogosphere, meeting people (like you) and hearing stories and thoughts and explorations. Photography, poetry – it’s all here! I started blogging to build a platform for my writing, but that seems bogus now and not very useful, and the blogging seems to *be* my writing most of the time. I hope someday to discover a few themes in my blog and then realize “OH MY GOD, IT’S MY MEMOIR, COMPLETE AND PERFECT AND ALREADY WRITTEN!”
    Ah well, thanks for sharing 🙂

    Like

    • I think we are in the same place, Melanie. I’ve realized that while blogging jump-started me writing regularly, I can’t rely on it to move things forward. However, I do intend to keep blogging for the foreseeable future, so thanks for the encouraging words.
      From a writer’s perspective, and maybe you can identify with this, it helps me strengthen my voice, so perhaps it’s better to view it as a writing exercise with the added benefits of conversation and connection. I also like writing what’s on my mind in the moment (always a moving target) and taking a break from the grinding work of a novel.

      Like

  11. This made me think, a lot. I started blogging a year and a half ago and didn’t have much in the way of goals. I thought it would be good writing practice and a way to meet people and chronicle my life during and after my move to California, and it has been all that. I was (am still) working on a novel that is going more slowly than I would like. Then I started doing photo challenges, which I enjoy more than I expected to, but that hasn’t done much for my writing practice. I’ve been doing mostly book reviews and photo challenges for the past couple of months. Then I read your post and thought, oh yikes, she’s a much better writer than I am and she’s still getting discouraged and questioning why she is doing this and thinking about quitting, am I going to be in this place in a few years? And then this morning, I read this blog by Melissa Yancey, which somehow made the most sense to me of anything I’ve read on the writing life lately:
    http://www.glimmertrain.com/bulletins/essays/b117yancy.php

    “But when I talked to friends who had been able to give it up, I realized it was no longer stubbornness that kept me coming back. If I hadn’t learned to love the act itself, I’d learned to love the lens—not the time spent writing, but the way that time at the page created meaning in all my other time. This is something poets know best and that the old poet in me had perhaps forgotten. It’s the sensibility the act of writing brings to that everyday snack of cold plums, those hours spent watching a skunk rooting in the backyard. I successfully failed long enough to find a kind of purity, in spite of myself. I know this is something that will have to be lived and re-lived throughout my writing life, that my focus will slip elsewhere time and again. But I can say there’s nothing quite like failure to help you find it.”

    Like

    • Thanks for sharing that post and the text excerpt. I really like the idea of writing bringing sensibility to everyday life. It’s really true for me and maybe that’s the bottom line. Even if there were no chance of ever getting published, I’d still have to write. It’s a good basic reminder.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. It occurs to me that people may be getting disillusioned that their posts don’t seem to be making any difference … we say more and more and the world gets worse and worse!

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    • Perhaps it is cynicism, but the internet is too noisy and too rapid-fire for me to believe that I’d ever make a difference. Perhaps we can only improve the space we inhabit. Still, if everyone endeavored to do that, perceptions about the world would certainly improve.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, what Lewis Carroll – just now I’m reading a biography – called ‘mutual interaction’ where ‘every life bears upon, or ought to bear upon, the lives of others’. Away from the individual towards the collective, on might say …

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Initially, I started blogging to share my experience with cancer and how I am (still) transforming my body to better health. I also thought I’d start a blog as a platform for another stream of income. That may happen someday (or not). But, the most important thing for me is that this is a creative outlet. I write differently for work because I’m an attorney. Blogging has allowed me to express myself truly in my voice. And, through your blog, I’ve finally found a community of bloggers whose work I enjoy. Thank you!

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    • It’s interesting to me that I’ve come across numerous bloggers who write for work, but like for you, it’s a different kind of writing – technical, advertising, legal, etc. It is nice to have a place for practicing one’s voice. I’m glad that you’ve found a community of bloggers – they do make all the difference!

      Like

  14. I enjoy your blog, Michelle. What I like the most about the blogosphere is listening to the different voices out there and reading different styles. I blog because I enjoy making people laugh. It is a way for me to get my feet wet again and to flex the muscles. It is truly enjoyable. I am glad that you are not closing up shop.

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  15. Hi Michelle, I’m new to blogging and have enjoyed reading other people’s blogs including yours. I enjoy the variety of talent and creativity out there on the blogosphere that I may not have been exposed to without WordPress – I feel it is more intimate as you can get to know how someone feels. thinks or experienced about various topics. I was encouraged to blog by my Aunty and my daughter but didn’t think I had anything to write about but found once I started, I enjoyed it and have continued. I used to enjoy writing when I was younger and then life got in the way so I stopped. The creativity and being able to write is enjoyable to me and the encouragement, engagement and feedback from other bloggers has sustained me to keep on blogging. I feel it is also a way to give some positivity back into a world where there is much negativity. Glad to hear you’re staying! 🙂

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    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Blogging really helped me to regularly get back into writing and it sounds the same for you. I value the connections I’ve made here, which is one of the reasons I do continue to blog. I wish you the best in your blogging journey!

      Like

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