Tag Archives: Blogging

The Blogging Plateau

canstockphoto23123007Over the last year The Green Study blog has hit a plateau. There’s been very little growth in readership, commenting activity has been slow to middling, and I really haven’t improved as a writer. This is interesting to me. If it were a diet plateau, I’d have to make a few more changes to see progress on the scale. If it were a career plateau, I’d go back to school or attain some new certification. What do you do for a blogging plateau?

The first step in defining any problem, if it is one, is to know what you are trying to accomplish.

Reasons for Blogging

My blogging goals go through a regular review once or twice a year. Since writing blog posts takes time and is not financially rewarding, the intrinsic reasons need to be solid. Generally my reasons have been that blogging has kept me writing regularly for 5 years and I have connected with a group of interesting, smart, funny, and thoughtful people. That sounds nice and reasonable.

canstockphoto11177261If I were to really going to dig deeper, it would be that because I write in isolation, having outside, regular input on my writing soothes my insecurities and urges me forward. And frankly, too much time alone makes me super weird. Not in a kidnap-strangers-torture-cellar sort of way, but in a way that when I enter the world, everyone else seems like an alien and I engage awkwardly. Take me to your leader. Meep-meep. Engaging with others online seems to take the edge off, because writing me can do.

Metrics and Engagement

I used to be more aware of the numbers, the stats, the pings. At least the ones I understood. Whether it be a development issue or spam season, there have been several periods of time over the last 5 years when every new subscriber was a spammer. You lose interest pretty quickly in your numbers when they’re a tourist company trying to drum up hits or to sell you knock-off handbags.

canstockphoto9986430My metrics tend to be engagement – the comment section. Two things changed over the last year on my blog. I stopped answering comments in a timely manner, sometimes missing them altogether because I forgot to return to them. Secondly, I wrote more political posts and decided to institute a comment policy. While I don’t think this necessarily had a deleterious effect, it did slow down the social aspect of engagement, by not engaging in real time and by suggesting that there would be some level of curating.

The goal was to be less distracted throughout my day. Stopping one task to engage in another or getting caught up in ruminations about someone’s comment could throw me off-track for a good hour. It hasn’t worked well. I’m still distracted by one thing or another and am coming to terms with the fact that those are hard habits to break.

I think, too, I’ve been less attentive to commenters. When people take the time to write a comment, it is my hope that I can give it my full attention and respond in kind. But there is certainly a degree of burnout in these exchanges. They’re not full conversations, just interactions that connect only briefly as we move throughout our day. I found myself adding “Answer blog comments” on to-do lists which is a sure way to take the fun out of anything.

The Changing Environment

canstockphoto19233296Culturally, social media is not moving in favor of long form posts. Instantaneous feedback, things that don’t require focus, click bait that revs up our emotions, and content that adapts easily to mobile devices is where we’re at. Perhaps we can hope, like slow living or tiny houses, blogging becomes this hip, retro thing to do for people who have a lot of time and disposable income (hence the time). It doesn’t seem promising, though.

I tend to hunger for longer thoughts, developed ideas, and something with a little more staying power. Maybe there is still room for blogging, as long as we don’t compare it to the lightning fast zeitgeist of other platforms and without the expectation of winning a popularity contest.

A Non-Conclusion

These are some of the things that I’ve been mulling over. I know that growth is important to me, but haven’t figured out what that means in terms of blogging.

Do I change content? To me, this is like trying to write for an audience. I like the organic approach – people come here for the subject and sometimes stick around for the voice. Until I write something that irritates them.

Do I run another contest? Contests can be labor, and sometimes dollar, intensive. I’ve enjoyed the five I’ve done over the years, but I’m a little burned out. As the number of readers grew, so did the number of submissions and while I enjoy promoting others’ work, I don’t enjoy “judging” it.

Do I start allowing guest posts? I’ve never done that because I follow blogs for specific reasons, mostly for a writer’s voice. I’ve always felt it better to provide a link to the original work and let it and the author speak for themselves.

Without a profit angle or a willingness to actively use Twitter or Facebook, there are really no gimmicks, click bait titles, or fads I’m willing to engage in that will promote blog growth. There are only a few areas that I can work on: engaging more fully in comments, visiting more blogs and engaging there and lastly, but most importantly, working on my writing game. If it’s not improving, that bit’s all on me.

Have you reached a blogging plateau? Have you made changes to deal with it?

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The Next Five

canstockphoto5233804It’s been five years since I wrote my first blog post and I’m feeling a tad somber about that. Since then, I’ve written on a wide range of topics, mostly in regards to personal development and writing. I wrote an angry political post yesterday and it was a lesson as well, getting chided by a couple of commenters. I expended a lot of energy trying to be measured in reply and not devolve into personal attacks. I lay awake last night and decided it’s not worth it, so I am making a slight adjustment.

The idea of writing a public blog is both grand and petty at the same time. There are a million plus blog posts published every day on the internet. That I would presume to be one of those voices, after a lifetime of flying under the radar is pretty amazing to me. When people respond, you start getting the idea that what you say matters. Until you realize that you’re in the middle of a rancorous crowd, whispering read me, read me.

canstockphoto16878678I don’t want to write about little things all the time. But I don’t want to spend my time arguing. No one has ever argued me into changing my mind, so I don’t expect to do that for someone else. I change my mind slowly, on my own terms. Arguing just makes me feel the need to either run away or get unnecessarily aggressive. While I’ve been reading about how to be rational and reasoned in those situations, when push comes to shove, my frustration wins. I know it’s something I have to work on, but I’m not going to do it here. There’s better places to have conversation.

Anyone who has read my blog for any period of time, knows how I feel about the current state of politics and about our new President. So, I’m learning to become an activist. I’m learning more about my government and how it works. And I will use my writing skills to protest, persuade, and make my voice known.

canstockphoto6393530There’s a question of complicity. If I don’t use this established platform to raise my voice, am I failing in some way to honor my values? There is a particular flavor to the internet. I don’t think minds are being won over here. It is the mindlessness, the reactive nature of political commenters. No argument is advanced, but the same old tired back-and-forth memes are recited until eventually they’re calling each other stupid. It’s pointless.

It is unlikely that I’ll endear myself to the public at large, anyway. I’m not a believer, so I don’t care for religion. Any discussion usually lands me in hot water. I’m an unrepentant feminist and don’t have patience arguing about what it means or why some whackadoodles in the club have done what they’ve done. I don’t claim responsibility for anyone but myself.

I don’t watch TV. I don’t enjoy sports. I hate shopping. I don’t actively use Twitter or Facebook (my posts robo themselves over). I don’t like crowds of people, recycled sound bites or hugging. I can be quite bad-tempered when pushed. I like to spend loads of time alone. And I read indiscriminately. In short, I have very limited appeal online and in person.

With politics, I don’t see the advantage of starting dialogue with people who are dug into their trenches. It takes much more effort on my part than theirs to engage, because I don’t always assume I’m right. I have to critically think about and counter my intemperance. I’d rather engage people on other things and not go head-to-head on politics all the time. This is the only way we can remind each other of our humanity.

I get a little sensitive to the accusation that I’m intolerant and not open-minded, because those are held up as virtues. I’ve decided to get over that. We’re all intolerant and close-minded about some things, just not the same things. This is my blog and I should make a conscious choice how I engage and how responsive I want to be. And if a reader prefers all engagement, all the time, I’ll get over that, too, because there’s 999,999 other blogs that they could comment on.

canstockphoto5307402From here on out, I’ll continue to write what I want to write, but on hot button posts will turn off comment sections and Like options. I appreciate engagement, but with some topics there’s just no way it’s going to be enjoyable. I don’t enjoy squabbling and being told how stupid I am by total strangers. Who does? I enjoy reading editorials with no engagement, no Like button. I like to mull things over without the social media tug, so maybe some of you do as well.

My writing, when it comes to politics, needs to take on a more journalistic bent. As I engage in editorial writing to papers and magazines, the up-close-and-personal perspective that I write from at The Green Study will be absent. I’m great for blurting out my flaws and vulnerabilities, but I am also capable of a different kind of writing. And it may be more useful than me calling someone a douchebag here.  Although perhaps not as satisfying.

I don’t know how things are going to play out over the next five years. But I’m going to keep typing along in the hopes that something worthwhile emerges. canstockphoto10829751

An added comment policy can be found here.

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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.

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The Green Study Takes a Rest

The Green Study will return on September 1, 2016.

Please note: I’ve received emails regarding phone calls from a Green Study Survey Company. This entity is entirely unrelated to me or my blog and from minimal research, seems to be a nuisance robo-caller reported on several spam tracking websites.

canstockphoto15476528My time away from this blog over the last few weeks was unintentional. I’ve been losing myself for hours in the silence and solitude of gardening. In addition, I’ve been spending an increasing amount of resources towards changing habits that will help me reach some personal goals. Digging in on all fronts, as it were. It’s made me mute, as if opening my mouth or typing words will drain away much needed energy.

Life online has become unpalatable, as we lose each other in the maelstrom of ugly politics. We’re neighbors, fellow citizens, and human beings. Most of us don’t have the “real” story about these candidates and we’re all myopic about the course of history. Regardless of who our next president is, we’ve seen the underbelly of our citizenry – all the blaming and the racism and the misogyny, ever present, ever corrosive.

My angry post drafts remain unpublished, relics of confirmation bias and infinite regression. Hate begets hate. So, I step back from my computer, knowing that I’ll learn nothing relevant before the fall, knowing that I owe my country my vote, but not my mental health.

The novel that never seems to get finished, even though I wrote the first draft 4 years ago, is getting a hard look these days. I’m re-writing most of it, learning how to craft and not just spew. It may never be published, but it means something to me and how I view myself. No investment in the outcome, only in the process.

I’ve been working on changing some personal habits, which seem to require a lot of energy and focus.  I’ve started with small changes – less time on the computer, longhand writing, getting back into painfully regular workouts, decaffeinating and changing my evening routine so that I sleep better. One small shift at a time, adding a new step every few weeks.

It weighs on me that in a year or so, I’ll turn 50. It weighs on me not because of numbers or wrinkles or irrelevancy. It weighs on me because I’ve waited so long to let myself be happy. To let myself just be. I live my life like an apology, never reveling in the happier moments, always downplaying successes and never allowing myself to rest. I need rest.

I suspect many of us do. I read an article about busyness being beneficial to your brain as you age. Between that one and the one about breakfast, I’m doing it all wrong. I want a life that isn’t busy and if I don’t eat breakfast, I’m homicidal by 10am. It tends to make it a rather important meal for me.

Sometimes, too, we get stuck in a loop without even realizing it. I’ve been going around in circles for the last few years. It’s Groundhog Day. I’ve spent a lot of time getting better with each loop – learning how to get up, brush myself off more quickly and calling bullshit when my mind does its little depressive dance.

A few weeks ago, during yet another sleepless night, a thought plunked itself down in my brain and it has stayed with me ever since. I’m ready. While that phrase could be subject to wildly inaccurate interpretation, I figure it means one of several things: I’m ready to be happy, I’m ready to let go of old ideas or, just when I finally get the point of things, I will get hit by a bus. While I’m still upright, I’m going with the more positive and less bus-flattening of the interpretations.

I’m ready for what is to come next. I’ll put down my guard. I’ll stop justifying why I do what I do. I’ll shorten my to-do list. I’ll not make excuses for happiness or success (I’m sure it won’t last. It was just luck. I don’t deserve this.).

But for now, I’ll just rest.

I wish you a wonderful summer and all the joy you can muster!

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The Green Study will return on September 1, 2016.

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Silver and Gold: Blogging Gratitude

canstockphoto0135822I’ve been blogging long enough that there are people here I’ve exchanged comments with for years. I get a little blasé about blogging, skimming through my reader, hitting the Like button, making pithy comments. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling more gratitude and perhaps, sentiment. These familiar voices, from some people I’ve never met, have accompanied me over the years, whether they knew it or not.

I’d like to say thank you to some old friends and introduce you to a few new ones.

canstockphoto11405315.jpgMy friend, Ross over at Drinking Tips for Teens wrote a touching and funny post this week about giving up drinking. He’s a Canadian humorist with heart. Thanks to his CBC “Breakaway” broadcasts (his first album is a classic), I know what his actual voice sounds like and can now read all his comments in that voice, instead of with a faux French accent or a patois that includes “hoser” and “eh” at the end of every sentence. Which is how I read anything written by Canadians. Sorry, eh?

In regards to Canadians, I’d like to say thank you to Fransi over at 365 and Counting. She comments early and often, which kicks off some great conversational threads and I really appreciate that. She’s currently working on a memoir and blogs about a wide range of subjects, including getting fired up about American politics. It’s an unhealthy spectator sport at this juncture, but we need all the friends we can get.

canstockphoto1542595Alison over at Adventures in Wonderland, always adds to the conversation. While she doesn’t know it, I think of her as one of my Zen people – someone who shows us a life well-lived. She has a wonderful blog with her husband, Don, as they document traveling the world with wonderful descriptions and photographs. They did a lovely interview at HuffPo – it was great to see and hear them.

Bill and I have exchanged emails over our writing and the challenges of being gainfully unemployed. His writing appealed to me right from the start at pinklightsabre and his travels with his family over the last six months have added further dimensions. He’s one of those people who unintentionally challenges me to read harder and write better.

John (Pastor John Coleman) at A Napper’s Companion is a kind commenter and brings a valued mindfulness to his blog. He wrote a book a couple of years ago, which sits on my reading table: Your Grandmother Raised Monarchs and Other Wonders Before Your Time. It’s a narrative to his grandson and I enjoyed the gentle vignettes about life as a pastor. For me, it also serves as a reminder that the extremist religion we now see in public life is not representative of all religion or of all Christians.

I’d like to thank a couple of real life friends, one of whom I’ve known for years and another who stepped out of the ether world into my real one.

My friend, Kiri, over at The Dust Season has evolved with me over the years, especially in the last few as we try to carve out space for our writing, in spite of ourselves. She’s a science fiction writer with several book drafts under her belt, a penchant for wordplay and an ability to make me laugh at the darkest things.

Sandy came into my world despite my online antisocial antics and vitriol against hugs. She’s a creative, wise person with a warm heart and a great sense of humor. She writes about her life living with bipolar disorder over at A Mind Divided. She is hitting the road with her artistic cards, but her Etsy shop will reopen on April 16th.

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There are so many new and interesting writers and readers who I’ve “met” over the last few months, that there would not be enough space to share them all here. But I’d like to start somewhere.

Kim at Wobblenot.com blogs about a wide range of subjects for well-being and a balanced life. I enjoyed her post The Worst Obituary I’ve Ever Read. From her comments alone, she strikes me as an engaged and engaging person.

Dave at A Nomad in Cyberspace writes about a wide range of topics. I enjoy writers who can traverse culture under a unifying theme, as evidenced in We Can Be Together.

Lisa at Lisa Pomerantzster: Are We There Yet? is a mentsch and a yiddisher kop, which I learned by going to the Yiddish links on her site. She is one of two moms, raising two girls and writes about parenting, liberal rants and does it all with a sense of humor.

Jim at Snippets of a Traveling Mind started blogging in the fall of 2015, in order to share his travel experiences during his retirement years. As a yoga practitioner and retired teacher, his posts reflect curiosity and thoughtfulness.

I’m going to stop there, because my novel is not, despite my fondest wishes, going to finish itself.

Thank you to new friends and to my continuing friends.

You have my gratitude and I look forward to conversations in the year ahead!

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About The Green Study: Notes on Blogging

canstockphoto4839212Four years ago this week, I registered a blog with WordPress. With 310 posts and 13,000+ subscribers later, I thought I would do a little celebratory dance in the form of blog talk. I’ve received some emails from new bloggers asking for advice.

I don’t know if I’m the best person for these inquiries, because my advice would involve something like “slow and steady wins the race, if this were a race, which it isn’t, although it would be the most boring race ever, but it would be funny if there were blogger jockeys and a virtual betting window. What was the question again?”

That being said, I’m not a blogging expert. I haven’t made money this way, secured a publishing contract or created a world peace movement. What I have done is created a writing habit, learned to write outside my comfort zone, discovered my voice, and met a community of readers and writers who make great conversation. I’ve even made a friend or two.

I could write about blogging until I’m blue in the face and absolutely none of it might be relevant to your goals. So I write this less as advice and more as an example. This is what one blogger does.

These are the basic guidelines that I tend to follow for my blog:

#1   It is always about the writing.

This is not a niche-based blog, so I write about whatever hits me in the moment.  I aim to write well, regardless of subject matter. It doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes I’ll smack my head months later for typos or a turn of phrase that was really awful.

Since this is a personal essay blog, I try to write from a place of circumspection. I’ve talked about mental health, family dysfunction and a lot of personal issues, but I tend to write about those things after I’ve worked through them, so that whatever I’ve learned and whatever resources I’ve found, can add value to the conversation.

#2   The Mechanics of The Green Study

canstockphoto5910485Readability. Due to my old lady eyesight, I avoid using fancy fonts or complicated backgrounds. I use regular paragraph breaks, as well as capitalization and punctuation. Regardless of one’s view of grammar, it serves the purpose of cuing readers, as well as establishing the rhythm and flow of writing.

Length. I try to stay within a range of 500-1200 words, preferably around the 800 word range. For me, it’s long enough to develop an idea without becoming pedantic and repetitive.

Images. I use 2-5 images per post. I purchase images on Can Stock Photo, so I don’t have to spend hours searching for images or worrying about attribution, but there are some free resources out there as well. I do not use moving GIFs. The constant looping while I’m trying to read is very distracting. On occasion, I’ll use music videos from YouTube.

Tagging and Categories. I’m not particularly creative about tags or categories. I do some basic tags and category assignments for every post, but I’m not interested in doing much more than that.

Scheduling. Um. Nope. Can’t do it. I do try to post regularly, but this isn’t an actual job. Again, it depends on what your goals are – some people find self-imposed deadlines to be useful.

#3   Community

canstockphoto6433663Comments. My favorite thing about this blog now, is the relatively active community of commenters who don’t just parrot or fawn or do any other animal imitations, but instead add to the conversation. I like it when I see conversations start up between commenters.

I do my best to answer every comment. I have missed a few on occasion. While I do not actively moderate comments, I generally don’t respond to comments that are just self-promotion (Hey- look at my blog) or religious proselytizing (which I find presumptuous).

Contests and Promoting Other Blogs. In years past, I’ve done 3 or 4 contests and met some lovely bloggers this way. I’ll likely do more contests, but time management is always a primary concern, especially as readership grows. Also, it was really, really expensive to send The Green Study coffee mug to Australia in the last contest I had.

I used to do a lot more promotion of other blogs, but last year was a tough year personally, so there were more inward-looking posts. One of my goals is to get back to promoting other blogs. There’s so many to look at, that if you land on one you really enjoy, it’s worth telling others about it.

canstockphoto1691967Blogging Awards and Blogrolls. When you first start blogging and someone sends you an award, you feel like you’re walking on the red carpet. It takes a few more, with long lists of requirements to realize that someone has just sent you homework. I think they are worth doing early on, if only to propel you forward and make new connections, but it is dependent on your goals. Mine have changed to focus more on writing. While I appreciate and thank the senders for kindly thinking of me, I no longer participate in the interest of time.

When I started, blogrolls were a thing. Maybe they still are. My one attempt at a blogroll was awkward and frustrating, because it must be actively monitored and updated. It feels odd, like you’re trying to set up a special club. I tend to find blogs through the comments or links in others’ blogs, so I dumped my blogroll.

Social Media. Anyone who has read this blog regularly knows that I’ve eschewed any social media format beyond blogging. If I ever get a book published, I will have to eat my words, 140 characters at time, because I’m sure that is an expectation. However, many people use Facebook and Twitter to promote their blog posts. So I’ve heard.

Blogging Breaks. I have taken regularly blogging breaks over the years. There were a few times when I considered quitting and the breaks reminded me of what I liked about blogging. If I were going to be gone for more than a week or two, I notified readers with a simple statement at the top of my most recent post. Even if no one misses you, it feels respectful towards one’s readership.

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There are a lot of blogging resources out there. I enjoy the WordPress Daily Post. Outlier Babe just updated an entertaining post on blogging tips. If I were to come up with any sage advice of my own, it is this: Find what works for you, evaluate your blogging goals on a regular basis and really, just try to enjoy yourself.

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Thank you to the readers who have joined the conversation in the last week and to the readers over the years who have willingly spent time here reading and commenting.

Please feel free to add your own blogging experience in the comment section – there’s a lot of new bloggers here!

 

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2016: Year of the Ambivalent Blogger

canstockphoto32948297New Year’s Eve came and went with a snore.  A literal snore, as I tucked in at 9pm. New Year’s Eve used to be this time of unfettered optimism and limitless booze, followed closely by regret and a massive hangover. In earlier years, I met and lost boyfriends, babbled incoherently to the police, best-friended DJs and insulted strangers. In my thirties, it was couples parties and babysitters and wine/cheese tastings (never seemed to find the cheese). In my forties, it’s been going to bed when I’m tired and not giving a shit what day it is.

canstockphoto11441269So, hello in 2016. I was up at my usual 4am, delighted by the territorial hooting of great horned owls outside my window. December was a good month. I didn’t write or blog. I cut back on my consumerism (Amazon stock took a dip – coincidence?). I gave what I could, when I could. I didn’t send out holiday cards. My husband took a couple weeks off of work and my daughter was out of school. We did nothing. And it has been wonderful.

As I enter my 5th year of blogging, I did a little re-reading of past posts. This blog has, in some ways, served as a journal about the ups and downs of working towards personal goals. The hardest thing to accept is that I move at a glacial pace in terms of development. There is movement, but it is only discernible over a long span of time. Perhaps this is what I fear most about death – that I’ll be too slow to accomplish the things I would like to and it will be too late.

I remember the impatience I felt in my teens and twenties. It made every failure seem so important and they were important, but not for the reason I believed them to be. Every failure counted towards a bigger picture – it was a step in a marathon, not a loss in a sprint. It was building a reserve of resiliency so that I could make it in the long run.

canstockphoto7381049So here I am at the 20th mile mark. Offhandedly I tell myself that I feel the same as I ever have, only that I go to bed earlier. But it’s not true. I’ve run the race, I’ve overcome injury and setbacks and found a 2nd, 3rd and 40th wind. I’m still here. I still feel optimism. I still hope that I’ll become a published writer, that I will continue my pursuit of knowledge, that I’ll look as strong as I feel, that my heart can open a little more.

For years, I’ve read blogs on a wide range of subjects. I’m feeling some fatigue from the high levels of outrage, the sociopath comments, the irredeemably cheery memes, the stranglehold of nostalgia, and the momentary obsession with shiny new objects. I’ve resisted Facebook or Twitter, because I am uncomfortable with its carelessness and ubiquity. Mind control doesn’t seem like science fiction when you’ve seen the same posting or meme in a hundred different places. Olympic bandwagon jumping. No one gets the gold, but everyone gets a Wheaties cover.

This is all to say that, as I have many times in the past, I am questioning the veracity of writing online. I don’t know if it detracts from or adds to my attitude, outlook or development as a writer. And if it no longer serves that purpose, then why do it? If it is just a way for me to procrastinate, instead of writing things that can be submitted for publication, then shouldn’t I quit?

canstockphoto4962137In the last year, this blog has gained a lot of readers – and lost a few as well. The numbers at year end rattled me. It seemed like a lot of visits and readers, many gained through a single post and social media sharing of that post. I’m not going to write that post again and it is obvious to me that it was a peak point for this blog. It’s the child star syndrome and I’m just two shakes away from rehab and a prison stint.

This is a bit of a grim opener for the year, I suppose. A new year always begs the question how did I spend my time last year and how do I intend to spend it this year? In the absence of a clear answer, I look to the reasons why I like blogging – meeting other writers, sharing a laugh, connecting with people around the world and reading things that teach me or piss me off, but make me think. Knowing that what I do here really doesn’t matter, yet knowing that if I spend time doing it, it needs to matter to me, is a delicate balance.

Clearly, I think things to death.

But if you’re a longtime reader, you know that. If you’re just joining the conversations here, be warned. Of long-winded diatribes about bad gift-giving and road rage and comfortable socks. Of angsty essays on writing or not writing. On middle-aged whining and childhood misery recollection. Of awkward interactions with other humans. Of things I’ve said a thousand times before, but can’t remember that I wrote about already. Oh, and the profanity and lack of perkiness and disinterest in being hugged, virtual or otherwise. I’m a shitstorm of contradiction and depressive tendencies, highbrow intellectualism wrapped up in perverse, lowbrow humor.

But I’m still here. And I hope you are, too. Let’s see if we can’t enjoy the ride.

Administrative Note: Thank you to readers who stopped by in December and commented on various posts or emailed me via the Contact page. I will be responding to your comments and emails over the next few days.

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