You know, I always like it when other bloggers write about their blogs or blogging and yet I’ve rarely done it myself. It isn’t that I don’t think about blogging A LOT but I keep most of my thoughts about it off my blog. Still, like other bloggers, I think about the purpose of my blog, how I feel about it, how to attract readers, how much time I can justifiably spend on it, and what I hope to gain from it. As in: what do I consider a successful, worthwhile blog?
In April, about a month from now, I’m coming in on my three year anniversary. For kicks, I put a “widget” on the main page of the blog (right hand side) with a count-down to the date. This is mainly because I was trying to get myself to figure out and use a few more blog features (frankly, the technical aspects of blogging don’t really excite me; they are a means to an end). My overriding philosophy is that all the bells & whistles come to nothing if you don’t have something to say.
Also on the main page of the blog (right side) I have added “Other bloggers who’ve visited my blog“. The feature is called “Blogroll” or “My Community” on some blogs but I wanted to make up my own name for it (because honestly, I never really understood what “Blogroll” or “My Community” were exactly when I saw them). WordPress generates the people on it automatically.
How frequently I’ve blogged has depended on two things. I’ve mentioned in passing, without offering details, that I’ve been dealing with a stressful, ongoing problem that at times has resulted in less blogging. I think any big problem or stressor in my life would likely impact the blog. The other factor in my blogging frequency is unreliable internet access. This means not only do I blog less, but sometimes I haven’t been able to respond to people’s comments as quickly as I might have liked (I mean hell, 24 hours is a week in the blogging world). It also means that I am not able to read other people’s blogs as much, which I regret. If I have a limited amount of time online though, writing comes first, then reading.
You can’t read everybody. You follow a handful of the best. Then you have a second tier…people that you are crazy about. You try to remember to visit their blog as often as you can, read a few posts, leave a few comments. But you can’t follow all of them. This will set you up to fail. Spend too much time reading and your own blogging will suffer. And your first responsibility is to be a good blogger, not a good follower. You know like the responsibility of parents is to raise good ADULTS, not good children. If you can do both, more power to you.
Without much forethought, I rather automatically made a few “rules” for myself as I started blogging and I’ve held to them.
No arguing. I won’t argue with anybody (that’s true across the board online, a personal philosophy). Fortunately, argumentative people rarely show up on my blog but then again maybe that’s because of my unspoken rule. (Disagreeing or offering alternative ways of looking at things is another matter, especially once a basic level of trust is established.) I am very put off by much of what I read online, on social media and in other places, by how ugly and vitriolic it often is – with no meaningful result – and that’s even in the most innocuous of places! I’ll argue/debate with someone in person, so long as it’s civil but not online. People are so wackily REACTIVE online, so quick to take offense, so quick to give it, and so very needlessly nasty in the way they interact. I think of WordPress, at least my corner of it and the corners I visit, as a haven from that. This means that participating on WordPress is far and away one of the most positive, if not THE most positive and satisfying way, I spend time online.
That being said, THIS IS NOT A JOB. The blog is not a job. The blog is not my job. The blog does not pay me any money. The blog has no set hours or requirements. I needed this rule for myself because guess what? I tend to make things into jobs. I create internal demands for myself in general. Any time I get any kind of obligatory or “I should…” type feelings about the blog, I hastily remind myself THIS IS NOT A JOB. Not. A. Job. It is very easy to pour lots of time and energy into a blog. That needs to be balanced against other aspects of your life, like the kind that maybe pay money, for instance. A blog needs to find a spot where what you put in and what you get back are roughly in sync. That “spot” varies over time.
I will write what I feel like writing. This rule dovetails nicely with the previous one. I never assign myself writing tasks or topics. The only slight rule I have is to try not to write posts on the same topic back-to-back. If I post something about decorating my home for instance, I make the next post about another topic. If I write a heavy, introspective essay, I post something lighter next. I do that to keep the blog interesting for me and readers. Supposing (in my imagination, I don’t actually know this) I have a reader that likes 75% of what I write about but really doesn’t care for my cooking posts – that reader can at least generally expect not to find two cooking posts in a row. And that’s no hardship on me.
I will only write when I want to. After almost three years, I have found that the blog is much like eating. Hunger builds up, eating satisfies it, and the feeling passes. Repeat. If I don’t feel like writing for a day or two or a week, invariably the desire returns. There have been times I’ve felt discouraged and wondered why I was blogging and if I should continue to. My sense, from reading other bloggers, is that this is a common sentiment. Some bloggers “take breaks.” I’ve never taken a break. There have been months where I didn’t post much, but I never specifically decided to go away and there’s never been a month with no posts.
I’ll tell the truth as I know it. I don’t write about everything (the blog is not a diary) but what I do write is honest. That means not everything I have to say is positive and delightful. My blog is not anonymous. Granted, I don’t spell out my full name, family or friend names, or where I live on the blog itself. Still, I remind myself that anyone can read what I say here and I need to be comfortable with that. Within my community, I associate my blog with my name (I don’t hide that it’s mine). Initially I thought people who knew me and/or also lived here might be interested so there was incentive not to be anonymous on that front. A couple people I know have been faithful blog readers (hello locals!) and I appreciate them. I can sort of tell from my “stats” that I have other local readers who are anonymous but I believe most of my readers are other bloggers (I’ve seen a slight uptick recently in readership but I can’t tell exactly via WordPress where they are coming from. If I could I’d do more of whatever it is!)
Here’s the current version of the “ad” I put up on a few bulletin boards:
I have grown very fond of my blog and very fond of other bloggers. A few in particular deserve a mention. Battlewagon13 (aka Tim) who writes Flying Here in the Middle of Somewhere (…or random thoughts of an almost-closed mind) first started liking and commenting on my blog in June 2014 (I went back and looked) and he’s been coming around every since. He’s a smart guy with a dry, misanthropic sense of humor and a good heart. Vanbytheriver (Living life. Paying attention) has continuously read and supported my blog for a long time. Her comments are thoughtful and generous. John Callaghan of Getoffmylawnplease, has been gone for a year but when he was here he regularly added much to my blog with his (sometimes bawdy) humor and original way of looking at things.
Now I know this post is long so I’ll wrap it up here but leave open the possibility of taking up the general topic again in the coming weeks (that’s why I wrote “part one?” in the title). Something about the three-year anniversary has made me very reflective about the blog and I want to share some of that with you. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d be here for three years when I started but I didn’t know then how addictive blogging is, and how attached I’d become both to the blog and other WordPress blogs and bloggers.