Thoughtful Thursdays: Once Upon a Blog

I’m going to tell you a story. A fairy tale, if you will, set in the Land of Blog.

There once was a girl. She lived in Real Life where she felt very alone, misunderstood by everyone. One day the girl started a blog, a portal of words that transported a part of herself elsewhere, to a land of acceptance. Many months passed and the girl poured her heart into post after post until finally people started reading. Eventually her special place became a means of escape to the Land of Blog, a community of like-minded women who supported one another in good times and in bad. She spend a lot of time in the Land of Blog, she loved it there, but she began wondering if it could offer something more.

Then one day something magical happened. A few fairy godbloggers (and very popular ones at that) linked to her site and lots of people read her work. She reveled in the assurance that she was articulate and had interesting things to say. She started to care about her writing, not just what she said but how she said it. Now instead of purging her insecurities she was confidently presenting her point of view. She reveled in the act of writing and she adored when people actually read what she wrote.

She began craving a larger audience. She realized, though she was loath to admit it, that her little community might no longer suffice. She was spending more and more time fashioning better pieces and she was disappointed when so few people read or commented. Her wicked step-mother conscious chided her for neglecting her family, her chores, even her job, to write that which few cared to read. Increasingly, from the Land of Blog she could hear the Real World beaconing.

By this time the girl had friends in the Land of Blog and lots of them. Some of those friends were nominated for the Land of Blog’s Best Of and Top 50 lists. The girl started to get discouraged. She secretly (and remorsefully) felt a little jealous and wondered why her own blog wasn’t nominated. She started getting disappointed when her stats were down. Sometimes she cared more about the quantity of the comments she got than the quality of what was said. She was starting to feel discouraged and ashamed of the blogger she’d become. She didn’t understand when or why the Land of Blog had been poisoned for her.

Then one day she woke up and found a post in her reader. That post was a Mirror of Truth; suddenly she saw clearly what had changed. The Land of Blog had become, for her, more than just a way to make sense of her life and connect with others. It wasn’t just about the community, which she could find on Twitter or Facebook or maybe even the new fangled Google+. No, for the girl the Land of Blog had become a writing sanctuary. And writers crave readers and feedback and recognition. She didn’t coveted acclaim or accolades, she just wanted people to read her work and validate her efforts. She didn’t feel she could justify the time she was investing in honing her craft without some way of measuring her achievement. The problem was the girl didn’t even know what she hoped to achieve.

What is this blogger’s happily ever after? Will she find it in the Land of Blog? She doesn’t want to write a book or become a brand. She doesn’t even hope to be paid for her writing; she never dared to dream the Land of Blog and Real Life would ever intersect. She recognizes that she doesn’t need this place for the reasons she first came and she suspects it can never give her what she’s looking for now. Could she keep visiting the Land of Blog, just to revel in the pure joy of writing, or would lingering there be an egocentric, self-indulgent act?

Perhaps for this girl, there is no happily ever after in the Land of Blog. Or perhaps she just hasn’t found it yet. Perhaps there is some happy medium between the big names and book deals and the little bloggers-that-could, chugging contentedly up the hills of obscurity. Perhaps not. Perhaps she’ll remember how wonderful blogging anonymously can feel, with just a few dear friends who join the conversation. Or perhaps she’ll move on from this chapter in her life. Either way it won’t be a tragedy, even if it’s missing that perfect happily-ever-after ending.

Have your reasons for blogging changed over the years? Do you expect they might change in the future? Do you think goals of recognition and renown can exist symbiotically with the intent to foster community? Is a writer who seeks to build her following  forsaking her original readership for the sake of her aspirations?  

19 responses

  1. I think this is something we all face one day or another. It helps to go back to why we first started blogging. Then, when you remember that it’s about the writing and not the accolades it’s easier to sit down and write again. (I find that this feeling is strongest during conference season… just FYI)
    Keep writing for YOU and you’ll find that you don’t mind the other stuff as much. Then take your posts and share them everywhere you can. Post them at BlogHer. Guest post. Share them on FB and Twitter. And do everything you can to comment on blogs that have commentluv. The readership will grow. How can it not with such great content?

    • Ah! Thanks! I like to think my content has something to offer but sometimes I’m not so sure… I guess we all feel like that from time to time. Your comment got me thinking to why I really started my blog and the reality is my reasons no longer exist. I started this blog to deal with my grief about my loss and my anxiety about our TTC struggles. While I still grieve my first pregnancy I don’t have same anxieties about TTC. I don’t have a primal need to express myself and find others who understand me. Maybe that is why I’m having a hard time finding my blogging center right now, because it no longer exists. I have a lot of thinking to do about all of this. I hope I can figure it out. Thanks for the support!

  2. I’m certainly glad you came into the Land of Blog, because otherwise, I wouldn’t have met such an incredible friend!

    I had a blog previous to this one that only a handful of friends read. I look back on it (literally, it’s still up) and I’m so proud of my writing and feel like because it was solely for me, I was able to pour my heart into it. I think I’m fortunate this time around because my blog didn’t start as a pregnancy loss blog, so I don’t feel trapped by that label. But having readers changes so much. It’s why I’ve taken so many breaks, and why I’m still not posting as often as I used to. Things have changed for me after the last break, though. I’m not putting as much pressure on myself, which is nice. Maybe you can get to that point where it becomes about you again. It’s not easy to get to, though.

    • My friendships, especially yours and Jessica’s is definitely the BEST thing that has come out of my blog. I am so glad I started this blog for the connections it has brought me. I love the record this blog has established for me as well. Looking back at my writing is wonderful. And I have to admit, now that I’m thinking more about my readers I have changed some of what I write or how I say it. I don’t know if I can go back to it being just about me. Not in this space. And I don’t know if I want to start something brand new. I’m just not sure. I guess we’ll see.

  3. I love your blog and think you’re one of the best writers I read. I started blogging with sort of a built in audience from twitter, and I don’t think I could have stuck with it if people hadn’t started commenting pretty early on. I try not to care, but I do. I also wish I didn’t compare my own writing to those who I think are so much better (you for example) but I fail at that too 😉

    • I also try not to care. But I always do. It can feel really hurtful when people don’t comment on my work. I’m always surprised by how much it can sting. In a way, a blog is putting yourself out there in a very naked and honest way. If people ignore what you write it can feel like all kinds of things, you don’t write well or you don’t have anything interesting to say. Of course most times it’s their own stuff going on but it’s hard to remember that when you’re wondering why no one commented. In many ways it was easier when no one ever commented, because no comments wasn’t anything new.

  4. I started my blog as a miscarriage grief blog as well, which turned into a ttc blog, which turned into a horrible pregnancy blog, which turned into a dealing with the life that I now lead. You know that I gained a lot of readership when I was going through my pregnancy. I think it was because of two things: When something horrible is happening people want to watch to see the outcome. They are curious. Many want to support. I found lots of women, including you, who supported me. The other reason why my blog became read by many was, I believe, because of my honesty about everything that was happening to me. It was anonymous, so I could write honestly.

    I believe I’ve lost most of my readers. It doesn’t surprise me, as I used to comment a lot on others blogs, and now I do not have the time. I have to put my time into B. It doesn’t hurt me because I understand. Who wants to keep commenting on a person’s blog, who doesn’t comment on yours? (By the way, you are the absolute best at commenting!)

    My new blog is theraputic for me. Although I do not reveal a lot of things because it is not anonymous, it has helped me to look at the good in life. I don’t have many readers, and I would love to have more, but I don’t have the energy or time (again the time issue) to comment on other blogs or find readers.

    Whatever you do, I hope that it brings you peace. I love your blog and I love reading about your life.

    • You and I have had some interesting conversations about the suffering=readership phenomena. I’ve seen it many times and it’s understandable. I’ve been a part of it myself, following a blog because I want to support someone and help them through the grieving process in what little way I can. Or because I want to see what will happen. That is human nature. The rubber neck affect and I don’t have anything negative or judgmental to say about it. I don’t wan people following my blog for that reason because (a) I obviously don’t think any personal tragedy is worth readership and (b) I want people to read me for me and my writing.

      We are similar in that our reasons for starting our blogs no longer exist, though you have more to work through on your blog now, because B is such a special little girl and raising her is so different than raising other babies, you have to figure everything out as you go along. I think that makes your blog more meaningful in a lot of ways. You’re giving something to the community that no one can find anywhere else.

      Thanks for your support as I figure this out. I have no idea where my blog will go but I think I’ll be okay with whatever choice I make.

  5. Wait. You don’t want to write a book ?!? Nooooo!!

    I don’t know the answers. Except write what you love. And write for yourself. I’m way too frantic about building a platform, etc. And it’s stressing me out. The best part of blogging for me has been the friendships I’ve made. Including yours 🙂

    • I don’t want to write a book based on my blog, silly! I still want to write my children’s book, don’t worry.

      I need to get back to writing what I love. I don’t think I know what that is anymore. And it’s hard to find something when you’re not sure where to look for it.

      And you’re right. You and Court and my other blogging friends are definitely worth all the time and effort I put into this place. I’d keep it up for the chance to meet more people like you.

  6. I’ve been meaning to get back to this post, having read it several days ago, with only one free hand. Sorry to be a bit late to the party…

    When I started my blog almost two years ago, I didn’t expect to ever have any readers. I think the first few were generated from an LFCA post listing new blogs, and I almost crapped my pants when my first post got its first comments. It was so, so validating. But I’ve never written for the comments…which isn’t to say that I don’t sometimes anxiously await to hear what my friends have to offer in terms of their perspective. I write for myself, first and foremost. My blog is about working through my own thoughts. I have no desire to be a blogger like Mel (who I love, love, love reading) whose blogging is also about generating community. I am grateful that people like her exist, and I’ll happily benefit from her brilliant blogging ideas and participate in them when I can, but that’s not who I am, and that’s not what my blog is.

    But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the influence of myreadership. I recently had my own issues with being scared of writing my real feelings about certain things because I thought someone might have been reading who I didn’t want to be reading my blog. (Who, holy fuck, is literally fucking calling my cell as I type this, NOT KIDDING.)

    I don’t think my reasons for blogging have changed over this time, even though I am now parenting. And I could give a rat’s ass about getting nominated for stuff. *shrug*

    Blog what you love, blog with love, blog for yourself.

    • I don’t think I ever expected to get many readers to my blog either, but it did hurt a little to spend the first year blogging with almost no comments. It didn’t matter how many times I participated in ICLW or commented on other people’s blogs, no one ever came back to mine. And if they did, they commented maybe once and never again. It always kind of hurt. I always felt like I was crashing the infertility party with my non-issue of amenorrhea and my lame little loss. I spent a lot of time feeling actively avoided by this community and it really hurt. I’m not sure why people did that. I guess because I got pregnant so fast (after starting my blog). Maybe if I’d started my blog right when I started TTC or right after my loss and people had a chance to read more when I was still struggling, maybe then they would have read it and commented.

      I don’t know when I started really caring about my numbers. For a long time I hardly knew how to check my stats. But along the way I learned and I realized how many more readers other blogs had. I will admit that I’ve checked the goggle reader subscriptions of every blog in my reader and they are almost all significantly more than me, most have many times more than me. I wonder if that will ever stop stinging at least a little a bit. It’s like being in high school again and still not being very popular, despite being “so nice and so pretty”. If that were the case I’d have more friends and a boyfriend so thanks for saying that one friend of mine but I think maybe you’re lying. Anyway, I know it doesn’t really matter. But that is easier to say when you have a lot of people that care about you.

      And now I do have people that genuinely care about me and they have made all of this a very rewarding experience. If it weren’t for my core group of friends (and you can easily identify them as the ten or so people who consistently comment) I would probably have closed up shop long ago. It’s just too hard to put myself out there time after time and only have one or two people who are willing to take the time to respond. At least now I know I’ll get six or so comments on most posts. At least now it feels like I’m writing for someone besides myself.

      I think part of it is that when people don’t respond it feels a lot like real life, when I put myself and my pain out there and it is ignored by my friends and family. I try to forgive them because I know they don’t understand. It’s harder to except the silence when it’s a community of people who’ve experienced similar issues. That is when it really hurts. And I truly believe people don’t take the time because they don’t feel I’m “part of the club”. But maybe I’m just imagining that. It’s the only way I have to explain it.

      Maybe that is why I’ve started to veer more strongly to being read for my writing instead of writing for myself. Maybe it’s because I know I’m not part of the community so I need to write for other reasons. Maybe I think people will read me just because I write well, even though I’m not “one of them.”

      Anyway, didn’t mean to write a novel in response. I just started writing and it kept coming.

      • I promise this isn’t me saying, “Oooh, but you’re soo pretty and niiiice!” BUT I recently discovered that you simply cannot trust those reader subscription numbers. So, with my Blogger account it shows how many people openly subscribe to/follow your blog, and it shows the Blogger member’s profile link. When I wrote my post about moving to WP and asked folks to email for the new address, I was expecting that those same people in my followers list would be emailing me. Turns out, people that I’ve never heard of, who’ve never commented (or verrry seldom commented) emailed me–and maybe 1/4 of those in my Blogger subscriptions emailed me. Interesting, right? So, there are people who never comment that read you, I guarantee it. They just aren’t the commenting type, but still enjoy your writing and perspective. (I have no idea how to fiddle with the WP dashboard to figure out stats, so perhaps WP does a better job of tracking stats than Blogger.)

        And I remember reading one of your older posts in which you wrote something particularly serious, something that made you feel vulnerable, and you were upset that no one commented. Someone commented that your posts were always very rich and thought-provoking, and they often just let them simmer for a while after reading–I would also wager that this is true of many of your other readers. I identify with that commenter’s perspective. I often read your posts and do feel compelled to comment, but often don’t have the time to properly comment, so I don’t. (It takes me anywhere from 2-4 days to write a post for my own blog anymore.)

        I don’t know…just want you to understand that the stats aren’t everything. And that they aren’t always accurate, or half accurate.

        X

    • Wow, I was so confused by this because your first comment wasn’t showing up (and was second in my email so I hadn’t read it yet) and I was like, WHAT IS SHE TALKING ABOUT. Then I saw it and was relieved that neither of us were going crazy.

  7. Here from the future via Time Warp! What an interesting (and creative) post and equally fascinating discussion here in the comment section. Also belated congrats on your well deserved syndication! I love that you didn’t have to pitch it to anyone at BlogHer, that someone (likely Mel) just came across it and appreciated it for what it is and it’s awesomeness! To me some of greatest validation and recognition I have ever received in regards to my blog entries and writing have been the three times that Mel has chosen one of my post to feature in her Friday Blog Roundup.

    In general when women that I consider to be amazing writers, such as Mel, Lori, jjraffe, Keiko, you and so many others take the time to read, comment and give me positive feedback about my writing, that makes me feel so so special and good about myself.

    There is so much I can relate to in what you wrote here, especially this:

    “For the girl the Land of Blog had become a writing sanctuary. And writers crave readers and feedback and recognition. She didn’t coveted acclaim or accolades, she just wanted people to read her work and validate her efforts.”

    I love the idea of our blogs being “writing sanctuaries” and that really is what mine has become for me. When something happens in my life and want to be able to process it, more often than not my first instinct is to write and share about it on my blog.

    When I began my blog 4 1/2 years ago, as so many others it was to address a very specific issue in my life. For me that issue was secondary infertility. We had just started our first IVF cycle and I was mostly using my blog to keep close friends and family updated with how our cycling was going (unfortunately most of that year it was one disappointment after another).

    I thought the discussion in your comments here about how suffering can bring people to a blog interesting, because I certainly experienced that with my pregnancy and the death of my daughter Molly. However, during that time I was going through so much, that I didn’t comprehend what was happening and it was only months and even years later that I have been able to go back and see who was here and fully appreciate their support.

    I don’t know at one point I started caring more about comments on my blog, as in the beginning I was lucky to get one or two here and there and really didn’t care. I have never been as consistent with commenting on other’s blogs as I would like to be and feel like I “should,” so I have not built as strong a community with other bloggers as I am sure I could and would if I did.

    There is so much I could probably comment on and share about this post and the subsequent discussion, but its time for me to go pick up my son at the bus stop and I don’t want to lose my train of thought and have to start all over again. Thank you so much for suggesting this topic and doing the Time Warp with us again this week! I look forward to going back to the future later today and reading your new post and thoughts on the theme of Blogging. 🙂

  8. I can’t believe I didn’t comment on this the first time I read it. I have felt this way, too. When I use the external yardstick (stats, readers, popularity) I get an unhappy feeling. When I just write because I enjoy writing, I am content.

    The lure of the former is so strong!

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