Reaching the Goodreads Challenge

Like almost everyone I know that likes reading, I’ve been using Goodreads for a while now. Mostly I use it to keep track of books I want to read at some point in the future. However quickly my “read” (i.e. in the past tense) shelf grows, my “to read” shelf grows faster. I’m fine with that, as there are so many great books in the world and I would like to read as many as I can, while also making time to re-read those that really spoke to and/or entertained me.

For the past two years, I have also publicly set a reading goal for myself on the Goodreads site. The only way I know to access it is to go to the main page and scroll down. It’ll be somewhere in the right sidebar. If you’re also an avid reader, you likely know what I’m talking about. Initially, I started doing this yearly reading challenge to get back into reading more. I’d been spending too much time with Netflix and not enough with the written word. Goodreads helped me fix that.

I’ve just met my 2014 reading challenge by finishing 24 books. I have actually read more than this, technically. To some people that does not sound like a lot, but between work, social time, sleep, and my habit of often reading somewhat long or challenging books, it is a higher total than I’ve reached in a given year since graduating from college.

Next year, I’m not going to set a reading goal. Why? Because I’ve decided that I’m going to be focusing on writing. And this time, I’m not just going to say that I’m going to do more writing. I’m getting too old to let ideas percolate until I feel like I “have time” to sit down and write them. Life has resisted being anything resembling convenient or helpful, and I need to make time to write, starting as soon as possible, or give up on the idea of ever being published. Even if I end up self-publishing, it will never happen if I don’t actually do the writing.

I’ll still read, of course, but my focus will be on creating stories, honing some of them, taking active steps toward being a writer. I used to write and read all the time, when I was young. Growing up, adulthood, responsibility, self-doubt, and a bunch of other factors slowly drained that away from me, but I took back reading, and now I am going to take back writing. I want to learn how to love it again, the way I did when I was a kid and wanted to write all the time. Life was so much more fun then.

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Has Blogging Lost Its Lustre?

I’ve been blogging for years now. I don’t even know how many. Five, seven… something like that. And sometimes I feel like it’s become more of a burden than a useful outlet.

Back when I was first blogging, I was not aware of any opportunities for making money through the platform. I don’t think it was very common then. In order to make money writing online, you had to write for a content mill or online magazine/newspaper with a large following. I considered content mills, but never made the move, and I’ve never been that interested in journalism (maybe opinion pieces, but not news coverage). Blogging was still more of a personal/creative outlet than a money-making scheme. I liked it that way–being able to share my thoughts and writing with an audience, having a venue to put a little bit of myself out there. Originally I’m certain only my friends and family were reading, but they were my target audience anyway.

Suddenly, that all changed. Articles and job listings and all kinds of sources were telling me that I needed to optimize SEO to get more views on my posts. It was not good enough to express myself well and share something with the world, because doing so I wasn’t coming remotely close to the thousands of views per day that so many other sites claimed to accumulate. This was a few years ago, and even though I was not trying to make money from blogging, I felt utterly inadequate. These days, all the “how to blog” articles tell you have to use good quality pictures, fall within a certain word count, and talk about relevant topics that people want to read, like Kim Kardashian’s nude photos (this is a somewhat ironic example, as the topic is of no particular interest to me). If I’m only getting a handful of views on each post, then it must be because my posts aren’t good enough.

That, of course, is a trap it’s easy to fall into, and I’m starting to think it was created by ad companies, who are the ones benefiting most from the high number of clicks on a page. Someone out there wants us to believe that quantity (in views) equals quality (in production or content). We know this isn’t true. Some very talented people simply don’t achieve the visibility they deserve, for many reasons. Now it seems everyone’s striving for that one “viral” post, of whatever format, that will result in a steep increase in followers and, therefore, more views on each post afterward. I absolutely get it, as someone who doesn’t get enough blog views to even qualify to use WordAds (which in my opinion is not a reasonable rule), but at the same time, it’s got to stop!

I have to say that I’m really tired of worrying about my view count, why my overall number of views never seems to increase no matter how many new followers I get, and all other related things. I’m tired of wondering whether it’s better to pour my heart out, like some of the very popular blogs I’ve seen, or write extremely well-researched and crafted pieces that, in my opinion, do not belong on a blog (in most cases). Those belong in real magazines or on real sites, by real publishing companies. Blogging used to have a similar function to a diary, for me, with the small difference of knowledge that other people would be reading it. More recently, I’ve felt more of an urge, whether internal or external, to write “articles” or at least posts with a real topic, instead of just a spontaneous stream of consciousness, account of some event in my life, or whatever else blogs used to be used for.

Lately I miss the stream of consciousness. I think that if I do have specific topics to write about, a blog is as good a place as any to share them, but this idea that blog posts should always “say something” is bringing me down. The flood of blogs that are trying to be professional and presentable has given the impression that if you want to be taken seriously, you can’t just use blogging as a general brain outlet anymore. Not only is this NOT true, but I think I need the brain drain. My mind has been so stuck lately, both in a sense of feeling the need to save the “publish” button for only certain types of posts, and in a sense of being generally inarticulate and unable to think of the right word at very random but ever-more-frequent times. It’s as if so many words built up in my brain without anywhere to release that it’s become clogged, and now nothing can get through.

Does anyone have any word-Drano?

The point here is multi-pronged. 1) Your blog can be for anything you want. 2) Most of all, you should do it for you. If you’re only blogging to get views, that will probably show, and no one is interested in that. 3) You can’t predict what posts people are going to want to read. 4) Expecting to make money from almost any online platform, unless it’s through a specific site that already gets a lot of views, is a bad plan. That’s why #2 applies once again.

This post, I think, falls somewhere between the topical article and the stream of consciousness. That’s how I like to work, honestly, for topics like this. I want it to be somewhat personal and relatable, not ultra-researched and dry to the point where a lot of people click to view the post but most of them just skim over the bullet points. In a sense I could probably do better if I really took the time to formulate an essay-style post. But all that is, to me, is another false path to a “right” method of blogging, which, in case you didn’t catch it, I’ve already stated does not exist.