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.

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When You Can’t Write

Lately one of my many story ideas has been fighting for prominence in my thoughts. I don’t remember exactly when I first had this idea. Sometime in the past six months or so. I liked it a lot then, but for whatever reason I don’t often start new stories unless I can see the entire basic outline of the plot–for novels, anyway. Short stories I don’t mind just diving into. But I like to be able to see a full novel before I begin, fully expecting many of the details to change, of course. So I haven’t written any of this story yet, even though I did a basic outline. Now, it’s like the thing’s knocking on my door. (Brain-door?) “Hi. Remember me? I get that you have a lot going on, but you said we’d hang out. Just give me a little time, please?”

And what can I do? My “responsible” side (that I’m currently hating) keeps telling me that I have to take care of my obligatory work first, so that I can pay bills and afford to eat and stuff like that. I have a tendency to listen to that side because I’ve always been pretty responsible. But now my creative side is getting angry at being neglected. She will not stand for it any more. I have a feeling she’s just going to keep bothering me until I give in.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want to. There are two reasons. One: I cling to that silly notion that I need to be in a better financial place before I can really give my attention to writing. Maybe this means I’m not a “true artist.” Maybe it means I live in a ridiculous economy and like everyone else I have to pay for things. I even have to buy my own health and dental insurance. Two: Even though I want to write, right now, more than anything, and I can honestly say very few things would make me feel as good as writing this story that’s jumping up and down, waving its arms at me, when I think about actually sitting down to write it there’s a certain resistance. I’m not sure where that comes from, exactly. I’ve been trying to pinpoint what that feeling is. Maybe it’s the knowledge that I still sometimes rely too much on cliches. Maybe it’s being kind of out of practice in fiction writing, and wondering if I still have any talent and imagination or if the real world sucked it all away.

Or it could be the certainty I have, when I look back at the last seven years or so, that I’ve already wasted so much time I could have spent pursuing things I wanted to learn, do, feel, experience. Some of you reading this (people who know how old I am) will I’m sure say that this is ridiculous, but I feel very old these days. It seemed ok to be adrift and uncertain when I was 24. I was young, just starting to live on my own (sort of). Few people actually have anything figured out at 24. Not anymore. As I get older, more and more people my age are actually finding full-time, stable jobs or starting businesses or families. This tells me that it’s my fault I’m still in such an unpleasant, uncertain life situation. They say you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, but I bet “they” do it too…

So anyway, this story is about love. A fair bit of it takes place in dreams, and it will sort of explore and/or blur the line between dreams and waking. I’ve actually had a lot of story ideas that involve that aspect. I also like the idea because I can include a lot of fantastical elements even though the story is not in the fantasy genre. I’m hoping that I can push through all my doubts and obstacles and start writing it. I hate asking this but please, click “like” or comment if you think this story sounds interesting.

…but really.

Do me a favor. Look through the last five or so posts before this one. That spans, what, two or three months? And how many times in those posts did I say that I was planning to post more often and try to get a writing schedule happening?

Not that it was a promise or anything like that, but I have not been true to my word.

I can’t honestly say I know why. It’s one of those spiraling lacks of productivity wherein you’ve climbed down into a hole of Netflix and have to force yourself to get any real work done. There are many reasons why I haven’t been writing very much, and yet there is no reason at all. The truth is, the last time I was regularly writing was probably ten or so years ago. To explain why I’ve neglected the one thing I would say I NEED to do with my life, I would have to take you on a long and winding journey and I can’t guarantee we would get to the end. Perhaps, later, I will try to give the full explanation. For now, I’ll simplify:

Life.

I suppose I was not actually prepared to handle how hard life actually is. And, maybe, how hard writing actually is. Continue reading

No-nowrimo Recap and Review

Here we are, at last. November both dragged and flew by. My non-nanowrimo deadline has passed. How did I do? Well…

With a goal of 30,000 for the month, it was much more likely than the goal of 50k for the month, and would hardly have been less complete of a work (as discussed before, 50,000 words is not ever long enough to be a novel. Maybe once… a novella at best).

I started off pretty good, the first few days, and then, as always, I got caught up in work. I was too stressed about getting things done to channel any of my energy to writing. That’s my go-to excuse lately, but it’s true. I might have been able to do more over Thanksgiving, but it turns out being on vacation and doing a bunch of family stuff is not always the most conducive frame for writing productively. I finally managed to do a little bit of work on the novel I switched to last night.

My total was about 8500 words. True, it’s not really anywhere near my goal. Still it’s something. Last year I had a goal of just writing any amount every day (hint: specific goals are a lot more motivating), and I doubt I even made 1000 words, which means I did at least ten times better, in terms of words written, this time. That’s a pretty good improvement: if I do only five to six times more next time I attempt such a goal, I’ll be rolling in pages.

Not to mention that getting into the story last night makes it feel more likely that I’ll carry some writing motivation into December.

Thanksgiving itself was great, and maybe I’ll write about making cranberry sauce on the other blog. The pumpkin pie was excellent as well, and completely doused with whipped cream. Heh…

What to do now? Back to work tomorrow. Need to work hard, because December is at least as busy, with Christmas, as November is. I’ll try not to overspend on groceries so that I can reasonably afford gifts. Most of my food money goes toward coffee, and coffee-related items. As for now, I think I’m going to use this 50% off Starbucks coupon (today only), work out a little, and try to get through more of Just Kids–a very good and interesting book so far.

Five Things Friday – June 28, 2013

This idea is based on a few posts I’ve seen recently, and is really just a way to get myself to post more, and perhaps get creative juices flowing. It will typically be a list of things… possibly things from that day specifically, or maybe from the previous week. It might just be a recount of events, or it might be five flash fiction pieces! We shall see. I’m theming it for Friday, but probably won’t post until it’s technically Saturday most of the time.

Here we go–

 

  1. Sometimes, the feeling of relief or lightness that occurs when you finish a large project only lasts for a very short time, because you still have so much more to do. It’s not satisfying. That lightness should last at least a day. Or perhaps for the rest of your life, and then it would be The Unbearable Lightness of Being. You should read that book. It was really good.
  2. Right now, it seems that trying to make myself think of five things to write about on this particular Friday evening was a bad idea. However, since I have decided to do it, I am going to do it. That is the only way to get anything done in this life.
  3. Lately I have been stumbling across so many songs that trigger that “repeat 1” obsession. It seems that for me that almost always happens when I just connect with something about the song. It does have something to do with the sound, of course, but going deeper than that, it is not that the story told in the song really describes my life, but that the idea or feeling behind the actual story is something I can relate to. It’s often a mostly emotional thing, and very hard to describe, so even if the lyrics do not apply to me directly, the song in general might as well be about me.
  4. I am still feeling a little strange about vlogging. Despite knowing how hard it is to build up an audience at the beginning, I for some reason really want lots of people to watch and like my videos NOW. Even though I don’t have a real camera and I am using an editing program that is extremely lacking. And I’m awkward and I don’t entirely know why I am putting videos of myself talking in a room on youtube for everyone in the world to watch. But you should go watch them.
  5. I would really prefer to fall asleep listening to rain than to the explosions coming from the video gaming downstairs. I don’t begrudge you your hobbies, but I do not understand why you are so dead set against me sleeping. I NEED sleep. I really, really do. Please stop making the circles under my eyes darker, because sleep deprivation is going to drive me crazy and then, I cannot say what is going to happen…

 

I would really like, in the future, for this list to be more of a meditative, picking out very specific moments or images or thoughts to talk about. Sometimes, you just need a good ramble, though. Ever have one of those weeks/months/years/lives where you just have so much going on that you don’t actually have time to expunge all of the disjointed thoughts darting through your brain? That’s me right now.

If you got this far in the post, thanks for being patient enough to read that crap. Come back next Friday evening/Saturday morning for five more things.

Career? Development?

Both question marks are appropriate because I don’t even know…

 

Did I mention? My job was just made full time! Oh, right, I did mention it, in my piece about not being able to handle the recent events… But moving on from that, I have been promoted to full time, Editorial Associate, with a very nice pay increase to go along with it. My responsibilities will mostly remain the same, but the expectation both from me and the boss is that I’ll be able to complete more work each month. This is my second week, although only the first working all five days, as the T was not running last Friday… I already miss 4-day weeks. I feel like that sounds entitled or unnecessarily whiny, like “Oh poor you, complaining about having a full-time job when there are so many un/underemployed people.” Yeah, I know. I was one of them for 4 years after graduating from college, so…

I am also taking an online writing course. This is the first week, and I just looked into the first assignment last night, as I didn’t have that much time Monday or Tuesday. My first impressions are that this class might not offer any new skills to someone like me, who has a lot of experience with writing and literature. Some of the stuff they were talking about for this week’s assignment was so obvious to me that I wondered why they were bothering to explain it. However, my intention in signing up was to have deadlines and directed focus for writing, perhaps to remember skills I haven’t used for a while, and hopefully to kick-start my motivation. In addition, there will be a forum for getting peer feedback on writing, so I can be reminded of how to be more effective in my writing endeavors. It’s not a huge time commitment either, so I will find it at the very least something to do.

You know how sometimes, you’ll have a thought as you’re writing, but somehow it escapes you in the few seconds before you can put it down? That’s ridiculous, but it happens. It actually just happened as I came to the end of the last paragraph, and that thought is not coming back.

It’s not that I don’t have motivation now, by the way. No, the trouble is that I always feel motivated to write in the morning when I have to get ready/leave for work, or while I’m AT work, because my creative brain is perverse and cruel like that. When I really have the time and availability to write, I just don’t feel like it. I should, probably, get into the habit of forcing myself to open a word document and write. Or maybe do some pen-and-paper writing every day. The act of writing with a pen promotes creativity, you know.

Reason #2 for Writing

Preface: The first reason, for someone who is a writer by nature, for whom writing is one of the most fulfilling things we can possibly do, is that we have to.

When I was in high school, and a bit in college, I used to write fanfiction. It was mostly Harry Potter, with a bit of Wheel of Time and some other stuff thrown in there. I liked writing stories that put Hermione together with Draco Malfoy. So entertaining.

I usually try to keep all that separate from this blog and anything else I write now. Although certain books that shall not be named can make obscene amounts of money by starting out as fanfiction (and at least I also write well…), I am not looking to just make money. For my writing career work, I want people to see the writing I have inside me that isn’t trying to be popular or build on someone else’s empire, but is just me saying something… I feel as if that was not as eloquent as I wanted, but hopefully you know what I’m saying there.

I also try to keep my fanfiction days separate because it’s kind of embarrassing. It shouldn’t be, because thousands of people did it, and I would venture to say that my fanfiction pieces were much better written than most of them. However, I still want to blush bright red and hide my face behind a pillow until all mentions of fanfiction go away. I think the thing is that I can’t take it seriously myself, so I don’t really want to publicize my silliness.

However, since my fanfiction stories are still up on the site, people are still reading them and sometimes I still get reviews for them. I got one the other day that I would have to say is probably the nicest thing a stranger has ever said about my writing, and reminded me why I was writing fanfiction to begin with. Mostly, because it was a way to work on writing and have a sort of built in “fan-base,” even though they were J.K. Rowling’s fans and not mine. I am just going to put the review right below…

THANK YOU *SOOOOOOO* MUCH for writing these fabrics. Your “No Longer An Enemy”
is one of the best things I’ve ever read. You should print it out, bound it
together as a book, an get it published. You could really make some money! I
know there are a LOT of Dramione shoppers out in the world who would eat it
up! Also it would be so cool to be able to keep the book on my nightstand. And
you already have a name for it, too! I just wanted to let you know that I
absolutely LOVE this fanfic. Because of school and work, it took me about a
week to read it. When I finished, I just about cried. “What am I gonna do with
my life NOW?!?!” So, thank you for making that fanfic so good 🙂 You’re
awesome and NEVER doubt your writing abilities – they are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!
I could just hug you to death because of how amazing your stories are! Thank
you 🙂 *BIGGEST HUG EVER!!!!*

Granted, I don’t actually want to be hugged to death, but I figured that wasn’t literal.

When I read over this story again, a number of years ago, after completing it, I couldn’t help noticing all the mistakes that I’d made, and things I would have done differently. I used to just write one chapter at a time, posted with proofreading but not really revising the story as I went along, so that’s understandable. However, I’ve been instructed to “NEVER doubt my writing abilities,” so I guess I have to believe in myself now.

This is Reason #2: because you will write something that will give someone else pleasure because it’s enjoyable to read, or release because it reaches their emotions, or inspiration because it reminds them of their love of art and creation or something like that. Reactions like this to something you made are just so heartening, it’s hard not to have your spirits lift when you see them. And although legions of fans like musicians or books or movies that don’t really have much artistic merit, but a single glowing review from an individual is worth a lot more than a horde of screaming dummies. (No offense to the screaming dummies.)

Merry Christmas!