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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Blogging, Balancing, Organizing–My Latest Failings

I’ve been thinking about my blogs as they exist now, and I’m not liking what I perceive.

For one thing, I get almost no comments, and that isn’t necessarily a sign that I’m an unsuccessful blogger, but it makes me feel silly sometimes. “Well, obviously no one’s that interested in what I’m writing, so why bother?”

Why indeed. I started blogging for ME, because I wanted to, because I think it’s a good way to collect my thoughts and possibly connect with an audience, even if not with the sort of pieces I really want to publish. As time goes on and my view counts stay down, and I can never seem to become a “Blogger” (with a capital B because I’d be recognizable and maybe it would even be slightly lucrative), no matter how long I do it, I get discouraged. No one actually starts a blog because they expect it to be a mega-hit. But my constant lack of visibility is essentially the same as never being picked out of the slush pile.

The metaphor may not be appropriate, because I’ve done so little submitting that my work hasn’t had a chance to actually be in slush piles. But the state of being among a huge amount of comparable blogs and never being special enough to be noticed basically puts me in the internet’s slush pile.

It’s confusing to me. How is it I have over 100 followers and usually get only 15 views or less when I post? (Dear WordPress: please fix yourself so that I actually get views when people read my posts.)

I hate when I end up blogging about blogging. Some people write about blogging for a specific reason and it makes sense for them. I only ever do as an apology, really, to myself and the few people who are interested in reading me, when I haven’t been making good use of my blog.

I don’t like the way things are with my blogs right now, both this and the No Recipe Life, and it’s making me feel like creating a brand new blog and starting over. The thought of actually doing so is almost sickening to me. I don’t want to start over yet again. So I am trying to think instead of how to arrange things on my existing blogs so that I can post about whatever I want on whichever platform seems to fit best, and it’s giving me a headache. Many people, I’m sure, would tell me to hire a consultant, but there are several reasons I don’t want to. One of those is that I can do it myself.

Listen to me. Rambling on and on with no point. As always. I’ll end with this, so I don’t just write myself off the end of the world:

Please, readers, keep some faith in me. Don’t unfollow (unless you legitimately don’t like my blog–then it isn’t beneficial for either of us, so by all means, go on your way), don’t skip my posts. Give me some constructive criticism. I care if you like this blog, and my other one. I will get it together. It won’t be today or tomorrow but if you wait a little longer maybe I can create something people will care about.

P.S. Regarding Five Things Fridays–I started doing them with the intention that they would be a way for me to wind down from the week, and attempt to get the writing ball rolling (or something) for the weekend. It turns out Friday nights are not a good time for me to plan to blog regularly, because it’s often a social night for me. In addition, all the cool ideas I had, like posting five flash pieces or five awesome literary quotes, always seem to get sidelined in favor of me complaining about random things from the day or the week. Basically, it’s not serving its purpose for this blog. Thus, I’m going to stop using that form, and I’ll try to come up with another regular post day that will actually focus on writing. I might start FTFing on the other blog, which you should go check out if you want to read my thoughts on food and random stuff.

Five Things Friday: August 2, 2013

I’ve been blogging for a pretty long time now. I spend a lot of time these days looking at blogs and there are some blogging habits I’ve noticed that I do not understand at all. I’m not saying I’m 100% right, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people agree about these. Here they are:

 

 

Using very small or very large font honestly offends my eyes. Stick to size 11 or 12, please (or possibly a bit larger, depending on the font you’re using). When I open a page and the font size is ungainly in any sense, I will close it before reading it. Please, just think about that as you’re formatting.

 

Using irrelevant tags pisses me off, honestly. As I’m scrolling through my “coffee” feed and there’s nothing about coffee in your post, or it’s mentioned in passing while really being about something entirely different, I’m bothered. Very. There are some exceptions, but only if the post is one I would read for other reasons.

 

Not having an “about” page is just confusing. How much information you want to put on it is a judgment call, although I really like to be able to click on the “about” tab and have some real idea of who you are and/or what kind of blog I’m looking at. A minimal about page is ok, because at least it’s something. None at all just says “spam blog” to me.

 

Not everyone is born to be a writer, I get it. The blog world is a forum that covers people from professionals all the way down to people who just want to put down their thoughts somewhere and share them with others, or… something along those lines. Not everyone has to be a master of wordistry (that’s a real word [now]). But people who seem to lack any understanding of grammar in their posts make me sad. I don’t know what the reason is for this. Maybe some of them had really deplorable educations. Maybe they just don’t speak English very well, but for reasons that just confuse me chose to write a blog in English anyway. Not everyone has an interest in actually being a writer, nor the ability to move people with words. However, I believe that everyone can learn basic grammar and sentence structure. Even if you’re just writing for yourself, you have chosen the written word as a medium and you should have enough respect for it, and the readers and YOURSELF, to get that core knowledge down. (Side note: if you’re writing just for yourself or your family, then maybe you shouldn’t be making your posts viewable to the general public. Just saying.)

 

Blogs that have only been around a short time and have somehow racked up thousands of views make me extremely doubtful. Maybe you had a post that went viral, and isn’t that nice for you … but generally speaking, it takes much longer than a few months to get that level of total views. I don’t mean to offend anyone if you fall into that category of people who happen to be really lucky, but honestly, unless you’re bringing an established fan base from another forum, I am very skeptical of your numbers. Besides which, it makes the rest of us, who have been around a while and get an average (I’ll admit sometimes disappointing) number of views, feel quite resentful of you. Don’t make me want to press “unfollow.”

 

 

 

…I’m just kidding, mostly, about the last one. I mean, it does confuse me, but really it shows that “success,” if you define it in the sense of the external validation you get from having large audience, whatever that audience might be, is somewhat arbitrary. I’d bet you actual money (like $10 maybe–don’t judge, I’m just a responsible gambler) that there are hundreds or thousands of good blogs/songs/youtubers/books/etc./etc./etc. that few people have found because they just have not managed to bridge that gap to the audience. Fame works like capitalism: the more views (money) you already have, the more you tend to gain. The rest of us just kind of scrape for what we can get at the bottom, or lower middle (which, I think, is where I would be).

What’s Up

Hi! It seems to me like a good time for an update post, just to take stock of things, and get all the informational stuff out of my system. Kind of like Spring Blog Cleaning. Or not. I don’t know.

Well, as you might have noticed, I’ve been having a lot of “deep thoughts” to write about lately. It seems a lot of people have liked these posts, so I’m going to do more of them whenever I have something along those lines to talk about. What about the writing advice? Do you want to see more of that? (I get so few actual comments that no one has yet mentioned caring about my writing advice. Statistically speaking, how many readers to you need before you start getting actual comments? Probably several hundred at least, right? I’m not really at those numbers, sadly, so comments are rare, although “likes” abound. So thanks for that.)

The No-Recipe Life is now the permanent home for food and lifestyle posts, basically everything that doesn’t fit into the whole writing blog interface. Those of you who might have liked reading about my random adventures, life events, happenings, and various and sundry other topics (I know those mean the same thing), check it out. I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to work on the site so the navigation is more interesting, and it has some new features as well–such as monthly favorites.

I have been trying to clean/pretty up this blog as well. You may have noticed the “What I’m Reading” page, which I don’t expect will be extremely in-depth. Just a short account of the books in my life. I don’t know if I’ll actually include reviews. Maybe if anyone asks about a particular book.

I might be rewriting my “About” page, and adding a new picture. I like the one there, taken on the grounds at Bennington College in 2009, but it might be nice to have a more recent one as well. I’m not sure how much I like the text that’s there, so if I come up with a better bio, I will be replacing it.

Considering that my Helen of Troy novel is on hiatus, I am going to retire the “Helen” page. The chapters will still be available to read in the posts that I put up, however long ago that was–a year? Two? I know it was a while ago. Instead, I’m going to turn that page into a “featured story,” which will change as often as I have a new one ready to post. As soon as the first one is done, you’ll see that switch. I’m sure I will take a moment to announce it, so don’t worry about keeping close tabs on my tabs. Hehe.

For those of you who come for my microfiction, I am sorry to say I just haven’t had much inspiration lately for other lives or strange things, so my micro series are currently languishing, half-remembered, while I try to get things done like cleaning my room and trying every cafe in Boston. (And if you want to hear about those things, again, head over to the No-Recipe Life, linked above.) I’m really hoping for some flash ideas soon, but for now maybe you can just go read the old ones. Tell me which is your favorite!

Finally, I just want to briefly mention that I have created a twitter account. I’m the last one on that bandwagon, I know, just squeezing myself in where there’s room. It’s a pretty big wagon though. If you’re interested in following me, it’s @devawriting. If you’re on twitter, let me know and I can follow you!

Thanks for reading this essentially boring post. Stay tuned for something more interesting to read.