The story so far, or, why do I blog?

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My name is Frances. I blog and regularly engage in the act of blogging.

This is my blogging story — so far.

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Just over two years ago the combination of an abiding curiosity in all things internet and   a great conversation pointed me in a direction that led to the creation of a thing called a blog which of necessity led to the act of (somewhat) regularly blogging. Not that I knew anything about it.

With a curiosity, often the best way to satisfy it is to do some preliminary investigation and if it meets safety criteria — how ever that is personally defined — to then jump in as deeply as one is wont to do. Which is precisely what I did.

First things first: research. That might have been a mistake. It’s a huge hint that good, solid research is lacking when all that you get is marketing bumpf and workshops and courses and flashing screen promises. Wading through that was an astonishing reminder of the days of snake oil salesmen and hucksterism, but then again, I have always thought of the internet as the modern-day version of wild, wild west.

After wading through that crap, I knew what I wanted: a simple guide of what to know before you blog, considerations for a good platform, how to do it, what to watch for.

Yes well, it’s all there. It takes time and sometimes, money. But a user-friendly guide? Not yet. And most of the stuff is way too technical and geared to commercial ends. Like everything else about the internet, blogging is promoted as a way to leverage and broadcast to the world whatever it is that you got so that you can turn that into money. They call it monetizing or productizing or commodifying. I call it nuts.

Most of the stuff about blogging is by bloggers telling wannabe bloggers how to drive people to a site and make money from that. And if it isn’t about monetizing directly, then it is about supporting brand, reputation or some such nonsense. I did not want that. I wanted basics. Give me basics and I will take it from there.

What I got was how to get people to your blog, what to write about and the best things to do to ensure a successful blog. Blog on a regular schedule. Content is king. (Or queen in my case, thank you very much.) Comment everywhere so people get to know you.

A successful blog seems to be defined as one where posts will not exceed 400 words, has thousands of followers that in time will elevate you to an expert or guru of something which will translate into thousands of hits to your site that will get noticed by some media outlet underling who gets paid to notice these things which in turn will lead you to a book deal, speaking engagements, cool sunglasses, an option to film your life story, and a cool surfer beach shack wherever it is that they surf in California. And other technical stuff like search engine optimization (SEO), plug-ins, CSS, XHTML and other things that truly made my head swim, and not in a good way.

With furrowed brow I pondered this deeply. I have a thing for cool sunglasses. I like the parts of California I have seen and have always wanted to learn how to surf. In my professional life I have lived through the whole expert/guru of something, so I can deal (grudgingly) with that part of it and if someone wants to option the story of my life, well, there’s enough there to make it interesting to people who like foreign films.

To blog or not to blog 

Second things second: A strategic decision on my part was to not concern myself with the future of my little blog, just explore.

I decided to dive in, create a blog for me, for my curiosity. I played around a bit and decided that this whole blog phenomenon seemed to be many things; a place to create, a place to share, a place to have conversations, even if it was simply an internal one. Research done, I ignored the experts and gurus, played about with some platforms, found an easy one and got to it.

For the first little while the blog was private; I didn’t publish anything. I wasn’t sure if I could: I am the quintessential introvert, a nature that is explained quite well in The Atlantic’s March 2003 article, Caring for you Introvert. However, I am an introvert who writes, who’s got a byline, but somehow, this blogging thing felt different, bigger, more exposing. Probably because it was more personal. It wasn’t just my byline, it was me. And people who know me might see into my mind. Why was I doing this?

I wrote a few more posts and then one day, I took a deep breath and hit the publish button to make the blog a publicly accessible thing. The world as I knew it did not end. I was glad of that.

Parts of the blogging experience were relatively simple, such as the writing; at least, once I actually sat to write. Other things were not so simple. For example, issues that have plagued me my entire writing life (personal writing, that is) have also plagued me throughout this blogging experience: how to title something, or when to write and if to write and why write at all. The act of blogging seemed at the time in part, a personal writing practice, a way of refining my personal writing voice and style which differs from my professional writing voice and style. I wondered if I would keep it up. And if so, why?

I didn’t follow the rules of blogging at all — I chose a name that was unusual — a no-no in blogging rules. I wrote when I felt like it and wrote to the word count that felt best for whatever I was writing about. Content was primarily about my world and the stories and creatures and people in it, with a few forays into writing little stories.

Other than curiosity, there seemed no good, valid reason to have a blog, to be blogging. I wasn’t going to monetize anything. I could continue to use it as a way to practice writing, perhaps direct clients to it at a later date. Could I use it as a mechanism to share and keep connected with my family? Friends? Maybe. That unnerved me a bit. But in time, I did just that.

I ignored the promo stuff that lands in my blogs’ comments boxes suggesting there are ways to get more than six hits a day and I can learn about those ways for $59.99 which is a discount from the usual $99.99. Not because I won’t pay for what I want but because I am not sure of what I want from any of this blogging or getting people to come to this this blog. This blog is not for everyone.

Blogging boredom

After a while I got bored. I satisfied my curiosity about blogging. I didn’t get any sunglasses or book deal offers. Not only that, but Mike Leigh, Christophe Honoré, and Pedro Almodóvar have not contacted me. I clearly suck at garnering attention.

I didn’t have anything in me to say or write in this blog anymore. It became burdensome to think about all the laws of blogging that I was breaking and how unsuccessful my blog was by blogging criteria — because I kept being reminded by the promobots that there were things I could do to drive more visitors to this blog. I didn’t need more visitors, I needed motivation and I could not find it within me. I learned that a lot of people start blogs and abandon them.

I decided that I would commit to getting to at least the 100th post and if I felt the same way at that time, I would close this blog.

And that’s what happened. At the 100th post, I wrote about life changes. It was my last post for this blog. But then…that writerly aspect of self found some other writery things that could only fit within the context of this blog. I had an internal debate: I could keep the blog private and just write it for me.

I felt like a goof, reviving the blog three weeks after saying I was shuttering it all up, but I swallowed my pride and did it anyway and hope that the people who read the blog would forgive me my impulsiveness.

Recently, I changed the name of this blog to better reflect its function as I see it: to be a place where I can write about things that don’t easily fit into other writing and creating spaces.

And that’s the thing. A blog is an easy thing to do to set up a writing practice routine. I have a need to write. I can do that without doing it publicly. What a published, publicly accessible blog does is provide something every writer needs and that’s the potential for more feedback. Blogging opened the door for others who would not typically see my writing, to react. When I started blogging, I hadn’t thought that would much matter. It does. It’s improved my writing a lot. It’s made me think of things differently.

Having blogs, and the act of blogging has provided a sort of publicly accessible studio for me to hold the stuff that I find, the stuff I create; a place to play with thoughts and writing style and voice and images, all in aid of what might be my persistent need for creative expression and sensemaking. I didn’t think of it in those terms when I started out.

Why do I blog? Why do I still engage in the act of blogging?

Back to my strategic decision to explore the world of blogging. For those of us who are of the Tribe of Curious, exploring for the sake of exploring and experience and knowing is its own reward. Learning and exploring to experience and know is the purpose. And when that’s done, so are we. This way of being is counter to the world of blogging, and is in fact counter to the world where everything is required to have a mandated productivity or  commercial value.

But I digress: back to this blog, and to blogging. The goal of exploring for the sake of exploring has been achieved. Curiosity sufficiently suffonsified as my mother was fond of saying. And so, I’m considering, again, what to do with this blog — as soon as I answer the list of questions that have emerged from a conversation in the comments sections.

Here’s what I did not factor in: after more than two years of living with this blog, of having conversations with people, some of whom I have never met, it feels as if there’s an emotional investment within the context of this blog and therefore blogging, that’s not easy to walk away from. And it’s not simply because there are things created here that could only have been created here; it’s because of the conversations that created them. And that is curious to me. And that is why I blog. Curiosity.

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PS: Having said that, I have decisions to make about the blogs I play around in and what I am going to do with them. I’m cleaning up this blog as I decide next steps. Please bear with me. I’m not sure if that means any updates will result in emails to my seven, wonderful and much appreciated subscribers, but if that is the case, PLEASE accept my apologies in advance.

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About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween.
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10 Responses to The story so far, or, why do I blog?

  1. ValerieD says:

    Limitless prefrontal cortex, have you? Ooooooh, that sounds exciting ! Does it help with the writing? 😉

  2. Hi Frances, I found this post via the “Writing” tag page and I’m a first time visitor here.

    I enjoyed your posting. I haven’t blogged as long as you, I began my blog in March of this year. I suppose I can confess my intentions were to promote myself as a short story writer – not for profit mind you, just to have people read the stories journals were willing to publish – but the act of blogging became something unto itself. I didn’t expect it, and I’m glad for it.

    Like you, I’ve also met and engaged with other writers, bloggers, artists, photographers and assorted other folks who have enriched me with their comments and their care. I can say I have blogging friends in Africa, Australia, and around the U.S. Yes, it’s true I have never met them in person, but I have met their minds.

    Whatever you decide about your blog is obviously up to you, but the act of writing is a great and compelling reason to continue (if you find it compelling too) and the friendship and sometime-support of the rest of the blog-o-sphere.

    I wish you the best, whatever your decision.

    • FS says:

      Hello, and thank you. It is such a fascinating thing, this writing and this ability to connect across the globe through a common interest in expressing through words.. through language. And what a wonderful image…you conjure: “met their minds”.

  3. ValerieD says:

    Very nice to meet you Frances !
    Funny that I should find this post, just when I finished updating my own profile. My name is Valerie. But you can call me Val. 😉
    Just so you know, I would be very (very !) sad 😦 to see you disappear from my blogging radar….
    Perhaps I should provide more questions to keep that list going?
    My biggest fear is that you will decide to write one mega-post addressing all of the questions, at once… Oh NoOOOOOooooo !!! Finished so soon?

    PS: Would it be blind optimism to have faith that a higher organizing power will keep you around?

    • FS says:

      Nice to meet you too, Val. :-). I have thought of a single, succinct post touching on all of the things we’ve mentioned: not sure I can do that, but it would be an interesting thing to try from a writing and thinking perspective. You mean like the goddess of blogging…? That higher organizing power? 😉

      • ValerieD says:

        No, no. I was thinking more of that ever powerful Goddess of relationships…. (What’s her name again?)
        But if the Goddess of blogging can help too, that would be great !

      • FS says:

        I have the same relationship with ‘blogging’ that I do with writing — so maybe a Goddess of some sort would be handy. Besides, there’s no limit to what the prefrontal cortex can achieve.

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