There’s a lot of things they don’t tell you about blogging. Even on blogs. And especially not on those oh-so-helpful blogs about: how to start a blog; whether or not you should start one; and what you need to do to build an audience.
They may tell you (although probably not) that blogging is tough. It takes a lot of time, and it takes commitment. Not only must you write regularly, but you must also take the time to read and post on other blogs. Any fool can start a blog, but it takes a mighty dedicated fool to keep one going. They most likely won’t tell you that, sometimes, blogging hurts. Sometimes it can break your heart.
Unless you are writing a review blog, or one that focuses on current events, chances are, the posts you write are going to be very personal. If they’re not, there’s less chance that they will resonate with anyone. In my experience, the times when I was the most humiliated, the most terrified, and the most depressed at the state of the world were the times when I got the greatest response, the most thoughtful feedback. So, you’re putting your heart on this screen every single day, and what then?
You probably started keeping a blog for yourself. You didn’t care about attracting readers…in the beginning. Maybe your husband and your dog read it and enjoyed it, and that was enough. But once you start attracting an audience, a funny thing happens…you start caring about what they think, and what they want. And if your audience starts waning, you desperately want to know why. You want to know why other people can post a recipe that isn’t even original a few times a year and get a hundred comments in return. You think, “WTF?”
And then, there’s the trolls. I knew all about Internet trolls, but the thing they don’t tell you is how personal troll attacks can be. It’s not “you’re ugly and your blog sux”. It’s a deeply personal attack that can make you question if you should even be blogging in the first place. It taps into your greatest fears about your blog: do I have anything meaningful to say? What right do I have to say anything at all? Am I boring everyone? And if you don’t have commentary from the people who love your blog, who enjoy it, and who want you to keep going, it can be very tempting to just delete the whole thing, forget it like a bad dream.
I can’t speak for all bloggers (and I’m not trying to), but if I post about something that was embarrassing or otherwise not a great moment in my life (like drinking so much water for my new training regime that I constantly had to pee at work–yes, I blogged about peeing! Gasp!), it’s because I hope that there’s someone out there who’s been there. Or who is going through the same thing right now. Or, people like one of my co-workers, who emailed that she wants to drink more water but was wondering “how the heck am I supposed to carry on with the rest of my day when I’m running to the bathroom every 20 minutes?” See, you never know what will resonate with people. That’s why we have to put it out there.
Not every blog will resonate with every person. And there will always be trolls who are too chicken shit to spread their hatred face to face, so they hide behind the ever handy “Anonymous”. There will always be dangers inherent with putting your heart on the Internet where anyone can stomp on it. But you know what makes it worth it?
You. We may be telling our own stories, but we’re hoping you like them. That they mean something to you. That you read them, and if they make you smile, laugh, cry, or think “wow! I feel the same way,” you’ll let us know. You don’t have to comment on my blog. I’m not even sure that I will have a blog much longer. But please, if you like another blog, let the writer know. Post a comment, or like a link, or just show up to read it. Send them an email. Put it on your Twitter feed. If you really like it, recommend it to others, or become a follower. Don’t leave us at the mercy of trolls and the people who are only here because of our photos. It’s like that drive-in movie theatre that everybody “loved”, but nobody went to. You know what? It went bankrupt. You may love that book store, or that restaurant, but if you never show up to support them, they might close, too. It happens all the time, and then you hear the cries of, “but I loved that place! I was planning to go next week….” Try to go today, before it closes.
Because, trust me, it’s lonely enough out here. And another thing they don’t tell you is, sometimes blogging sucks.
Sorry… It turns out I’m a bad follower. I need to step up my game and post more comments. Glad you aren’t quitting!
Aww, Wayne, you’ve posted more than your share. And I know you are always in my corner…I’m very lucky that way. Anyone who has you as a friend is very lucky indeed.
I’m not sure if I will keep the blog or not, but I had to write one more post, because, as you know, Grant said so. 🙂
I really hope you don’t stop blogging. I really enjoy what you have to say. I think Trolls are the internet versions of bullies, only it doesn’t require as much guts because they can be anonymous and edit and re-edit thier attacks.
Thanks, Van. You’ve kept me going the past few days with your comments. And I’ll never forget what you did with your students via this blog…hey, didn’t we pretty much become friends on this blog? Both blogging highlights for me.
I agree with you about trolls. I’ve only had two (or three-still not sure whether one person posted practically the same thing under two different names or not), so I’ve been lucky, I guess. The Internet has made it much easier for the nasty people to be nasty…and they love it! You should see how many times they pop back to see the reaction they’ve caused. It’s really pathetic, when you think about it.
This is exactly why I wanted you to guest blog over at my place. You have a way with words, my dear. Anyway, yes, blogging sucks. In fact, I completely quit my blog at one point. I shut it down and left. That’s when I wrote my novella CINDERS and my life kind of changed. I think it was at that point that I rethought things and realized what I really want my blog for – and it kind of has nothing to do with followers, marketing, writing, or anything else. It’s simply my outlet.
I hope that even if you stop blogging you find a spot for that outlet for you, too. It’s a good thing to have. And please keep in touch with me if you leave here. 🙂
Bravo. That’s exactly it.
And I’m sorry, why does the “steal our photos” link to my blog?
I love your blog and check it out almost daily. Sorry I don’t post very much, never been big on that. I would be really sad to see it disappear.
I think my favourite posts are the one’s where your not pandering to your readers. I like it when you wear you heart on your sleeve and it seems less like your talking to us and more your talking to yourself out loud. I find those to be fascinating and often read them over a couple of times. Sometimes going back to re-read posts months later.
I tend to find the one’s where you attempt to engage us less appealing (not always). There’s something enjoyable about uninhibited honesty.
In my opinion its all right to care about about what your readers think. But it need not dictate this blog. This should be about you your life and not how it may or may not relate to others. It should be up to us to discover. That’s part of the fun. You can’t please everyone but that’s not the point of a blog like this. This is your outlet to do with as you please, the world be damned. One person reads it or a million shouldn’t matter. This isn’t your job, let it be a release for your creative energies and thoughts, good or bad.
Anyway that’s my two cents. Hope you keep it going, if not then I will see you in class!
Thanks, Michelle. I really appreciate your kind words and encouragement, and the opportunity to learn from your experience. You’ve been doing this for so much longer than I have, and I wish more people appreciated how much guts it takes to put yourself out there the way you do. I will definitely keep in touch with you, no matter what you decide.
Welcome back, Kim! I thought I’d lost you for good. 🙂 Sorry for the confusion–I read in that post you wrote about how frustrating it was that a lot of your blog traffic was generated by one photo of butt cleavage. And I thought, “wow, I can so relate!” Out of my five most-visited posts, only two are popular because of the subject matter. The rest are just attracting image-hunters. I had a blogging friend tell me that the best way to drive traffic to a blog was to post a lot of images, but for me, it’s disheartening. I’m not doing this to provide a free photo share site. That would actually be a lot easier and less time-consuming! Do you want me to remove the link?
@ Chris – Wow, what a wonderful comment! Thank you. I really had no idea you read this thing so often. I’ve been shocked by the outpouring of support, especially on the Facebook fan page. I don’t want to be the girl who cried blog, but with so many awesome people telling me to keep at it, it’s really encouraging (and surprising).
Thanks for the honest feedback, too. I appreciate it. I do try to engage the reader in order to encourage comments and conversation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I never hear what people like and don’t like. So thanks for that!
Good because I first read it like you were accusing ME of stealing others photos — interpretation is everything….. Although given I wasn’t stealing anything I knew it likely had to be lack of clarity in someway. I don’t care if you leave the link, maybe just go back and edit the text a bit to explain the link….. Just so I don’t freak out again 🙂
That photo I refer to of volleyball ass I took (stole?) myself from google images and of course every image in your blog funnels into google images. This is why I try to be sure when I put my own photos in there that they don’t have specific file names that make them easily searchable. Google images itself is a bit of a grey area in terms of copywrite and citation. I never know what to tell my students about using it in assignments. To cite or not to cite that is the question. Because google doesn’t really own the credit for those photos either.
I loved what you wrote on this subject. I read it last night after a couple glasses of wine. I came back this morning because I wanted to send it to a good friend who has been struggling for several months with the blog thing. He’s had attacks and he’s shut his blog down and brought it back several times because of the questions you bring up. He’s currently still “off”. And he’s And he’s a fabulous writer who refuses to call himself a writer, so it always makes me sad to see him go.
I agree with what Chris says above whole heartedly as well. You have to write what is in your heart and not worry about what the audience may or may not want. I fell into that trap too. I discovered much of the cycling community has been reading my blog and freaked out. Then I started only writing about cycling for a while which was never what I wanted to do. So my blog has been quieter this year. On purpose. I’ll admit a part of me is deliberately trying to self sabotage and lose my audience.
And you haven’t lost me. I read every post. I just don’t have a lot to contribute related to kickboxing (which is where your emphasis has been lately) no more that you have much to say about cycling. You have a couple different audiences that read what you write. So not every post you write is a winner with everyone. They are all good and well written though.
I never started a blog to get a following. And it I’d too much pressure to write to meet others needs. The only needs I want to meet are my own. I see so many blogs that imitate other blogs and I don’t want to be that either.
There you go. You got my usual novel today. 🙂
Sorry for the typos. Operating off an iPad at home these days and it is difficult to go back and edit in blogger on this thing. Can’t scroll well.
@Story Teller – Your welcome. I think its great that you try an involve us. I hope I didn’t sound like I don’t. But I don’t think you should base your success on that. I can’t speak for everyone but sadly I am not much of an contributor. So I can’t help you too much there but I am a loyal follower. If it means anything, I’m sure others feel the same way and aren’t even saying it. You may be a success and not even know it.
As long as you get what you need out of this blog. Don’t worry about me as its my job to figure it out. While kickboxing is what I originally came for, even your blogs about whole other topics resonate with me. I’ve never been addicted to shopping but some of your lessons and underlying theme’s apply to me and my past or present issues. It’s nice to know I’m not alone sometimes. 🙂
Yay, another novel from Kim! I love it! I have missed you…and Lisa. I realize that the writers who visit this blog are much more likely to comment, and I haven’t been writing about writing much lately. I did have some good posts about the subject this summer, but everyone was too busy enjoying the sun. 🙂 Thanks for your kind words. I don’t want to worry about who is reading this…or not… so much either, but that can be easier said than done.
@ Chris – You totally get it! That’s exactly why I put all this stuff on here…I hope someone can relate to it. If one person feels less alone from reading something I’ve written, then that means the world to me. You don’t have to comment, but I’m very glad you spoke up today.
I didn’t take offense to your remark about engagement, either. It was actually nice to have some honest, genuine feedback that didn’t come from a hardhearted troll. So thanks again.
Simple and sweet:
If you continue to keep it up; then that’s fantastic!
If it was your last post than thank you for your thoughts and insights.
No less; thank you! (for keeping it up at least one more time)
Thanks, Grant. Your kind words and support (both on this blog and in person) have meant so much.
I just wanted to say thank-you. I’ve so enjoyed following your blog, even though I don’t comment very often. I admire the time and commitment you have put into “A Life Less Ordinary” to keep it a quality column.
If this does prove to be your last post, well, you are signing off in the style we’ve grown accustomed to – a compelling piece.
All good things have to come to an end. To everything there is a time and season. And… it is always wise to leave readers wanting more 🙂
You lead such a full and busy life… don’t wear yourself out. Good luck with the new high-commitment to your kick-boxing goals.
Don’t stop writing. I’m confident your novels will be in print and read by the masses of mystery and thriller fans out there one day, in the not too distant future too. Keep on doing what you do best.
Hi, Holli. I, too, am often guilty of reading but not commenting. Too often it seems like we have enough time in the day to make ourselves happy but not enough to spend on others. I love your blog, and check it out every chance I can. I hope it continues for many more seasons!
Thanks, Joce & Chris. You both have commented a fair bit, and your comments have been insightful and supportive. I thank you for that.
Joce: I may stick with the blog a little longer, due to all the people who have asked me to continue. I once said that if it was of benefit to one person, it was worth it, so I should put my money where my mouth is. I was in a bad place on Friday, and I let one stupid troll exacerbate all my own self-doubts and misgivings.
Chris: I don’t think anyone outside the blogging community understands just how important commenting and following are. It’s a way for us to know that our words are worth the time and effort we spend each week putting them out there. It’s our opportunity to connect with our readers. Even a short “I can relate” or “Bravo!” can make a blogger’s day.
I’m still here – and still reading – but the summer was crazy busy and now with a new school term starting I have limited time to read let alone comment as much as I’d like.
You hit the nail on the head with regards to a number of points. I’ve been tempted to close my own blog – almost everything I post about is personal and I’m terrified sometimes when I click “post”. Yes, even with my own personal musings I’ve been attacked and accused.
ps trolls suck almost as much as blogging (;0)))
Thanks, Lisa. I’m glad you’re still here, and still reading. I had no idea you had issues with trolls, too. I’m sorry to hear that. Can you email me the link to your blog? I’ll add it to my favorites so that I’m prompted to read it whenever you have a new post.
You know my thoughts, but I thought I’d say them again: remain strong and ignore the trolls. Life is filled with idiots and cruel people, and the best way to silence them is to carry forward!
The thing with trolls is that they live under bridges and attack other people’s lives because they cannot live fully in their own. We live fully in our lives, we write and live fully in our writing as well – keep going Holli!
Thanks, TS & MM — I much appreciate your comments.
@ TS — isn’t it sad that there’s so many people who look on the negative side of life and infect others with their hate? I always wonder what prompts such actions. Since the Internet is one step removed and can be impersonal, perhaps trolls lose sight of the fact that there are real people behind each blog, people who can be hurt by their cruel comments.
@ MM — Thank you so much. I have missed your cheery words of optimism. I still am not sure I have the stomach for blogging, but I want to try to keep it going as long as there are people who are interested in reading this thing.
I’m late getting here, but I see that you haven’t quit blogging, and that’s good. You’re so right, Holli, blogging is a great deal of work. That is why many people starts blogs but drop out of it after a few months. There have been many times when I wondered why I’m doing this, I really haven’t the time to put into it like I should, and yet, here I am. And so are you. I hope it stays that way!
Thanks for commenting–better late than never! 🙂 It’s not the time commitment that gets to me…it’s pouring my heart out repeatedly and then having some disgruntled dude come along and tell me I’m the reason “self-publishing should be regulated”. Ouch! I’m a sensitive soul, so comments like that bother me more than they should.
I love your blog, Laura, and I envy your vocal and loyal followers. Have you ever had a run-in with a troll?
I’m told you haven’t arrived as a blogger until you’ve had a troll. 🙂 There’s always a positive spin on everything.
I haven’t had any trolls, but lots of spam comments that go into my spam queue. A great feature of wordpress is that when someone comments on my blog for the first time, their comment has to be moderated by me. So if someone said something hurtful or nasty I wouldn’t have to approve it. Of course no one we know would make nasty comments. People who are genuine bloggers are supportive.
The thing that can drive you mad is wondering, “what if it *is* someone I know?” Since they always hide behind that Anonymous label, it’s hard to know for sure. Both live in my city. I’m pretty sure this last guy wasn’t someone I know, but there was a girl a while back whose attacks were too over-the-top for what the post was about. I couldn’t help but think it was an ex-friend trying to get her last digs in.
On the other hand, I’ve had almost no spam at all! Trade you…but I guess two trolls in over a year of blogging ain’t bad.