Thoughts on blogging by an ordinary blogger

My blog is four years old today (!). That’s four years longer than any plant I’ve ever owned, a little less than half my son’s lifetime, and a third of the life of my marriage.

I’m not putting myself down when I call myself “ordinary.” By ordinary I am referring to clout and status in the blogosphere. It’s not unlike money and status in the off-line world. By both accounts I am ordinary. But do I think I am a good person who lives authentically? Yes, in both worlds, I do.Ā I don’t have tips here on how to get big and successful, but if you want validation, you might find some here today.

I started blogging because I was interested in writing again. I could’ve simply written in a private journal, but maybe what I wanted was to speak up and be heard, by somebody. When I began looking back after a couple of years, it became clearer and clearer to me that I wanted to write because I had spent most of my life silenced. For many different reasons, not the least of which was growing up in a culture of shame, I had been trained to shut my voice down and to take up less space. We all have a voice, and it is a matter of whether or not we want to activate it. After all those years I wanted to activate mine.

And so I started, with many false starts. I had different blogs with different themes and names and nothing stuck until Only You. I named Only You for my son, then five years old. I liked having him be a part of this new life, and partly for that reason I have never considered abandoning this blog, even during stretches when I had lost motivation and confidence to continue.

But Only You was also me, because after having been consumed by motherhood those previous five years, I felt my identity fading out once Fred entered his own world of school and friends. And yet there was no previous self that still existed that I could go back to. Blogging helped me to re-draw the outline of who I was and to fill it in again.

So below are some thoughts, looking back on my four years of blogging:

On motivation

I was never a prolific blogger, and I have gone through peaks and valleys in terms of posting. For me the biggest motivation drainers are lack of physical energy, low writer self-esteem, and perfectionistic tendencies.

I’m going to sound a bit self-pitying here but in the name of honesty I’m just going to come right out and say it: I used to be inconsistent in part because I wasn’t sure if anybody cared. Writing to an audience of busy mothers I’d felt apologetic for my long and heavy posts. And when I found it hard to write – and I have gone as long as two or even three months without writing – I also didn’t explain my absences because I’d assumed that no one would notice if I disappeared for a while.

Of course, what I’ve learned is that 1) as a blogger you need to take a leap of faith and start from there; and 2) creating a community will help lessen that fear of “Who’s going to care?”. It’s a catch-22 because the less you write, the less likely it is you will gain a community and the less accountable you will feel about showing up. For a long time I was caught in exactly that negative cycle.

I also decided to follow my heart in adapting my blog. I was losing a bit of steam writing about motherhood, most likely because my world had shifted. Since the summer, books were becoming a greater part of my life, and I really wanted to start writing about reading. So I took a chance and added books as another blogging theme. I was a bit nervous about changing my blog but being able to write about my passion has refueled my motivation to write.

Finally, I’ve learned to not care as much. I used to approach writing each post almost as if I were drafting an essay for publication. That kind of pressure is what it takes to kill any chance of getting a blog off the ground. I’m still struggling to find my voice after all these years, to write more the way I talk, but I realize that won’t come unless I keep writing and keep practicing.

On community

I’m not going to say the predictable just yet. Instead, I want to say that it took me a while to get the hang of community, the on-line kind. I started out as a “mom blogger,” and soon learned that there is a whole subculture in the world of mom bloggers. There are the big players and you can choose to be a part of that whole scene or not. I’ve strung along to see what the fuss was all about, but I often ended up feeling more alienated and alone than anything else, like being back in my freshman year in college when I was struggling to find my niche. Any social situation that reminds me of those adolescent times is a sign that I need to move away. And so I did.

I also took things a little too personally in the beginning sometimes, feeling hurt if, for example, someone I followed didn’t follow me back. I’ve long let go of that need for tit-for-tat commenting and visiting, because the truth is I often can’t follow back the same people who follow me. Trying to keep up on-line is overwhelming and I understand that everyone else is going through what I go through. It’s not personal. There’s huge freedom in being able to visit a blog simply because you enjoy it, and not worrying about obligation of any kind.

And now I’ll say the predictable: I love my community. It is hard to talk about this without sounding trite or resorting to cliches. I blogged last Friday about the things that bring me down. Well, the people I’ve met through blogging are what bring me up. It is not better or worse than having friends off-line, but there is a certain amount of ease in building relationships on-line. Our first impressions are made not through appearance but through the most intimate parts of a blogger: her words. We can know quickly if we click or not, and with each post we feel we’ve gotten to know the other person a little better. Words are my favorite medium for bonding, and so I love being able to build authentic connection through that.

On validation and vulnerability

Like most bloggers I’ve done my fair share of obsessing over statistics, followers, comments, and shares. Are people reading my posts? What do they think about what I’ve said? Why did I just lose a follower? I never had any goal to amass a huge following, but still, I probably spend more time than I need to checking on my stats.

A few times I got syndicated on larger sites, and it was like small midwestern town girl meets the Big City. My stats skyrocketed during those brief periods of exposure, and it was there, in the scary streets of Blogher and Mamapedia, that I also encountered my first trolls. It was kind of a surreal experience, being told I was an incompetent mother who needed therapy or at least a few good self-help books, all because I’d written about the regrets I’d felt and the lessons I’ve learned from fighting with my husband in front of my child. Since then I’ve had little motivation to put my words out there again, in such public venues. It’s not so much that I’ve allowed myself to be intimidated into silence as it is my lack of desire to share myself with so many people whom I don’t know. It’s like I’ve decided I like my small town better than living in Los Angeles. My goal isn’t to make the big time.

Putting yourself out there and being vulnerable to judgment as both a person and a writer is one of the hardest things you can do. It’s impossible not to be self-critical and to fill yourself with doubt, honestly paralyzing doubt that makes you question if there aren’t easier and safer things to do with your free, unpaid time. So if nothing else – even if I don’t have a ton of followers or page views to show for my four years of blogging – I can say that I’ve shown up, year after year.

Do you blog? If so, what’s helped you stay in the game? As a reader, what keeps you coming back to a blog?

31 thoughts on “Thoughts on blogging by an ordinary blogger

    • Thank you, Renee! Iā€™m glad to have met you and your blog in this process as well. I always appreciate your posts, visits and supportive comments! šŸ™‚

  1. Happy anniversary, Cecilia! I think you are braver than I am because you put a lot of yourself out for others to read. I am only putting out my opinion on books, not much about me myself. What helps me keep blogging is my numbers, which are slowly growing, and the occasional compliment I get, when people tell me things like “I read my first fiction book in years because of one of your reviews,” or “I go to your blog to pick my next book.” But I am not very big yet, and I haven’t had any trolls, which must be very disconcerting. Keep it up!

    • Thank you for this! I’m not surprised that your blog is growing, as you have really done a wonderful job with it. I put A Dark-Adapted Eye on my goodreads to-read list after reading your review, and the next day I noticed that another goodreads friend of mine had done the same. Word of mouth!

      I enjoy book blogging and it is a nice break or switch sometimes from the more personal stuff. I hope I don’t regret it (being so personal) years from now.

      Thanks so much for your visits and comments!

  2. Hi Cecilia! We have a mutual friend, Jen M who directed me here! Congratulations on the longetivity of the blog and your persistence in pursuing your dreams. I feel like we’re kindred spirits (self-doubt, writing, the arguing with DH in front of the kids type). My blog, http://www.10minutewriter.com is a Mondays only type thing. Hope you drop by and say HOWDY. šŸ™‚

  3. Also, it looks like our blogs are just a couple of weeks apart. I will be celebrating my 4th year of blogging too, and let me tell you, I’ve pretty much gone through all that you’ve written here. Word for word. Except for the being syndicated part. I was so happy for you that your words – brave, honest, wonderful words – reached a larger realm as more people need to know you, but I can also understand how bigger is not always better.

    Every year we find out more and more about ourselves and each other in this space…and maybe that’s why we keep coming back. It is a good place to be after all šŸ™‚

    Congratulations, again, Cecilia!

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Justine! It is funny how we started at around the same time, and I still remember so well when we first met and clicked right away. I’ve always found such comfort and validation (and inspiration) in your posts, and in your thoughtful comments on my posts as well. I’m very grateful to have met you, Justine, and happy that we became friends even in “real life”!

  4. Oops. I’m having issues commenting. Here is the first part of my comment, which was omitted on accident! (After four years, you’d think I’d learn how to comment by now – hah!)

    1st part:
    Happy blogiversary! (And, sorry, I never know how to spell this made-up word šŸ™‚ I cannot express enough just how grateful and happy I am to have found you that many moons ago. Our blogs and communication may be virtual, but the friendships we find here are more real than with most people we know. At least that’s how it is with me, and I definitely count ours as one of those gems.

  5. Congrats, Cecilia.

    You are one of the voices I’ve come to rely upon in this virtual community. We all have a need to feel affirmation. You nailed it when you said you just want to be heard.

    Thank you for your voice, Cecilia. You make me feel like I am being heard. xoxo

    • Thank you for this, Rudri. I’m so glad to have met you. Your words are always affirming to me as well and I always feel a sense of peace and understanding when I visit your blog. Likewise I have always appreciated your very thoughtful comments on my posts. We think and feel very similarly in many ways. Thank you for your friendship! xoxo

  6. Oh, I love this post! Congratulations on four years! I have enjoyed reading your blog over the past years because when I come here I always feel comforted. I can’t really explain it, or maybe I can, but your writings don’t seem to come with any agenda or any underlying mission for stats or anything else but self expression. You seem to write from your heart just for the love of writing. As a writer, I feel that and love that feeling. It and your passion inspires me. So, please do keep writing. I say this often, and do aim to comment here often because I really do value that feeling I get when I read your writings.

    • Jessica, I really appreciate this and more than you know. You’ve been such a treasured friend, and I’ll always remember how you reached out to me (and I think more than once!) when I was in one of my down cycles…your emails then gave me the energy to keep writing. I love that you come here even if you don’t have time to comment, though of course I always love hearing what you have to say. Thanks so much! xoxo

  7. Wow, first of all I am overwhelmed by seeing at your blog archive. You strode a long way and still you seem as enthusiastic as if its your first blog, which I think is commendable. I started blogging recently (I’m loving it!) and I am also looking forward to make my archive as beautiful as yours (though that is way too difficult).

    I felt good when I read that even you became obsessive about blog stat, since I thought it was just me who spent more amount of time than I should, on looking at my subscribers and number of views. Well, its not that I started blogging to get followers or online attraction but its something which just cannot be averted by me.

    • Thank you very much for visiting my blog and for leaving your thoughtful comment here, Shalin. Yes, worrying and obsessing about stats is a completely normal if not universal thing among bloggers. It’s natural to want to feel validated and heard after mustering up the courage to put your words out there. I’ve learned that the best way to get your count up is by writing consistently and from your heart. I’m glad to hear you are enjoying your blogging journey so far. Good luck to you!

  8. Hi,
    I just came through your blog through A Little Blog of Books. My favourite sort of blog is the books meets life sort. So definitely interested to see what you have here, and also your thoughts.
    I like blogging because I like writing. It’s like having a diary that speaks back to you and I’ve never been one for keeping diaries because of the silence within them.
    It’s really interesting to hear how your thoughts have changed over the years. Also your experiences over the time you’ve been blogging.
    Most of all I like it that your voice sounds so authentic and considered.

    • I really appreciate your thoughtful and supportive words here, Denise. I think you hit the nail right on the head – having a blog is like writing a diary that speaks back to you. I’ve kept a journal all my life, but at some point it seemed a bit too solitary or lonely. Blogging has been good. It’s also great for me to hear that you are drawn to blogs about both books and life. I started by writing about motherhood and life, and then this summer wanted to add books. Sometimes I’ve felt that I need to split the two, so it’s good to know that there are readers who like the combination. Thank you for stopping by!

  9. Cecilia,
    Thank you so much for these thoughts– I found you via a comment on Joy, Lovely Joy, and I’m so glad I have! This post speaks to the cycle that I think so many of us find familiar. I am hopefully coming out of my own blog identity crisis and not being fearful quite so much. What I struggle with is creating community, though. What are your tips there?

    • I appreciate your thoughtful comment here, Heidi! I’ve struggled a lot with building community as well and have gone up and down. However, I’ve been successful twice (midway through my blogging and (I’d like to think) right now) and the one commonality is consistent and somewhat “frequent” posting. I’ve been trying to post 2x/week and that has helped a lot. I am also conscious of replying promptly (as much as I possibly can) to readers who leave comments, and then I visit other bloggers as well. The final thing is content. I try to write about issues that other people might relate to. Sometimes I’ll add a prompt at the end of my posts to make responding a little easier. I also share my posts on Facebook and my “real life” friends tend to comment there. It does take a little time, and I know it can feel discouraging sometimes when it seems that you are writing to the air. Just keep writing and leave thoughtful comments on other people’s blogs (as you have done on mine), and I think the community will come!

      Thanks for reading!

      Cecilia

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