Should You Quit Blogging?

If you came of age when I did, in the time of carbon paper and WhiteOut, you’re probably as enthralled as I am about all the possibilities available to us now through technology. One is the ability to start a blog, and a lot of my friends have done that. But lately, some of them are discouraged.

It’s time to rethink blogging – what it is, and isn’t. What it can give you, and what it can take away.

Let me start with a story.

I happened to notice that a popular blogger stopped posting. After a month I emailed her. I mean, sure, it’s cyberspace, but how would we, her subscribers, know if she were lying dead in a ditch or something? Turns out, she was fine, but since I was the only person who checked on her, my inquiry started a discussion about why we blog, and whether it’s really worth it. She said:

When my business was way down last year and I had time on my hands, I began to expand my blogging network.  I spent hours each day reading other people’s blogs, commenting, etc.  After awhile, I felt like I was a member of a fun club…I got so caught up in it all, I lost sight of the fact that, for me, most of the posts weren’t even worth the time it took to read them…When all was said and done, there were maybe five bloggers who I felt had something to say (you are one), beyond just being clever.

I kept asking myself what the point of it was, and I couldn’t come up with a good answer.  Tossing off blog posts is fun, and getting comments is fun as well.  But, honestly, I’ve never felt as though what I was doing was important in the big picture. It all seemed like simply a more respectable and creative version of Facebook.

I love to speak to women and to conduct workshops. That is what juices me and allows me to believe that I’m having an impact on women’s lives. And in some perfect world, I would love to write regularly for a publication, which would do the same thing for me. But I know that won’t happen.”

In response, I said:

Blogging is a mixed bag. I love it and I don’t love it. It’s an awesome way to create a community, and some of the comments really lift me up. But it’s probably not contributing to sales, and even if it is, the ROI isn’t enough to justify it.

She and I agreed we were on to something, and after our conversation, I wanted to think about it. Here’s what I decided: there are only three reasons to have a blog:

  1.  It’s an enjoyable hobby. You blog when you feel like it, and if nobody responds, big deal. Seeing your work in print is its own reward. Maybe you’ll do more with it someday, but until then, you count it as experience.
  2. You’re trying to sell something, whether it’s paid speaking engagements, book sales, advertising on your site, or a widget of some kind. You work your ass off blogging because you desire success. (Note to authors: if this is your plan, stop now. Convert your blog to a static website and apply all your resulting free time to networking on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, etc.)
  3. You’re passionate about an idea or theme, and you need to talk about it constantly. You get a charge from the sense of community arising from your visitors and their comments and emotions. You don’t care if you go hungry.

I’m number 3. I need to figure out the second half of life. I love the community that blooms when we all ponder this together. That’s why I blog, and write books, and interact on social networks. Everything I produce is about one thing: the second half of life, and living it mindfully and powerfully.

I love my Any Shiny Thing website, because it’s like being a media mogul. With a website/blog, you’re the head of a TV station, deciding what videos to post or link to. You’re the radio station owner, deciding which podcasts to produce. And you’re the newspaper owner, publishing your own little paper every week. You’re the boss, but like most self-employed people, you work for a hard-driving bitch. It takes time, energy and creativity, and you don’t get time off.

Except for the bitch part, I’d tell my friend that she actually does work for a publication that can impact women’s lives, but unfortunately, the work is unpaid (in terms of dollars. In terms of oxytocin, the chemical women experience as a result of bonding, there’s a pretty big payout! But you can’t write a check with it.)

So here’s my bottom line: as a boomer, I’m thrilled with technology, and I hope to use it to build on my topic for everybody’s benefit. But frankly, blogging can take a lot of your time and not increase your sales by one book. So it’s really important to be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish, and how much you’re willing to put into it. Because life is short, and you don’t want to burn time or energy on the wrong thing. Isn’t that one of the tenets of our discussions? One of the most important rules we all agree on, now that we’re old enough to know better?

What about you? Why are you blogging? What do you get from it?

Elana Johnson Weighs In on Social Netting

Elana Johnson, writer and teacher, has figured out her own way of allocating social networking time here. She says we have to make up our minds, because time is finite. Have a goal, and then decide how much time you’re going to spend on which SN sites to reach that goal. Her system is too simple for me, but she’s way more accomplished than I am, so what the hey.

Frances Flynn Thorsen, who I’ll quote in my next post, said something smart about it: pick a few SN sites in which to “go deep”. That’s a good idea, and I’m paying attention right now as I flit from SN flower to flower, as random as ever. Soon I hope to pick the SN sites where I’ll spend the most time, and the ones that I only check maybe every third day. Do you have an idea about this? Let us know.

10 Tips for Blogging by Darren Rouse

A lot of us just started blogs, and we’re all excited. I check out each and every one, because I want to be a good cyber-citizen, but I will be honest with you: when I see lots of paragraphs, I go away. Darren Rouse, who writes about blogging for actual $$$ (!!!) said that 250 words is long enough. He also said 9 other smart things about good blogging. Read it here.

Screw Marketing. I’m Just Going to Write.

In She Writes, a new community for writers created by Poets & Writers magazine, author Lauren B. Davis expressed what a lot of us are feeling about having to do all the marketing and selling of our books:

“… just about everything these days seems like advertising or marketing. So much LOOK AT ME!!! LOOK AT ME!! Twitter. Facebook! It’s so… well…. gosh, dare I say desperate? Dare I say vulgar?

“For me, this is a question of how I wish to live my life. William Zinsser once said that he wanted to be a person first, and a writer second. I agree with him, but would add that I want to be a self-promotion-machine not at all.

“The publishing industry is in transition at the moment, trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up, and during this petulant adolescent phase it seems to be throwing authors up in the air (while not paying for their airfare) and telling us it is our responsibility to market/promote/sell our own books. Well, maybe. Maybe not. Just because they say that doesn’t mean we have to buy into it.

“I think we must, each of use, decide what we want to be, and what we’re capable of being. Do we want to be writers who use writing as a way to make meaning in our lives, as a way of connecting to some deeper center, or do we want to be Authors, more concerned with the sales figures and market share?

“…I have no training or expertise in marketing and/or sales. Didn’t people used to go to school and get degrees in such things? I have studied for years to be a writer. Not an author (which implies publication), but a writer. As it happens, I am an author, with four published books behind me, but they’re just that… behind me. Like all writers, I must accept the fact I may never publish again. There are no such guarantees for any of us, ever. We are not entitled to anything. So if I am going to find a way to sustain myself as a writer, it must come from something deeper than the public/publishing industry’s fickle affections.

“I’m happy to do readings, and love book groups, and if invited will happily show up. The same goes for radio shows and print interviews and anything else that comes my way. But I will not spend more time marketing my work than creating it. Not even close. I am a writer, not a rock star. I am a writer, not a publicist. I am a writer, not a public speaker. I write essays and novels and stories, not tweets. I put my essays up on a blog because, frankly, I can’t think of what else to do with them, and it’s a nice way of connecting with people and having occasional contact. (We do spend a lot of time alone, as writers!) But in the end, I’m a writer. I write. And that, when all is said and done, must be enough. When it stops being enough, when I become obsessed not with the words but with the sales then, for the sake of my sanity, I’ll quit. Simple as that.”

If You’re Serious About Blogging, You Need to Focus Your Topic

My first blog was a tester. I wanted to get comfortable with the idea of blogging, so I started Any Shiny Thing and proposed to write about anything my hyperactive mind found attractive. I assumed that other people would find my topics attractive, too.

Brrrrrt! Wrong assumption. Let Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist tell you why it’s critical to make your blog about something specific.

Do you know that there are now more than FIFTY MILLION blogs on the Internet? With all those choices, why would anyone read yours (or mine)? I began to suspect Any Shiny Thing wasn’t a good idea when I’d explain what it was about, and my listener’s eyes would glaze over with polite boredom.  “Oh, just anything I find interesting” is not a compelling reason to go there. Denise Welch of Computerworks, Inc. has a related viewpoint. “You tell me, ‘Read my blog! read my blog! I don’t want to read your blog,” she says. Unless you are going to make it worth her while. In her view that means you have to GIVE something to the reader (beyond the pleasure of your company).

I hope I have given you a tool today for making your blog more effective.