This is going to be a bit of a weird(er) one… I hope I manage to frame it right. It’s a little difficult to explain so please bear with me. I want to talk about writing for something other than just yourself…
On this blog, I will occasionally write posts about the art of bloggin’. Those post are of debatable use and usually serve more as a sounding board where other bloggers can share their experiences and insight on a subject rather than an actual “how to”. I myself still have a lot to learn. However, I do enjoy sharing with you all anything I may pick up along the way. I also love the comments.
Because we bloggers all tend to share the same preoccupations and face the same hurdles, I have brought up issues like stats, blog growth and motivation/inspiration on several occasions. And I have been extremely lucky to get some fantastic comments. In fact, those comments have been a personal source of motivation/inspiration on a regular basis.
However, talking to a friend some weeks ago, I realized something I had never noticed. This is where I’m going to struggle to explain a simple thought.
Generally speaking, the (amateur) blogging community seems to have settled on the idea that blogs are for fun. I happen to agree with this and it’s how I approach my blog. We will often comment to each other (I do this a lot) that you should write what makes you happy whenever you feel like doing so. That the minute the blog becomes a hassle or an obligation, there’s no point to it. There’s an insistent general notion that blogging as a hobby is a hedonistic venture. It should be enjoyable.
Like I said, I’m all for this. It’s the type of comment/advice I’ve given on dozens of occasions. But I’m a happy go lucky person. I hadn’t really considered the possible flip side of this attitude.
When talking to a friend (a foodie blogger), she pointed out that there was a similar conceit in her community. You had professional restaurant critics who did their thing, but the amateur bloggers who just wanted to share their love of food were there to have fun. It sounds great, but what about when you’re not having fun?
What she meant was, she loved her blog and loved the sense of accomplishment it gave her. She was actually proud to have this thing she could point at as her own creation. She also adored the community she got to know through that blog. Food had been a lifetime passion of hers and she had no one in her day to day to share it with, so the blog filled that void and served a very real purpose in her life. But she didn’t necessarily enjoy writing posts.
She loved taking the pictures and sharing her thoughts. However, drafting had never been that attractive to her. She had little interest in writing in general and although it wasn’t painful for her to do, she also wouldn’t have called it fun per see. Moreover, editing and formatting those posts so they would look like she wanted them to, took a lot of time which she honestly would have preferred to spend on something else. She did like it, but it was also a hassle. Like going to the gym or practicing an instrument/ learning a new language.
And whenever she felt less than motivated, her community would come back with, take a break, if you’re not having fun then do something else. She was left with the impression that because she wasn’t looking forward to putting together posts all the time, she was doing something wrong.
So, she stepped away from the blog and came back. It worked for a while, but she kept getting comments along the lines of: glad you love it again… And she still didn’t exactly love it. She would get restaurant invites for opening night and always reviewed brand new places. Those posts would get a ton of views. She would feel like she let her readers down a bit when she didn’t have time to go to an opening night. People told her not to worry and just write what she wanted to. So, she cut back on those, for no real reason and of course, views dwindled too. That sense of community was slowly leaving.
She got frustrated, feeling like she was putting in so much time and effort for something no one was reading. When she mentioned it on her blog, she got the same, as long as you enjoy what you write, what does it matter? You should write for you… Stats are just numbers, you should fixate on those. It will make you miserable. I’m pretty sure I just quoted myself there!
Like I said, I personally agree with the blogging for fun approach! But this was rather unhelpful to my friend who ended up quitting her blog all together.
After a while (a few years), she realized she missed it. She missed the ritual which was comforting and rewarding if not always fun. She missed the tiny sense of personal pride at having built something out of nothing. She wanted it back. So, she started a new one. Of course, those issues of motivation and stalled growth came back. This time though she had a friend with a blog (me). So instead of venting to her community she came to me.
I immediately gave her the same unhelpful comments. Well, if it’s not fun just stop. Invite me over to cook instead, we’ll have a blast!… But this time, she could easily just roll her eyes and say, whatever now tell me something useful dum dum. I love my friends. So instead, I gave her practical advice. Software to make the writing process a bit more entertaining for her. Ways to advertise her blog better. The power of tags and guest posts to give her that sense of community. We made an index page, so she could see at a glance every time she added something to her blog, which gave a very tangible feeling of progress.
Mostly, I stopped telling her that the only point is to have fun. It was important for her to internalize that it was fine to write a post you’re not all that passionate about, but you know your readers would enjoy. A post written for others isn’t a bad thing. Ultimately, the pleasure you will get from the conversations around your posts can make up for whatever was lacking during the writing process. It’s a bit like writing a post from a prompt or reviewing a show suggested by your readers.
There’s also nothing wrong with having a blog which is just a time filler. Something you do because you like certain aspects but aren’t necessarily completely devoted to. There’s no actual right way to go about this.
I have to admit; my own instincts still tend towards not making yourself to do things that are a hassle. But I see where she’s coming from. I pretty much forced myself to work out everyday for over a year before it started becoming enjoyable at all, and now I couldn’t live without it. I have benefitted from it in so many ways. And before you guys say, it’s different because working out is healthy (debatable) and productive. Blogging has a ton of benefits. It’s a social activity that teaches you to interact, write, do layouts, the basics of marketing and design, critical thinking skills, conflict moderation, ect…. And it can lead to, or at least help with, an actual career.
Did any of this make any sense? I guess I’m trying to say, it’s ok if some days you don’t like blogging. You don’t have to quit if your passions wane for a bit. As long as you’re still getting something out of it, it’s a positive. And for my part, I’ll try not to be too quick on the “just have fun” rhetoric and try to give practical advice when I can.
I really do think you should have fun though….