Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Musings on Blogging II

the Petit Palais; Paris, France
photo taken March 25, 2008

I realized this morning why I had so much trouble publishing this post: I'd been overthinking it.

It's just that the conclusion I've come to really isn't fundamentally groundbreaking.  As I said in my first post about this the other week, I think we make blogging - and what it means to be a blogger - more complicated than it has it be and, at the end of the day, what we get out of any venture is made up of two things: what we put into it and the people with whom we surround ourselves.

That doesn't make the issues with which I struggled any less valid.  In fact, based on your responses, many of you are bothered by the same things.  When I asked why we bloggers feel compelled to be all things to all people, something I am absolutely guilty of myself, most chalked it up to a combination of wanting to be a popular blogger and wanting to have a lucrative blog.  As Bailie noted, "I think people want to be all things so they are liked by everyone which means more page views!"

Alyssa agreed: "We want to cover it all because humans are people pleasers. We want everyone to like us and everyone to like our blog. Covering a range of topics ensures that we get the biggest audience (in theory). Also, I think it also has to do with comparison. If we see other bloggers posting amazing recipes, DIYs, etc, we feel like we need to as well."  Taking that idea a bit further, Kristen said, "I think we see people out there doing things and wonder why we aren't doing them, why we don't have those opportunities, why we don't have the time they do."

Jessica's observation resonated with me, too.  She suggested, "I think the internet has so much to offer in the way of information that it's almost turning everyone into ADHD 10 year olds. It's really difficult to focus on just one topic when you can become a quasi expert in at least 50 other random topics at the same time."

That trap - the "you can be an expert" one - is so easy to fall into when you want your blog to be successful.  As Gillian pointed out, "Expertise sells. It's as simple as that. I straddle the world between lifestyle blogging and corporate blogging, and having expertise to share allows you to sell."  It is that simple, but I think trouble starts when we get caught up in what Karen calls the side effects of blogging and Alyssa calls ulterior motives - numbers of followers, sponsorship opportunities, and the like - that we feel we need approval to authenticate our experiences even if we're hobby bloggers.  Along these lines, Erika wrote:
Being an expert has other things tied to it -- like validation, acceptance, and competence. I think, though, the blogging world is too quick to assume that people are experts when they are really novices and I think sometimes novices are too quick to assume that they know more about what they are doing than they do. No one knows how much time people spend on something, how much knowledge they bring -- they just know the finished product. Still, with that said, I think part of the reason it's easy to compare is that amateurs are side-by-side with professionals in the blogging world. 
But blogging is just like any other hobby -- take dancing, for instance. There are some people who just dance at parties. There are others who enjoy it and take a class here and there. There are still others who are more into it and devoted, but not professionals. Then there are people who make it their LIVELIHOOD. It doesn't mean that the people who don't don't love it, but there's a spectrum of time and dedication given. The difference is that people who do it as a hobby don't get up and perform at the ballet on a nightly basis, whereas in blogging, we're all on the same stage and treated as equals in that respect. It can be awesome but it can also bring a lot of pressure. Sometimes people feel that if they aren't giving the same energy in the same way, they aren't doing enough.
I've discovered that, generally, the blogs I connect to the most are the ones written by women who feel like the energy they have to give to their hobbies is enough - or that, although they might like to give more, they're giving what they have and therefore that has to be enough.  As Emily said in a comment she left on my March vlog, "There should also be a space for hobbies to be hobbies. And for that to be okay. I like writing and taking photos and planning parties because it's enjoyable. I don't want the pressure of doing that full-time. So I think when we put pressure on ourselves to blog every day or to follow blogging rules or whatever, it becomes more of a job and less of a hobby. And for some people, that's the goal and that's fine. I just don't want to feel guilty or less-than for not wanting that."

I totally agree and it's why, as a reader, I have huge problems with how easily we throw around "expert" as a label.  Honestly, I read lifestyle blogs to share the lives of amateurs like me and I'll visit a professional blog if I want instructions on how to do something.  It's pretty much guaranteed that I'll be turned off by hobby blogs (and I'm using the word "hobby" in the broadest possible sense here) that present expert "how to" posts.  Sure, I want to know you baked that special cake for your husband's birthday or maximized space in your suitcase for an international trip, but I'm really only interested because of how it relates to your personal narrative.  When bloggers in whom I am emotionally invested switch from writing "here's how I did it" posts to "here's how you should do it" posts, I often go through all five stages of grief.  Believe me, I know that avoiding the comparison trap and not feeling guilty when it comes to blogging is easier said than done, but the bloggers I admire and relate to are, for the most part, the ones who are okay being awesome amateurs who spend the time and energy they have to spare on hobbies they're passionate about.

I guess that's where my question about why so many bloggers have skills and interests that are considered typically feminine came from.  An anonymous commenter pointed out, "It's like asking why all women's magazines are the same. If you buy a women's magazine you want a particular kind of content. A female lifestyle blogger can write about anything she likes and if she doesn't it's because that's not the niche she wants to be in. I'm absolutely sure there are women out there writing about all kinds of non stereotypical stuff."  How obvious, right?  I just hadn't considered that.  I have relationships with bloggers who often write about classically domestic pursuits because those are topics I like to read about.  (As Tina said, "Everyone has different interests and they find friends who have those interests.")  And, because I'm invested in blogs that share a comprehensive narrative of the blogger's life, I don't read many niche blogs.  Like Aunie wrote on her blog the other day, "That's the thing, this blog will never have a niche, because it just follows the ebbs and flows of my life."

Of course there are exceptions to this - I have some wonderful relationships online with women whose blogs are part of their businesses and with women who never post recipes or home decor inspiration.  But that's the beauty of blogging, and I was totally overthinking it before.  The bottom line is that my community is what I make it.  With your help, I've come to to understand what I look for in my blogging relationships, embrace what I enjoy from my community, and accept the fact that I have to choose where I spend my time and energy.

I can't tell you how glad I am that you've decided to make me part of your community - thank you.

 photo 866de425-8336-4c63-9efd-1c4dd8bf0e62_zpsafe0d56b.jpg


  1. YES! I think a lot of the reason I was frustrated was because I felt like I had to be part of certain communities or like my blog would suffer if I didn't form relationships with certain bloggers... but it's up to me to make blogging fulfilling in the best way for me :)

  2. thank you! I wish I could have included ALL of the responses - there were so many amazing thoughts that came out of that form.

  3. "I think we make blogging - and what it means to be a blogger - more complicated than it has it be" - exactly how I feel about all the questionnaires you've put together on the subject. :) I think blogging is what you make of it, and if you overthink everything then you're probably more likely to be dissatisfied.

  4. haha I have to say that I agree with you 75% of the time. that's why this post was so hard to write - every time I sat down to write it, I thought to myself, "THIS IS SO OBVIOUS. WHY DOES IT NEED A WHOLE POST?" but everyone shared such fab thoughts - one of my favorites was Tina's "I reject the whole idea behind this question" - that I wanted to put them together in some way :)

  5. I always try to remind myself that I was not friends with everyone I went to high school with, and I went to a school with a total student body of only around 600, so I am not going to be friends with every blogger I come across. It is hard though as being in the popular crowd is a hard lead to not follow but sometimes we can so much happier with our own little crowd instead.

  6. Even though this seems so obvious, I am so glad you put all of this together in one post. I especially love the part about amateurs and professionals being put more or less on the same stage. That is so true.

    I love watching bloggers grow and change and that journey itself needs to be appreciated more, I think. It's exciting to watch an amateur as they learn and develop their skills. I know, personally, my photography has come a long way from where I started. And I love having the record of that.

    It's perfectly fine to be amateur. I think I'll just keep repeating that...

  7. So many words I want to say about this, and I can't seem to put them in a coherent sentence (I'm probably overthinking it as well). I really enjoyed blogging the most when I kind of did it sporadically. I am happy that I am posting more often these days, but I also get into the trap of comparing myself to other bloggers, when I know I will never be at that level (whatever that may be). The other day I was thinking how I don't always fit in with what "everyone else" is doing, and I'm always disappointed in myself when I try to conform (like the time I pretended to have a crush on Freddie Prinze Jr so I would get invited to a sleepover). So, I try to encourage myself to keep posting what's relevant to me, even if it's not popular or doesn't get me posted to Buzzfeed. There's no way others will connect to my writing if I am not engaged in it. (And thank you for inspiring me, because I'm now starting to get my thoughts organized enough to develop my own post related to this topic, something I've wanted to do the past two weeks but can't seem to get out of my head.)

  8. HELLO nice to meet you! thanks for commenting - I hope this is the beginning of a trend :P congratulations on your new husband (is that a thing people say? hmm) and good luck with the impending move!

  9. YES Erika's comment was sort of a eureka moment for me. Lola left a response in the form saying "I think the 'expert' thing is a false paradigm that's really pushed by 'how to blog' experts (ha!) that the rest of us have internalized" and I think she makes a good point, too - once you're in it's hard to get out of that cycle. the trick is not falling in in the first place!

  10. I didn't have a crush on FPJ either. I was a Joshua Jackson girl, despite never having seen Dawson's Creek.

    but seriously, YES to this: "There's no way others will connect to my writing if I am not engaged in it." Honestly, I'm not sure I'd want readers who connected to my writing if my heart wasn't in the writing. Does that make sense?

  11. 'When bloggers in whom I am emotionally invested switch from writing
    "here's how I did it" posts to "here's how you should do it" posts, I
    often go through all five stages of grief.' Favourite quote! So overdramatic and yet so true.

  12. It's hard to watch trends and not take part when it seems like there is one logical progression you *should* follow to reach success. To me, sponsorships seem like part of that, and many bloggers (possibly including myself) take them on before they're actually prepared to offer great value and to watch their blog change in a certain way.I think the expert type of writing that Betsy mentioned is like that too, and this post was a much-needed reminder and breath of fresh air. I'd say 80% of my posts are written because I'm experiencing something and want to share it, along with ways to make it better or to approach it differently. I always struggle with pronouns in those posts--am I supposed to write it to "you"? About "us"? Straightforward first person singular?

  13. Sorry Disqus on my phone futzed out (is that a real word? Don't care, #blogging). Just wanted to finish and say that voice depends partially on how you want to present yourself. I think the expert would most often say you, the journaler I, and maybe sunshiny camp counselor would say we. Sometimes I'm not sure which identity I want to try on!

  14. ooooh yes :)

    Definition of FUTZ

    : fool around

    Origin of FUTZ
    perhaps part modification, part translation of Yiddisharumfartsn zikh, literally, to fart around

    First Known Use: circa 1930

  15. can you please tell me when you think you might write this ""blog talk #3: sponsorship" so I can write mine after your and quote you extensively? thank you :P

    I have all the thoughts about sponsorship (as you know!) and really am working on a post about that, too, but it's interesting to me that, when I'm scrolling through my reader, I notice that many of my favorite blogs are ones that don't post every day and I appreciate that about them because it makes me feel like they only blog when they can really give themselves to their blogs and they're okay with that not being every day. Of course, that might not be the actual case and - also of course - I love some blogs that DO have a new post every day and - again, of course - this is hypocritical because I try to post 5-6 days a week, but it is something I noticed about my reading habits that I found interesting.

  16. Yes!!! Thank you for confirming. I will now proceed to futz around for most of the day.

  17. there's a 50% chance that a word you think you made up is actually Yiddish.

  18. I love you and @Alicia | Jaybird Blog

  19. I absolutely loved what Erika said: "The difference is that people who do it as a hobby don't get up and perform at the ballet on a nightly basis, whereas in blogging, we're all on the same stage and treated as equals in that respect." I think she nailed it. That's exactly why I think blogging is that way that it is. People can't just sit back and "dance at parties." They feel the need to take the stage as a professional. The problem is that not everyone should be on the stage. And I think it's important to note that it's okay to not go the professional route. Sometimes a hobby is just that -- a hobby.

  20. YES.

    also, I hope you know that you are one of my favorite expert blogger friends :)

  21. awww, thank you! But I am far from an expert!

  22. This post is so awesome. Some of my favorites are those that break down blogging and really explain the "why" of why we do it. I love all the blogger opinions you pulled into this, Betsy. And thanks for featuring a quote from me!!

  23. YES! That makes perfect sense. I would feel, in a way, that I had deceived them, and that if they liked my "fake" writing, then they probably wouldn't like the "real" me, which would tear me up inside (also a reason why I can't stand TV episodes/rom coms that involve some sort of initial deception--in my head I'm always thinking, "Be honest! Be real! Tell the truth!").

  24. thanks, Aunie! you tweeted the link to your post just as I was finishing up this draft and it was like fate :)

  25. I love how blogging works that way :)

    / / Annelise Rowe


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