Blogs Are All Grown Up … and BoringNovember 2, 2018
The very first time I planned a blog, I was excited. The whole thing seemed full of possibility. I might become famous! I might get a book deal! I might discover new things about myself and about the world!
The very first blog I wrote was a lot of fun. The stakes were low; nobody expected me to have thorough, well-crafted blogs, so I mostly wrote sarcastic and silly little paragraphs. My titles were jokey and snarky; SEO wasn’t really a thing yet, or at least it wasn’t something I’d ever heard of. I didn’t know what a keyword was, so I didn’t feel any pressure to put them into blog titles. Hardly anyone was putting images into their blogs; I didn’t have to know anything about photography, and I certainly didn’t have to set up a shot in order to post a blog. I wrote what I was thinking, and there was no need to illustrate it with an image: no flat lays, no filtering of images, and certainly no selfies. When I was finished, I just hit “publish” and waited for people to find it — I didn’t have to come up with three different ways to promote it for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. (I didn’t use Twitter yet, Instagram didn’t even exist, and I’d barely just made the transition from MySpace to Facebook.)
It’s been more than a decade since then. I’ve changed, and the world has changed, and blogging has changed. I’m not saying it’s all bad — keywords and images and social media promotions help me get the word out about my blog, and I like that. But it can be exhausting, and it can keep me from writing.
I was talking to my friend Morgan about this; she built her business and her brand about the same time as I did, and she used blogging to build a following, too. We were talking about how it’s hard to get excited about blogging like we used to. Sure, we’re older now, but she pointed out that it maybe it’s not different because we were younger then — it’s that blogs were. They felt experimental because they WERE an experiment. They didn’t seem like a job because they weren’t a job — bloggers who got book deals back then were anomalies, and the fact that they got noticed was really big news because it was so unusual. By now, the rules of blogging have been written, and if you don’t follow them, your blog probably won’t get read. These days, it takes me almost as long to optimize and promote my blogs as it does to write them. I feel like a producer or an editor more often than I feel like a writer.
I think that’s why I’ve avoided blogging for so long. It’s not that I mind the work; it’s that I want something that feels new and fresh and experimental — because I want to be encouraged to think in new and fresh experimental ways.
So, what’s my point? It’s not that blogging should go backwards; I don’t think that’s possible, and I’m not sure I’d want it to happen anyway. And it’s not that I’m totally giving up on blogging (obviously, since I’m writing a blog right now). But I am trying to change my perspective on it — maybe that means putting less pressure on my posts to perform and allowing myself to write without optimizing, promoting and adding images before publishing. Maybe it means still doing all that, but posting less often. Or maybe it means blogging as usual, but finding another way to communicate that feels experimental and fun — something that lets me feel free to make mistakes and try new things as I find my way.
This month, I’m trying to post a blog every day in an attempt to take the pressure off each post — I’m doing it through Blog Like Crazy, a challenge set by the writing group See Jane Write, led by Javacia Harris Bowser. After I wrote this post, I read hers (find it here) — and I was surprised to find that even she, someone who’s been a leader in blogging and in teaching about blogs, is kind of sick of them. I wouldn’t have guessed that she felt like this, and I doubt she knew that I did. But maybe that’s why we’re writing and sharing through blogging in the first place — to know that we’re not alone, to help our communities put words to the feelings and frustrations we all struggle with, and to help each other find a path to change them.
Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores. She’s Communications Director at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find her as @crollwagen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most other social media platforms.