Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What I Learned at Blogher '08 #2

cross-posted at Blogher.com

I've been thinking long and hard about this Celebrity Rock Star Blogger thing. Just what constitutes "good enough" to hit the stratosphere in the Blogosphere? Why can certain bloggers post pictures of their shoes and end up with 120 comments when some bloggers pour their heart and soul into posts, and get little recognition or feedback? Most of those Rock Star Bloggers are really nice people. with just a few notable exceptions, mostly those who have bought into their own press.

I have come to the conclusion: it isn't that people are rude or cliquey, they are just full.

There is a concept that the older and busier we get, the harder it is to make friends and keep them. Women are mothers, wives, employees. We are consumers, voters and bill payers. We have little to no extra time. So when there is time, it is finite. Interactions are like strings, tied to the person. The person might tie a string around family or a close friend, who has a child the same age. More strings go around a career, volunteer work, school duties. Eventually, though the person might be willing, there are simply no more strings to be tied anywhere. They are all tied with other commitments.

I see the Internet as similar. Many, many bloggers have those they read regularly, are chummy with and interact with. There simply isn't a lot of time left over to discover blogs that were previously unknown to them. Even if those blogs are good. I am sure this is why there are so many experts out there willing to teach bloggers how to drive traffic to their sites. It isn't enough to be a good writer, you have to be willing to sell yourself as well. Content may be king, but his bastard son is promotion. I find this difficult.

As women, we are taught that if we just do a good job, keep our head down, someone will notice our hard work and reward us. When those "rules" are flouted, it feels like a betrayal. Women who do become good at promoting themselves are called bitches, money-hungry, and even pimps. Trying to go against this paradigm can be difficult; socialization is a tough taskmaster. For some, this comes easily. For most, it can be like pulling teeth. It can be very uncomfortable to be the one to stand up and publicly tout your work. And yet, sometimes that is exactly what is needed.

For me, I am solidly in the middle of the pack. I am not a Rock Star, but I'm not a newbie, either. There are bloggers who inspire me and I humbly say that I know I am an inspiration to others as well. There is always a struggle in trying to get new readers, especially readers that participate in the community you are trying to create. I get solid traffic, I think. I know friends lament not getting comments, or even readers. And honestly, I love and live for comments. After all, this blogging thing for me, is about connection.

I blog because I want to connect other parents who feel alone when it comes to autism. I blog because I want to educate, entertain and energize my audience and friends. (that's you) I write because I have to, if I want to breathe. But I blog because I want to make a difference. Readers help make that difference. It can be disheartening when there are a small number of comments on a post that holds a part of you. The most I have ever had was a bit over twenty, and that was because I was giving away Starbucks gift cards! But...I try not to get wrapped up in all of it.

This weekend at BlogHer, I learned a lot of things. But the thing I came away with? I am on the right track. I am doing it all the right way. I write from the heart, in a transparent way, not focused on stats or monetization. I simply want to share my experience, and to share in the community that bloggers have created. I love this blogging thing. And, true to the BlogHer theme, I am reaching, definitely... but I am not using my blog as a stepping stone. Yes, I want to write professionally, which is defined as actually getting paid. Stephen King said it best:

""If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented."

I will just keep doing what I am doing, and where it leads is anyone's guess. I don't want notoriety, at all! I simply want a sense of community here. Oh, yeah and if some agent wants to hand me a butt-load of money to advance my book, so much the better. Recently, I started using the term, "writer." I have always wanted to be a writer, but never considered myself good enough. Now, I have decided to own it. You have to tell yourself the story you want to hear.

How about you? How do you feel about comments? How do you encourage readers to participate?

T, who is a writer, dammit

32 sent chocolate:

heather said...

The hardest thing for me is when I pour out my soul into a post, and I have no comments. I've been known to beg for comments on twitter. I'm not proud of it. I just need to have that connection with SOMEONE - even if I have to force it.

Anyway, my point is, I'm right there with you on every aspect of this post.

GeekMommy said...

We had part of this conversation at BlogHer if I recall correctly... (sleep deprivation makes me wonder if I dreamed much of this past weekend!) and I think you hit it dead on.

There will always be someone ahead of us on the path, and always someone behind us - the point is to keep on walking up our path!! :)

Thomas Dzomba said...

Hey T.

Someone left me a comment once about comments, and it made me realize that they are only part of the picture. I don't think I have ever had more than 10 people comment on any one post, yet I know that far more people are reading my blogs.

Having said that, I understand where you are coming from. Comments are a lifeline and the one concrete way you know you are connecting with other bloggers. And I do get very frustrated when I write a post from the heart and no one comments.

I agree with your other commenters - you are on the right path.


Mel @ A Box of Chocolates said...

Great post! I have to admit that I am a stat addict and I crave comments, but like you I am also kind of content where I am. I blog for myself and I figure as long as I am still enjoying it then I am doing just fine. I agree that there are the rockstars we idolize, but it is a good feeling to know there are also a few fans who wait for us to write too. Guess it's the way of the blogosphere. I am one of your fans and enjoy reading your work. You've got talent babe!!

Elizabeth Channel said...

Yours is such a helpful perspective for me. I am so new to all of this and I keep telling myself that I am writing so I won't forget my life, and so I will be able to see the bigger picture that gets lost in the daily details. And comments or other people's interest are just extras--extras I cannot depend on for even a tiny fraction of my own self-worth.

Thank you so much for your comment. I would love to be involved with http://autismsucksrocks.blogspot.com!

Have a great day!

Loralee Choate said...

This was wonderful. FULL is a very good description. I feel full and I am no rockstar.

It is a difficult balance sometimes.

Jody Reale said...

You're a wise woman, and I think not only are you doing things right, I also think you can't get it wrong. If you're doing what you want, if you're learning, then you're getting there. (Wherever "there" is.) Good stuff; good to see you @ BlogHer.

Kate Olson said...

Amen to this, sister: "As women, we are taught that if we just do a good job, keep our head down, someone will notice our hard work and reward us. When those "rules" are flouted, it feels like a betrayal. Women who do become good at promoting themselves are called bitches, money-hungry, and even pimps."

This is so true, regardless of where we are - blogging, business, etc.

Thanks for a great read and as soon as we all (including me) get off the "comments as currency" bandwagon we'll all start feeling a LOT better about our writing :-)

Gayle said...

Your reference to strings hit it on the head. I don't think I have any strings left which is probably why I don't have time for friendships. I don't go outside of my husband and children except for a few "strangers" who read my blog. I didn't realize how much blogging meant to some people...the need for recognition or connections...I'm glad you shared that with us. My blog started out as a way for the grandparents to see photos of the kids (if they chose to), and now it has become a photo journal of sorts for the kids. I don't write a whole lot, but I post a lot of photos from our life and then I print the pages. They go into an album for each child to take when they go. (Quick way of scrapbooking since my scrapbooking stuff has an inch of dust!). I will admit, though, that my first comment make my heart skip, and I do like having people see my page...guess I wouldn't sign up on things if I didn't. But I don't advertise...some pages are so full of advertisements to get people to go there that it is too distracting. Plus, my internet is too slow to wait on it all to load. Anyhow, thanks for sharing. I'm sending you lots and lots of chocolate...have a great day.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Loved the post.

tarable said...

Awesome and insightful post. I agree with you that if you don't take traffic into consideration, it's much easier to stay true to yourself and the community you're trying to encourage.

I know that some women have compared BlogHer to high school. Perhaps in regards to the popularity aspect. But I know that at BlogHer, I don't give a shit about what the boys think.

It was wonderful meeting you!

Liz Ditz said...

Hi there, we met briefly at BlogHer during the Special Needs panel. Now I have you in my RSS feed, so I'll be getting to know you better.

I like what you said about strings--it is a good perspective to have.

I started my blog more as a commonplace book for myself and it has sort of grown. The commenting has dried up recently, but that's ok--I haven't written much recently that is comment-worthy.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I've learned (it's taken 40 years) that the "work hard, do a good job and you'll get ahead" is a lie. There's a whole lot of luck and marketing that goes into getting ahead. I got a lot happier as a writer when I decided I'd just be happy at working hard and doing a good job and screw getting ahead. And I've been reminded of this all the more recently when Google pulled my ads (because they thought I was trying to get rich quick). Ironic.

califmom said...

Hear! Hear!

I once had a job review where I was marked DOWN for being "too effective at convincing others to agree with" me. Tell me, had I a penis, wouldn't that be grounds for promotion?

We need to own our place in the world, as writers, advocates and entertainers. You totally nailed it.

Summer said...

I think you hit some nails on the head with this one.

Susan said...

I remember both my first check for my writing and my first comment on a blog. The first time somebody I did not know put his (it was a guy) name (Mark) under a post to communicate with me, I felt a shock of delight, like winning a coveted prize unexpectedly. The check, with the waltz of query, editing and publication, was deeply satisfying and made me happy, but I did not boogie around my chair the way I did with the first comment.

Marcy - The Glamorous Life! said...

I hear what you are saying...and yes it all makes sense. But I am more concerned about some of the 'rockstars' which everyone seems to idolize. Dooce is really riding my last nerve. Her posts are fivolous and drenched in cuss words and potty humor. She goes for the cheap shock entertainment I guess. Her photos are wonderful- if you want to be sold a product every other post or see her evil dogs every day. I am STUMPED and confused. If this is what it takes to be a 'blogstar' then I want OUT. That is not what I am about. I am about ENTERTAINMENT. I want to entertain my readers...I do not use my blog as a life-dump or my own personal therapy (although often it is)...I write to entertain. I would prefer to get 1 very thoughtful or funny comment than 50 of the obligatory 'good post'. I mean that is nice to hear- but I always feel like it is just some one who thinks they HAVE to comment. I watch my stats...and it makes me smile to see them increase. And you know what...if I was writting and only 10 people read me...I would still be THRILLED. 10 people think I am worth reading??? Amazing.....

Lara said...

yeah, i think to a certain extent this is on every blogger's mind at some point or another. i have the same conflicting thoughts as many other bloggers. part of me just wants to do what i do without worrying about my stats or comments. part of me wants the high stats and comments because i want to be part of a great community. and part of me is still a young girl who just wants to feel validated and, yes, popular.

i try to inspire conversation by asking questions with some of my posts, much like you did here. the most comments i ever got was on a post where i literally felt like shit and i said, "please, PLEASE, tell me i'm not worthless." and my readers did, and in that moment, it really was what i needed. my readers were kind to indulge me, but sometimes that's just what you need, right?

Laura said...

I'm seriously regretting not going to BlogHer. I swear, I'm going to start saving my pennies today so I can go next year.

I love your blog!

BTW, I recently started calling myself a writer as well. I figure, after 8 years of blogging, I might as well!

Inzaburbs said...

Great post. I'm glad I clicked over. I love the reference to strings. It's a great way of describing life for so many of us.
I admire those who can get out there and promote themselves (in a non-spammy way, of course!). It takes talent and a lot of hard work and I think you need to want it. Like anywhere in life, there is no easy ride.
While I would love more readers, blogging is not my job, it is my hobby. To be really successful I think you do have to see it as a job, and undertake all the promotion that goes with it. That is, if you have a string left ;-)

Anonymous said...

enjoyed meeting you at Blogher and thanks for the twitter help. I've had a twitter account for months, but just couldn't jump in and actually do it.

BlogHer did have it's cool kids and in crowd, but I sure enjoyed meeting so many people so enthusiastic about blogging. Most "real life" friends get blank looks when I talk about it.

Maddy said...

Great post and insightful comments. I wasn't going to add my own as it seems everyone's already covered all the bases. That said, if community is the thing we seek I'd be naughty not to leave my mark.
Best wishes

Anonymous said...

I'm a little late in commenting, but just wanted to tell you I loved this post and feel the same way you do. I appreciate your honesty!

Jerri Ann said...

You are so right, this is exactly what was getting at....I could have saved myself so much mental anguish if I could have found you before I started typing last night. Great job! Thanks.

TLC said...

thanks for commenting, and it is never too late for a comment, ever.

I am glad the post helped, and I hope it put the whole CRSB (Celebrity Rock Star Blogger) thing into perspective.


VDog said...

Great, great post. This happens both IRL and online.

There can be a person or persons with whom you connect and have much in common, but if your life is already very full, there's just no place for more. Even though I try. I *DO* try.

99% of the time something has to give, and we retain our loyalties to those that have been with us the longest, for the most part.

Great post.

Her Bad Mother said...

Feeling full. That's exactly right.

Kimberly/Mom in the City said...

I like comments, but I don't obsess about them. In part, because many of my readers (especially the NYC area ones for some reason) email me directly. In part, because I'm relatively new to focusing on my blog...I know that building momentum takes time. Lastly, I read many other blogs. Many times, I comment when I have something to add to the conversation, but many times I don't have anything in particular to add. It doesn't mean that I like the blogger's post any less when I don't comment. So, I try to keep that in mind.

jennifer, playgroups are no place for children said...

Absolutely fabulous! You said it well.

courtney said...

I just found this post & decided it was definitely worth commenting on. I often go through the "I don't fit in," or "I don't get any comments." This blog helped me to realize it's more me than anyone else & that I need to embrace it & keep going. I considered not blogging anymore, but after reading this, I just can't do it.

Recent blog post: What we learned at Kindergarten screening

Anonymous said...

hm... love this !

Teddy Bears for Girls said...

That's why I've been married so long. I never give my wife fridge magnets!

Beanies for the kids... take a look at these teddies for girls - pick one for yourself.

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