I recently joined a Face Book group that challenges each of us to write 500 words a day for the entire month of January. On the group page, a woman asked why so many of us blog. Her question made me stop and ask myself that same question.
Shannon, why do you blog?
I started my blog in 2004 during my lonely infertility treatments. I had quit my job and had the full time task of becoming pregnant, which sounds suspiciously like I was a professional slut, but I assure you I was not paid therefore could not be considered a professional.
I was lonely and bored because waiting for fertilized eggs to attach to uterine walls will do that to a woman. My friends were working and my husband was working and my uterus was not, so I had little else to do except write. My diary morphed into a word document that chronicled months of my boredom and loneliness and obsession with pregnancy tests.
One day, my then-friend-and-now-fiancé Patrick told me I should start a blog.
(Even though I’ve learned how to decipher the mumble-ese that is Patrick’s speaking, I was certain he said “blog” although I had no idea what that was.)
“It’s short for web log. It’s like an online journal.”
A Blogger account later, I was on my way under the intelligent and creative URL of www.blogofshannon.blogspot.com. Please, don’t hate me for my brilliance. It just comes naturally.
So, I journaled. Online. For the entire world to see. It was fun and freeing and it created in me a sense of community that my loneliness longed for. It was like passing the hours at work on MSN instant messenger with all of my old co-workers like we used to. Except it was all about me and my dysfunctional uterus. Doesn’t that sound like fun? No?
Creating a blog led me to read other blogs. I found some crappy ones and some really good ones and as such it led to experimenting with my own writing. My blog was a happy distraction for me. There was no pressure. It was fun.
More conversations with Patrick. “You know, you can monetize your blog.”
I can what?
“You know, make money. Have advertisers and sponsors and parlay your blog into something bigger. You can build an audience and make money doing what you love.”
Wow. This was really something to ponder. You mean I could make a living putting my journal online?
This blog thing was becoming a monster in my head. There were so many options! I could do click-ads or get sponsors or have guest bloggers or try to BE a guest blogger. I could create my own unique URL and get a cool and snappy layout. But wait! First there are blogs to read about how to blog better! Keep your paragraphs short, include pictures with every blog post, be creative, have lots and lots of content and don’t stop writing ever!
And then I was introduced to Google Analytics.
Oh yes, I became a bitch to the numbers. I thought the only people who read my blog was a few friends and my mother (on occasion). I had no idea I had 50 READERS! And don’t get me started about bounce rate and referral links and keywords.
And then, this blog thing wasn’t so fun anymore.
I became conscious of what I was writing. I started thinking about audience and how to increase my numbers and how to get comments. I started worrying about images and how to use them on my blog without copyright infringement. I began thinking about content and stressed myself with blogging frequency. Content was key! It’s so important to have lots and lots of content!
Writing became forced for me. I thought too much about each sentence and how I was being portrayed and about the overall feel of my blog. I agonized that my blog didn’t have a theme; it was instead a blog about nothing. I just wrote about me and the insignificant happenings in my life (compared to the Grand Scheme, a monster to whom I often compared myself).
When my marriage hit the divorce fan, I repurposed my blog to journaling. My writing had gotten so much better over the years, and I once again found pleasure in writing. When I dared to be honest and open, my writing thrived. It made me feel vulnerable and scared, but the response I received was positive, so I kept going. Only this time my audience was much bigger, thanks to social media outlets.
After some particularly personal posts, I received some private emails from folks thanking me for my honesty and candor. They shared their experiences with me, an honor I don’t take for granted, and I found my writing had meaning.
For someone, for even a moment, I made a difference.
But now that my life crisis is over, my writing has returned to the original randomocity it once was, and I’m back to obsessing about content and style and voice and it’s not fun I’m going to stop blogging I have no life this sucks, whaaaa!
This is what makes writing all work and no fun. I get in my own way and stop the creative throwing up at the fingers that is my gift. That’s why I vow to myself to post this rambling piece of crap awesome and not worry about how it portrays me stylistically to the leagues of readers I have.
Sarcasm. It’s what’s for dinner.
But really, I’m just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life that has a passion for words and a compulsion to put them to paper. I don’t have anything extraordinary to share with the world, I don’t have anything to teach or sell (yet!) but I do enjoy writing crap for people. My greatest desire with my blog is to get people thinking and talking about a subject. I think of it as sitting around a campfire sharing stories, only the internet is our campfire and I’m the camp counselor.
Although I was able to parlay my blog into a paying job as a freelance writer (a dream my dear Patrick instilled in me ten years ago), I hope to build a community of friends through my blog to encourage me to continue to do what I love – write.
And one day when I get out of my own way and write a book, I’ll have some folks who’ll actually buy it!