Monday, February 01, 2010

On Blogging: A Manifesto


Or: Why I bother blogging.


I started this blog for friends and family only. I wanted them to be able to keep track of me on my travels, and I also didn't want to have to send a million letters or emails because I am crap at keeping in touch with people. Thus this blog was born. It existed in various incarnations, and in various places, with various periods of dormancy in between for many years. The last of these dormant periods took place when I got pregnant by surprise and proceeded to fall apart. Then spring came last year, and a baby was imminent, and I was trapped in my house and lonely, and I started writing again.

But more importantly, I started reading other people's blogs. I'd done this before, loving the thrill of being a voyeur into the lives of others, but it's as if the blogosphere had become a new thing: Suddenly there were communities, and communities within communities, and followers and comments and strangers becoming cyber-friends and all these things that probably existed for years that I had never noticed before.

And there were so many people like me. Originally I was searching frantically for blogs written by people with unplanned pregnancies, and landed on Girls Gone Child and Mommy Wants Vodka, both of which led me to most of the blogs you'll see on my sidebar. I was ecstatic. I was not alone. Others had made it through.

So I started writing again, and commenting on people's blogs, and finding blogs I really liked and people I really liked. It should have been simple and easy, but I have an unfortunate tendency to make things complicated and difficult. Some days it was enough to write how I felt, and read how others felt. But other days, I would read a blog and see how many comments the writer received and think, I want that! I want people commenting on my blog, telling me to hang in there when I'm feeling low, and encouraging me to go for it when I want to do something crazy. And more than that, let's be honest--I want people telling me how awesome I am and how great of a writer I am. Seriously, the amount of ego-stroking that goes on around the Internet is unbelievable, and I wanted me a piece of that.

So my childish ego wanted recognition! accolades! fame!--and in the wake of that childishness came an even worse vice: Envy.

Envy is one of the big three for me, something I despise and try to keep out of my life along with Shame and Regret. These three little demons destroy lives from the inside out, stealing joy and creating bitterness, and I fight them with everything I've got. Most of the time, I succeed. But for the past year, when I've felt alone and bored and powerless to change my circumstances, Envy has taken up residence in my head, and it is a nasty tenant. And it feeds--my god how it feeds--on the ability to see into other people's lives through blogs.

I envied everyone. I envied people who seemed happier than me. I envied people who had perfect-seeming relationships. I envied people who were talented. I envied people who were funny. I envied people who had tons of commentors every day, telling them how great they were, how talented, how brilliant their thoughts were. Because wait a minute--I'm great, right? I'm talented! I've got brilliant thoughts!

How was it that someone could start a blog in March, and have a hundred followers by May? I've had my blog for nearly seven years! Why don't people like me? Why is everybody so much goddamn happier than me? Why do I suck so incredibly bad? And why, when I comment a million times on such and such's blog, do they never come to look at mine? Why do they hate me?

I would go through periods of commenting like mad on a bunch of blogs, because I knew that's how people got other people to look at their blogs. I did it even though it bothered me so much when somebody else did it, this fishing for followers. But eventually I couldn't do it anymore, because I have a really hard time being insincere, and trying to think of a comment just for commenting's sake was exhausting. Instead I found myself commenting over and over again on certain blogs that I enjoyed, or only on posts that really touched me. It was better that way.

But it didn't bring the masses to my blog. So there was still the issue of the Envy.

And finally, I had to stop and think. What do I really want out of this blog? What am I really writing for? Because when I'm honest with myself, do I really want a million followers? Do I really want the pressure of trying to be funny, or poignant, or profound, every single day? Sure I would love the attention, but do I really want to work that hard for it? Because it is hard work. To cultivate these virtual relationships, and to create like mad on your own blog, is a lot of work. And here's the thing: I don't want to do that. I am way, way too neurotic to have a large amount of people following my personal life. I want to be free to write horrendous shit, to be whiny and sad sometimes, to tell jokes that aren't particularly funny. And if someone should tell me I'm great, I want it to be someone who is, well, invested in me, the way I'm somehow invested in the blogs you see to your right.

I don't want a bunch of followers, I want friends. Because with friends you don't have to try, and you can just be yourself.

The truth is I work better in relationship with others, however that relationship is defined.

So how to create these relationships? For a long time, when I came across a new blog I'd add it to a folder marked "New Blogs." If I came back to it again and again and found myself going over its archives, I'd add it to my reader. If I didn't, I'd erase it. Now I don't do that very much because I pretty much know the first time I go to a blog if it's one I want to read. If I can't stop reading, then voila. If I can leave without looking at any other pages, then there's really no point in saving it.

So what keeps me reading? It's not necessarily snark or just being funny, because sometimes I get annoyed with blogs like that because I feel like they're trying too hard. I like funny, yes, but the kind that's like salt: it should flavor the blog, not dominate it. It's not necessarily beautiful writing either, because I'd rather read books if I'm reading just for the sake of lovely words on a page. I like blogs written by people who are authentic, who are kind, who sometimes struggle, who are open-minded and pure of heart, who have a good sense of humor and don't take themselves too seriously. But there are a lot of people like that. So they have to be, more than anything, people who I get. People who I identify with. People I would choose to be friends with should I ever meet them in person. People like that are the only ones with blogs I want to read, and the only ones I hope will read me. Should such people remain small in number, and should my followers be few but loyal, I will be happy.

Having determined these things I hereby submit the following resolutions:

I resolve to grow not a mass of readers but a network of friends, and to do so organically, not methodically, by sharing experiences and exchanging thoughts.

I resolve not to envy those who have worked hard and earned multiple readers, and to be happy for those who are talented, successful, and blessed.

I resolve that I shall no longer allow this blog to be a source of any neurosis, sadness, or frustration due to its readership, content, or lack thereof.

I resolve that this blog shall be a place where I can be myself, collect my thoughts, and document my experiences. Upon it I shall be free to write the worst drivel ever written without fear. It shall be a forum for cultivating relationships with like-minded people wherever they may be in the world, and it shall be used for the sole purpose of making me happy, not famous, successful, or even popular.

Hereafter, this blog will be something I control, not something that controls me.

Welcome.

18 comments:

onefjef said...

This explains why my (admittedly neglected) blog isn't on your sidebar. Le sigh.

It is nice to see my (admittedly remarkable) photo is now at the top, however – I remember taking that, and I still think it captures you uniquely well.

Miss you.

Bex said...

Jef! My dear I did't realize my sidebar was lacking your scribblings. I have remedied this tragedy.

And yes, it is a great photo. You take many of those.

Luise said...

AMEN!!

mrs.notouching said...

First - in love with your new header.
Second - this post is the most honest, raw and sincere posts I've read on the Internet for awhile now. I get you. I think a lot of bloggers feel or felt the same way.
Just a side note on followers...there are websites and blog communities that literally provide followers - you sign up and promise that you will follow other ppl who signed up and they will follow you in return. Doesn't mean they like you, doesn't mean they read you - it's all just for show and PR. I don't want that either.
Also, I don't comment on every blog or every post I read. I am not a robot.
Anyway, Happy Birthday to your new blog - I got a good feeling about this.

Parachute Woman said...

I very recently started a blog for the first time. I'm very new to this, and like you, I didn't set out to get followers or generate traffic, but merely to document a journey I am currently embarking on with my family...

I have started searching through an overwhelming number of communities and writers in the blogging world and finding so many talented and successful moms inspires me and gives me a warm sense of community, but I'd be lying it I didn't admit to occasionally feeling rather inadequate or excluded at times.

You took a few words out of mouth a few times with this post. I love how honest you are!

xo

krista said...

i think it's good and healthy to have a manifesto like this.
envy is such a bastard, really.
especially considering the images put forth on people's blogs rarely tells the whole truth.
tiger tiger woods, ya'll.

Marie-Ève said...

Amen! (Or, you know, the Jewish equivalent my goy self doesn't know).

Were we separated at birth? Because I think I could have written this myself (although surely not as eloquently).

I'm really glad you come to my blog, for whatever reason, and that's exactly what I want too. Can I be your friend? Not in the just for show way, but because something about your writing and experiences and the personality that shone through *hooked* me. Your comments are always thoughtful and honest and smart, and that's exactly what I'm looking for in a proxy relationship.

I've been blogging for two years, and I still have periods of struggle with that, too. Sometimes I handle it better and feel easy-breezy about it. Sometimes I get possessed by these demons as well. I keep doing it because yeah, people reading and feedback is great, but ultimately it's my thing, my outlet, my pledge to myself that I would go on through the ups-and-downs.

And you know, no relationship is perfect, I don't think. Martin and I are good and solid, but it's also quite rocky at times and we fight often, that's in us. I just mostly choose not to write about the difficult stuff (although I hint about it sometimes), for various reasons, one being that you never know how it could later bite you in the ass, that people who know us in real life could read this all wrong and assume all kinds of weird things (it's happened), and also because ultimately that's not what I want to "document" and preserve from our relationship. So anyway, I really loved the comment you left after I posted on A Practical Wedding, but I also wanted to say, wow, girl, you're too nice. I'm not that serene or on top of things all the time, I struggle too...

Annje said...

Love it! I have never seen your blog before, clicked over from Maggie Mae's because I liked your comment. I have had some of these same thoughts about blogging and have been thinking of posting about it (if I do, I'll link over). In the end, I want authentic and I want a connection to people, to feel like there is a relationship... not a one-sided fawning fest.

Jasmine said...

What an honest approach to blogging.. that is refreshing. I started blogging for misguided reasons, and it soon developed into something authentic: a place to ramble, journal, and interact. It has been a good experience for me. Hope it ends up being awesome for you too ;)

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Little Miss Moi said...

Wow, I totally know how you feel. About how people can start a blog and get a million followers in five minutes. You're so far more advanced than I am in this sense. At the moment I can't be bothered blogging because it seems that it's not worth the effort for the three people who read my blog. But I still want the accolades! The fame!

:(

Also, I feel like I can only blog when happy or when I have something witty to see. Going from the frequency of my posts, those moments are few and far between!

Anyway, I love your blog. You've had such an interesting life, and I have ENVIED your ability to be so open, and you ability to write about moments of stress or sadness, with real humour! I wish my blog was like yours.

But the grass is always greener.

Wendy said...

Hey Bex, this was a brave brave post. I so admire you for all of it. For the courage to think it, write it, and then actually put it out there. And for the courage to go beyond just putting it out there by creating a plan for yourself. A plan that I know I for one would do well to consider. There's courage in being resolute. In making resolutions that imply action. Bravo. And p.s. by the way I love the new photo header too. xoxo

Carol said...

Awesome, awesome post! And good for you for taking the journey and making your way out of it in this manner! Kudos...first time here, and love that this is how I am introduced to you. I'm Carol, and look forward to reading more (even if I don't comment a lot : ))

Meg said...

Um. Funny I should come across this post today, when I'm feeling totally tapped out.

Let me just say... having hundreds of comments a day? I'm not sure it's what it's cracked up to be. I mean, sometimes it's great, but I've noticed it also feels like 100 people trying to touch you, and you start getting really really overloaded. And it's a lot of pressure. Not just pressure to write, but this crazy pressure to NOT write things that people might NOT like (which is horrible). And then there is the fact that people stop being able to see that you are just a normal person with a computer.

But there are good parts, and it's not people telling you your awesome, it's community building moments. So yes. You are right on. REading and community is the why. And there has been a lot of loosing the why lately, I think...

Trista said...

This is incredibly honest, bravo for putting this out there - it made me think about why I have a blog, and whether I write for me or for some hoped-for audience. Everyone says that the only way to get people to read and comment on your blog is to comment on everyone else's blog, but that seems to disingenous to me. I comment if I feel like I have something I want to say, or if there's something I want the author to know. Otherwise it feels very phony. So here's to authenticity and happiness - and friendship, however far-flung!

Big Mental Disease said...

Just stumbled this.

I think it is a great idea to just write for yourself, along with close friends or those who share your humour/interests. Any fans or visitors after that are a bonus.

*~(boom)~* said...

I found this post because I couldn't stop reading. :) Just thought I would let you know.

agirl said...

The honesty and bravery in your writing has kept me here over an hour now, after discovering your blog today. Maybe I should have commented on more posts along the way?

I can definitely identify with so much of what you wrote. But in the end, I have to just do it for *me*. With a huge appreciation of those with whom I feel a real connection aling the way.