Earlier this month, a blurb with this intriguing title (which was prefaced by “Asking the Big Questions #001”) appeared in my WordPress reader. Being the immensely curious type that I am, as well as someone who has seen a lot come and go in my years of blogging, I simply had to click. Not only that, the post was on The Well-Red Mage, a fantastic gaming/life site that I’ve followed and enjoyed for some time. I was rewarded with, well…a call to remember and share and answer a question:
“What have you learned since you started blogging?”
What an easy question, right? I mean, at first I was all like, “Oh yeah, I’ve learned TONS since I started up these writing shenanigans!”
And then I was like, “Lemme start counting! One…I’ve learned…um…well…that things…uh…”
Yeah. Maybe not so easy.
Now, the Mage offered up two different ways to participate in this scenario. One was to leave a comment on the original post, and the other was to write a full blog post with links. Since I found myself apparently dumbfounded at first, I left a quick comment and decided to write a post after some extended pondering. This is that post.
I’m still writing it, so we shall see.
By the way, if you want to participate in this project, just click the image below.
Maybe the best route to take at the moment would be to start at the beginning, because one of the points the Mage asked to be covered was Explain briefly why you decided to start blogging and why you picked that certain topic as your first blog post. I can easily address the first part of that directive by quoting from this blog post:
To be as concise as possible, the seeds for creating my own blog were sown in 2009 when I was part of a team that started a blog at my work. Being a slow learner and somewhat reluctant to develop an online persona, it took me a couple years to understand how blogging might work for me personally. Once I saw how it might help me overcome a number of insecurities, I signed up for my own WordPress site under its current name. (As writing about the past/history is kinda my deal, I figured the blog would follow that vein, though I wasn’t sure about exactly how then.) That was in July 2011. I sat on the empty blog for months until I received a sign: this particular commercial for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. With it clogging and offending my brain cells (I talked about that fuss in my very first post), my blogging goal became clear: to write about and share my experiences with video games — experiences from the feminine perspective, though not always with that notion at its core.
As for the second portion about why that topic…why video games? Because of all the things that IRL people know about me, video games generally aren’t one of them. No, really. Despite the fact that I’ve been playing games nearly all my life, I never really saw them as anything special, anything worth discussing on a large scale outside of my immediate social circle. Video games were simply something me and my siblings enjoyed, like playing with action figures or watching sitcoms. I thought that if I was going to open up online in some manner, that revealing my past, present, and future with games was as good a place to start as any. Maybe it’d give me a chance to flourish, or show off, or become part of something bigger. I didn’t know then where the path would lead, but I’d never know if I didn’t start somewhere. And, in fact, blogging about video games has led to this colorful, personal space. It sounds really cheesy, but it’s something that I do take pride in. Now, anyway.
So, okay…blah blah blah…what about that BIG question?
I’ll tell ya, there are about a million different notions running through my mind right now as I think about “What have you learned since you started blogging?” They range from the mundane (“I’ve learned how to be more comfortable with extemporaneous writing”) to the abstract (“I’ve learned how to be myself”). But as I let the swirl of thoughts settle, I realize that one remains:
My blog, first and foremost, is for ME.
(This could get long, so you might want t0 hit the restroom before proceeding.)
While that might sound like an obvious, selfish, and potentially mean non-lesson for some, it took me a couple years of blogging to come to terms with the idea of truly owning this space that I had created. Because, in the end, a blog is about the blogger, not the followers. If you’re blogging only to obtain followers, then honestly, I think you’re doing it wrong.
Allow me to relay a brief story. When the idea to start a blog came up at my work many moons ago, I had to do some field work to understand what a blog was, so I spent a considerable amount of time online looking at other people’s blogs. There was one personal blog that I came across where the writer had a post up lamenting the apparently poor state of his or her followers. In the post, the author was essentially calling out various people who seemed to no longer be followers or who had otherwise stopped being regular commenters. Where had they all gone? Were they alright?? What had caused them to stop participating?? WHY DIDN’T THEY LOVE ME ANYMORE??!! Well, that was the gist anyway. At the time, I didn’t understand the dynamic of the blogger-follower relationship, so the post read as rather pitiful. However, the notion of being rejected really stuck. The idea of being disliked by a bunch of strangers was nowhere near as horrifying as the idea of being liked at first and then suddenly abandoned for seemingly no reason.
I knew I wanted to blog, but I didn’t think that I had the prerequisite thick skin. So I essentially had to trick myself into believing that if I was going to write, I was going to write for a particular audience – in my case, video game players – and not the general populace. I knew that I couldn’t connect with any and all video game bloggers, but I felt confident enough in my knowledge and writing skills to believe that I could probably cultivate a small group of interested followers. And if I didn’t, it was at least worth trying.
Well, it worked! For my first two years of blogging, my stats soared! I started in 2011, and by 2013, I had somehow managed to reach tens of thousands of readers. I had garnered a healthy number of followers, and comments, while they didn’t flow as freely as wine, were pretty steady. Sure, I posted the occasional dud of an article, but that’s life.
And then, in 2014, I took a leap. By the end of 2013, I realized that I really didn’t have enough video game nostalgia stories to maintain my momentum. So I stepped into a different realm of nostalgia (a 1980s childhood) and started telling different stories. And that’s when things changed. Even though I felt that the quality of my writing was improving, and I was really enjoying the change of mental scenery, my stats plateaued and then began dropping. A number of regular followers just keeled off the face of the Earth (I guess), and I wondered what had happened to them. Where had they all gone? Were they alright?? What had that caused them to stop participating?? WHY DIDN’T THEY LOVE ME ANYMORE??!!
And that was when I realized that I had been doing it wrong. “It” being blogging, not Pennywise. Boy, that new IT movie looks good…
Although I had started writing about things and stuff that I enjoyed, I was still in the mindset of writing for an “audience,” for my followers. And though I adored and respected anyone who stopped by here to read or comment, the fact of the matter was that “followers” were amorphous, ambiguous, and transient. This is a true as it was in 2014 as it is now. Of course, most of them are people (bots aside), but people are people outside of their online personas. They have things to do, which may or may not include checking your self-proclaimed awesome blog every day. It doesn’t mean that they don’t adore and respect you. But it does mean that your blog has to, first and foremost, be for YOU, because followers and statistics will come and go. My blog is for ME. Once I learned that lesson, I was free. Free to be as relevant or goofy or immoral or serious as I wanted to be in this space. I don’t care that my stats will never reach my 2013 heights, because my current content satisfies me. And the discussions that some amazing people want to have about it, are goddamn fantastic. It’s amazing and very humbling.
So that’s my story. What’s yours? I’ll take The Well-Red Mage’s cue and say leave a comment or write your own post. And if you choose the latter, trying to keep the train a’rolling by including that image and links back to the original post. Look, I’ll even include it again so you don’t have to scroll back. Because I’m totally cool like that.