To Blog or Not to Blog: Reflection in Action

I haven’t blogged for several weeks. I tell myself it is because we have experienced problems with internet connectivity, but the real reason is I am questioning the wisdom of having started a blog and, therefore, my commitment to it. This is partly because I’ve yet to establish a solid, regular writing habit and partly because being a blogger is not just about writing; it involves reading and responding to other blogs, particularly if the blog is to make its mark in the blogosphere. In other words, running a blog is hard work and I’m not sure I’m up to it.

Originally titled Reflective and Therapeutic Writing the original purpose of this blog was to share my research into, and experience of, therapeutic writing. Early this year, however, I decided to rename the blog Elixir: Creative and Reflective Writing and try focusing on my creative writing. Unfortunately, this didn’t help; the blog languished and my motivation waned. What to do? Maybe focusing on the shared element of both titles; Reflective Writing, and applying the technique of reflection to the situation might help? To do this, I have adapted Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle as my model.

What happened?

As I imagine most new bloggers do, I eagerly threw myself into the fray. After searching for blogs similar to mine and finding only a few and reading books, and blogs, about blogging, I wrote the first post and launched my blog. What I didn’t realise was the degree to which bloggers need to network, that is, read and respond to other blogs. This is how a blogger builds a following. It makes sense, but it is hard work, particularly if, like me when I started, the blogger is employed. Frankly, I don’t know how most bloggers work, have relationships, relax, read other blogs and research and write their blogs but I certainly admire their work ethic (especially that of my clever daughter-in-law whose blog can be found here and here).

How did it feel?

Once I got over the initial euphoria of, ‘Yay, I’m a blogger,’ I started to feel like I was drowning in a sea of words and believe me, I love to read. Instead of moving with the current I nervously headed back to the shore. I imagine it becomes easier with time, but time was something I didn’t have and I very soon felt overwhelmed by it all. While Blogging 101 offered by WordPress is excellent, it didn’t help me. I don’t blame the course; it provided sound advice about networking but I’ve never been good at it. I do think, however, there could be a warning; like Alice in Wonderland when she eats the cakes labelled ‘eat me’, networking is something that should be nibbled at rather than swallowed whole. In my experience a network can very quickly become huge and I simply don’t have time to read all the sites I subscribe to.From old iPhone 642

What went badly, why, and what were the consequences?

So, trying to read the blogs I had subscribed to became a chore rather than a delight; making comments on the blogs I managed to read was fraught with indecision and, the worse sin of all, I failed to respond immediately to the kind and perceptive comments other bloggers and the general public made about my blogs.

A second problem was my perfectionism: my blogs had to be pristine; the punctuation and grammar flawless; my sentences sparkling; my content interesting, relevant and well argued. How I envied those who seemed capable of churning out a blog every couple of days (while knowing that they probably agonized over their grammar, punctuation and sparkling sentences as well). My need for perfection taxed my editor, my partner, who did a sterling job under pressure from an anxious, fussy writer. This meant the blog also became a chore rather than a joyful experience. That was why I decided to inject new life into my blog earlier this year and rebrand it. This meant, however, that the original blog ‘disappeared’ from the intertubes and I lost some readers. One of them found me recently and gave me my first pingback. (Thank you, Calensariel).

It also became quickly obvious that writing a blog was NOT the same as researching and writing a PhD. For a start there is no supervisor or thesis advisor to consult with, to support or push the candidate along. A PhD also has an ultimate word count but a blog is eternal. I don’t mean individual posts, but the life of the blog. How long can a blogger keep saying what they want to say? Is starting a blog like having a baby? If so, it needs to be held and fed and changed daily (and nightly) for three to four years. Does a blog experience the ‘terrible two’ tantrums? What about the primary (elementary) school years, when it gradually grows more independent? How does a blogger deal with their blog’s fraught but invariably interesting adolescence? Does a blog ever grow up? Can it be taken on a holiday? What will happen if it has a sibling?

What went well?

It was not all bad, of course: Blogging 101 helped me connect to some amazing bloggers and taught me how to set up and tweak my blog pages and posts. I wrote some blogs I am proud of and confirmed the advice given by Blogging 101 that the blogs which attract the most attention are those that came from the heart. I also learned a lot about myself as a writer, and about what I want to spend my time writing about.

What could I have done differently?

For a start, I should have waited until I had time to properly nurture this baby, nor should I expect it to be perfect. I should have asked my new blogging friends for advice and (gently) encouraged my non-blogging friends to read and share my blog. When other friends said, ‘I’ve been meaning to read your blog, I must get onto it,’ I should have immediately emailed them the link.

A writing routine and a deadline is crucial; even a self-imposed deadline can be put off if one’s confidence is low or energy ebbs. Planning my writing, editing and posting times would have helped too. I also needed to reflect, at the very beginning, on what a ‘good readership’ meant to me. Did I really want 1,000s of readers? This goes back to my original intention: why did I start a blog; what did I want to achieve; who did I imagine would read the blog and how did I plan to give them what they want?

What have I learnt about myself during this experience?

I love to write because I love communicating with people but I’m still discovering what, as a writer, this means. I have a tendency to become very enthusiastic about a project, then lose the momentum when things get tough. My PhD, however, was something I saw through to the end, so I do complete projects. Is this because I managed the PhD workload well or is it about motivation? I started a PhD because I wanted to hone my writing skills and this is why I started the blog; it was not so much about sharing my research as sharing my writing, my thoughts, my ideas, my feelings. I also learned that, despite thinking I’d overcome my perfectionism, I haven’t.

Where to now?

While I don’t want to overdo the metaphor of ‘blog-as-baby’, it is a useful way of thinking about it. At barely six months old, this blog’s world is still limited. Its personality is still being shaped and its impact still to be felt. As for networking and reading all the blogs I have subscribed to, what mother spends more time looking at other babies instead of attending to her own?

Writing a blog has helped me understand who I am as a writer. Most writers do this in private, sharing their work with a few carefully chosen friends. The problem with blogging is anyone can read, deride, stalk or even worse, ignore a blog. The risk is an inherent part of the venue, the vast multiverse that is the blogosphere. Maybe I’m playing it safe here in my little corner, maybe it’s just right or, on reflection, maybe it’s not up to me to decide.

Your turn

I’d love to hear about your experience. What did you struggle with and why? What did you learn in your first twelve months of blogging? What could you have done better? How do you cope with networking and reading other blogs?

References

Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning By Doing: A Guide. Birmingham, UK: SCED

See also https://www.kcl.ac.uk/campuslife/services/disability/service/Using-Gibbs-Reflective-Cycle-in-Coursework.pdf

8 thoughts on “To Blog or Not to Blog: Reflection in Action

  1. I feel like a kindergarten kid here…. But I really like to write (beside that I know I m not good at all 😉)
    But I just loved reading this…. And here it’s my first comment …..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been very remiss in not replying Vee, I’m sorry. NaNoWriMo commanded my attention and then I made preparations for our trip. Thanks so much for your comment and hang in there. We were all beginners once so don’t lose heart. Cheers, Janet.

      Like

  2. Yes, yes & yes – blogging is sometimes like a tree falling in the woods. If no one reads it, does it still make an impact?
    Damn straight it does! ☺

    I think if you find joy, angst, pressure, release or any combination of the above, keep going. It’s when you are indifferent that it doesn’t have value any more.

    Like

    1. Love the idea of my tree falling, bursting into bloom, shedding a branch or two, or growing and being important no matter what! Your point about indifference is spot on bridechilla. X

      Like

  3. Janet, I SO agree with Amanda. I started blogging because I was busting with things to say and I was tired of writing it all in my journal just talking to myself. Journaling wasn’t helping me get unstuck. October to December 2014 was really wobbly, but I was having fun. Then after taking Bloggng 101 in January, I committed that first deadly sin and followed too many blogs. And I loved every one of them. But like you, suddenly the blog became too many words. I couldn’t keep up. I finally had to whittle down my list of blogs I followed and relegated them to the Reader instead of daily or weekly digests to my email address. Do I miss some of them from time to time? Yep. But so does everyone else. And I certainly don’t get upset if someone misses mine. I TOTALLY get it.

    And now that I’m not worrying about that, blogging is back to being fun again. I do follow new blogs now and then, and I cull those who haven’t posted for awhile. It’s a process. But first and foremost I think you just need to do it for you in a way that’s enjoyable for you because if you don’t, you won’t stick with it anyway. (Btw, are we suppose to proofread these blogs? 😮 ) And believe it or not, you really can build up quite a support system on here. 😉

    Hang in there. {{{Janet}}}

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is great advice, Calensariel. I wondered what to do with the blogs I’ve followed but rarely see, so I’ll go through them and and weed outa few. Your point about having fun is so important. I’m looking forward to getting that back. I will also take on board not taking a lack of response to posts personally because there are so many out there. Thanks for the comment and your feedback. I am glad I decided to broach the topic. Cheers.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Found it fascinating to read your angst ridden piece over blogging. Please don’t be offended by my bluntness but does it matter what anyone else thinks? Is it that important that sentence structure, grammar and how many syllables each word contains? Write from the heart as you said. For me blogging is not about others approval but about my expressing myself. Do I care if a lot of people read it or not – not really. Having said that, it is very gratifying and appreciated when people read my words and like them but, as in my art. I have finally learned that others approval is not necessary. Blogging, like painting, is for me. Someone likes it – great; nobody reads it – fine; someone doesn’t like it – their opinion. My world won’t collapse and turn to crap because of it.
    Write for you. Not to network. Not to show your mastery of the language. Just write because that is what you do and how you express yourself. Don’t edit. Imperfection is the human condition and the spice and flavouring of everything.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s