Blogging, where it all went wrong (and then right)
Firstly I'd like to acknowledge that this blog post contains my personal thoughts on aspects of blogging, commercial blogging and e-courses which are not aways positive. These are simply my feelings and are not any aggressive words directed at any individuals. I've been blogging enough to have seen many post written where people start whispering to each other 'ooo who does she mean?' - this most definitely isn't one of those.
You may have noticed (or more likely may not) that I've suddenly started blogging every day. Funnily enough I've probably blogged more in the past week than the entire last 6 months.
Recently I've seen a few online conversations from people who have started blogging after taking a break and feel despondent by the reaction from readers. "It feels like I'm writing and no one is reading" being the most frequent reaction I see.
There's been many changes over the years in blogging, and to understand where I am at now, we need to first look at where I've been.
When I first started back in 2010, blogging was a lovely online community, a cathartic experience for many and pretty much non-commerical. People tended to form online friendships based on having similar lifestyles - kids of a similar age, a shared love of reading.
Fast forward a couple of years and promotions and sponsorship arrived, and many bloggers experienced a few golden years where brands would queue up to work with them. Many bloggers became self employed, and blogging became business. For the majority of people this was a triumphant moment where they became empowered to start their own business, support their family and became not just a blog but a brand. For me, in hindsight, this is the pivotal moment that lead to the demise of the joy of reading blogs.
And as blogging became business, more people began blogging. And not the previous wave of people starting out on free WordPress and Blogger sites, many with daft names they would regret later (that would be me 'Mammasaurus'). More and more blogs were starting from people who had carefully pre-thought their niche, their brand, hired a logo designer and commissioned a beautiful website template in advance - these 'polished' blogs started popping up everywhere. I can clearly remember at the time my online blogging friendship circle being like 'where the f*ck did they come from?!' Clever folk, following the evolution of blogging.
A year or so later quite a few bloggers announced they were 'taking a break from blogging' to focus on 'building an Instagram following'. Suddenly value was being applied to social accounts, and a new wave of marketing arrived, one where a bigger Instagram following was preferential to having a blog.
At this point I found things really intense as a blogger, I was bombarded by advice. From my peers, from strangers, from random targeted Facebook adverts. I say 'bombarded' and that does give negative tone and I should really add that the advice in general was all meant to have a positive effect on myself and my blog. But the reality is that when you have that volume of advice it can make you start to doubt yourself.
Find your niche!
Become a pro blogger / mum boss
Build your Pinterest strategy to succeed
Grow your Instagram following to succeed
Make your page speed better
Rank higher with killer SEO
How to write engaging content
The importance of being on the right blogging platform
Get the best design
Build a killer email list by offering value to your readers
Harnessing the power of Snapchat / IG Stories / anything new that can be leveraged
All of those things are well intentioned and designed to empower you, to make you a better blogger, harness your full potential and grow your business. You can spend a lot of time, and money, learning these things, to become better, to improve and dare I say it in some cases to be more like the people that we aspire to be (playing on comparison syndrome).
And for a time I did find it inspiring, but then I started to find that I being swept up in trying to be better was a negative thing, for me personally (though I know it works so well for many people). That feeling of chasing your tail, and the constant subliminal messaging that 'you could have more' points out that you do actually have less, that 'you can be better' implies that you aren't actually that good.
I spent so flipping long trying to find a niche, trying to 'offer value' to readers, writing 'helpful' content to drive traffic - that I forgot why I first enjoyed blogging and if I'm honest, I loathed what the wider community had become.
An example: On more than one occasion I went on holiday with my family, sharing photos from it on social media and people would leave me lovely comments saying how wonderful it looked, how they would love to go there - and then promptly messaged me asking for the details of the PR who had hooked it up. Upon replying that it was just our regular family holiday the lovely comments would stop and more often than not I wouldn't get a response to my reply.
I started to feel that I did belong, and I didn't want to belong.
And then I started working for Unsplash and didn't have so much time to write or read blogs. The more I looked in on the blogging scene, and saw discussions related to blogging, the more I felt relieved that I was 'out of it'. I could stay in touch with people on social media, read the handful of non-commercial blogs on my reading list, without having to actively be part of the community.
So why start to blog regularly again now?
Simple. For me.
Not for money, not for readers and not for the experiences it may bring. Just to document life. Highly SEO optimised blog posts that offer value to their readers may get the traffic. Heartfelt updates on family life won't. But I'd rather write for those few family and friends who know us and who will appreciate being kept up to date than random people landing by to grab a freebie or recipe.
Reading back through old posts has made me realise just how glad I am that I wrote moments of Kitty and Oscars lives growing up on here, it's reminded me of so much I've forgotten. It's made me want to keep that going, documenting online - it brings me joy. Find what brings you joy, and do it. It might be the polar opposite to what brings others joy, but that doesn't matter.
I'm starting to seek out a new blogging community, one of largely non-commerical blogs who share the same ethos - follow your heart, not the money.
If you can recommend any blogs please do let me know, I'm @anniespratt on Twitter or you can drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.