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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

you're doing it wrong.

Happy (almost) Spring devoted readers!

The blog topic this month is one I rarely discuss.  The topic of the blog itself.  When I started writing The Little Things I had absolutely no idea how common it was for a woman in her 30's to write a blog.  Four years ago I thought I was doing something unique.  As it turns out I simply joined the ranks of over 8 million other American women who are blogging.  So yeah...about as unique as a suburban housewife shopping at Target.

I did zero research and gave it zero thought before diving in.  I never considered my audience, the topics, the format, the frequency...none of it.  I kept this blog private for the first two years and treated it more as a personal journal that I wrote only for myself, because I never had any intentions of making it public. 

More than a year has passed since I came out of the blogging closet and figured maybe it's time I actually did some studying up on this whole blogging business to figure out what direction I want to go with this (if any) and what I could be doing better. 

Ultimately, I learned I'm doing it wrong 

List of things I have learned about successful blogging (as a result of some spotty online research):

  1. Readers like lists.  No joke, I read that every blog entry should have a list because people like them and they help organize your message.  This is one thing I was doing right...I love lists!  YAY - one win for The Little Things!
  2. Most successful blogs have a theme.  Think homeshooling, interior design, raising kids, food (this is a big one), fashion, weddings, politics, exercise, etc.  I'm pretty sure this is one area where I am missing the blog boat.  To me, TLT is the Seinfeld of blogs - it's really a blog about nothing.  I think I may be okay with that.
  3. Consistency is key.  Most successful blogs have daily posts, or at least multiple posts per week to keep readers engaged and following along.  I am of the opinion that people are busy enough with their own lives and don't want to take the time to read my babble more than once a month, so I'm disregarding this advice.
  4. Readers like to feel included in the blog (and the writers life).  This one got me thinking.  I share quotes, thoughts, articles, books and pleeeenty of opinions, but I really don't share anything particularly specific about me or my life.  Would pictures of my kids, what I cooked for dinner last night or the disorganized pile of clothes in my closet make me seem more interesting?  I doubt it.
    (See?  Not even remotely interseting.)
  5. The blog should help people in some way.  Tips on how to cook a healthy meal in less than 15 minutes, how to lose 7lbs in a week, how to teach algebra to your home schooled 12 year old, how to knit a scarf with yarn you dyed from the wool you sheared off your own friggin' sheep, etc.  This one makes sense to me.  If people are going to spend their ten minutes reading your words they should at least get something tangible out of it.  Here's the problem...I'm not particularly good at any one thing.  Not good enough anyway, that I feel I am in a position to give anyone "tips" complete with images, instructions and materials on how to do one thing exceptionally well.  Plus that feels a little show-offy to me.  If you're looking for a quilting pattern or a gluten-free recipe for stew I'm probably not your girl.
  6. Your blog can make money.  This isn't even worth talking about for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that not enough people read this blog.  

I FINALLY finished the book I mentioned back in November of 2013 called
Homeward Bound by Emily Matcher.  What a fantastic read (thanks again Rushmie)!  It was like I commissioned this author to write a book custom designed to fit my life, thoughts and interests.  Emily Matcher, you spoke to me.  She talks quite a bit about the blogging culture and how some women have been successful (and how many others have not) at making a livelihood from their blog.  Blogging is a cultural phenomenon and much more than a charming pass time to many successful writers.  I'll admit that after seeing what some women are doing with their blogs I started feeling like The Little Things was, well...little.

All this reading and research just confirmed what I've known all along.  My blog is not much more than a journal I keep for myself to capture my thoughts and avoid the high cost of therapy.  This blog is my outlet, and I guess the idea is that if something is on my mind it might just be on your mind too.  And maybe just knowing that we're not alone is enough to make both of us feel less crazy.  I write only about the things I feel passionate enough about to discuss, and in the words of Laurel from the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, "I'm incapable of small talk."  

(Man, I'm a sucker for the we're-just-about-to-kiss images and have made a habit of sneaking them in any time I can find an excuse.)

Sharing these thoughts and observations with my incredibly smart, funny and good-looking readers has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself.  I don't write for my husband or my kids or my company or anyone other than the people who enjoy it and me.  It's also the only "hobby" I have ever stuck with for more than a year so that has to mean something.  My tendency to bail on something once I figure out I'm not doing it perfectly had me thinking maybe it was time to call it quits.  Except I really don't want to, because (at risk of sounding self-serving) it makes me happy. 

So let's make a deal.  I'll promise to keep writing about the things that matter to me in the most honest way I know how - with no motive other than to make both of us feel better.  And in exchange, you'll promise to forgive my tendency to "over think it" and embrace the fact that I'm doing it wrong.  xo - juli