Blogging is such a weird word, nevermind a strange new form of communication, in which you have the gall to suggest that others want to hear your innermost thoughts. Is it an act of extreme hubris, or just one of hope? Well, there are stages involved, and in some of them, the blogger (in this case, yours truly) is at her most self-absorbed, and in others, she’s just doing what she’s meant to do — write, communicate, create community. I usually get stuck at #5 for an interminable amount of time — I’m subverting that this week by writing so soon after my last post! So, here are the 5 Stages of Blogging, according to me, not be confused with the Stages of Death, which are totally annoying, but that is a whole other post (ooh, an idea for when I get to stage 5 again, i.e. later today).
1. Writing a Post
You’re feeling good, in the groove, you’ve committed to your topic and you’re working it out, word by word. Researching as you go, adding photos where needed, trying to tell the inner critic to take a bath, enjoying the ride. This is the most blissful stage in the process. For me it usually occurs when Olive is down for that rare long afternoon nap, and I’ve got a cup of tea beside me on my extremely messy kitchen table as I try to shut everything else out and just write, which is hard to do with the internet at your fingertips. I LOVE writing in longhand (or on a typewriter, like the mop-top below is doing or pretending to do for a cute photo) so if I had a scanner I would just scan in handwritten sheets. That would be awesome! Anyone have an extra scanner laying around they want to let me use??
Sort of scary, actually putting what you’ve written out there for IMMEDIATE consumption and judgment is a bold act. I always hover over the “publish” key for an extra second. Then it’s time to post the link on social media sites, so your readers can check out what you’ve done. Twitter and Google + are like farting into the wind, no one ever clicks from there. But if you are reading this right now, there’s a 90% chance you clicked a link on Facebook, so thank the mighty Internet gods for that mecca, where with enough constant filtering you can learn some really great stuff in a short period of time, or waste endless amounts of your life looking at other people’s vacations and kids, your choice.
3. Post-Posting Obsessiveness/Vulnerability
Compulsive checking of “site stats” and comments commences. Is there anybody out there? This is the stage of wondering if people actually read your words, and if they do, who the hell are they? Very few people who read take the added step of joining the conversation via a comment, so you are left in the dark about who is listening to your latest tirade. But perhaps you get a comment or two, and in the best case scenario, their comment leads to a further discussion, either on or offline. At least, that is why I do it. I am really seeking to start conversations, rather than just have my own voice heard. My favorite blogs are sites where the writers have dedicated followers who comment and actually start to shape the content of what the blogger writes about. I know that since I have started blogging, it has deepened some of my friendships offline, as I have already laid out ground for people to connect with me on. I have also met or reconnected with some incredible people that I only knew in passing otherwise. I often think of these readers when I’m writing, imagining their response to my current thoughts. For the most part this has been incredibly positive, but you can’t control who reads something you post on the web, so I have definitely had the feeling that perhaps I have overshared. Did I really just tell the whole world about my post-nursing boobs? Sometimes it leads to very odd information, such as what people searched to get to your site. Since I do write about my tits a lot, I’ll get a lot of clicks from people looking for boobs to ogle, which usually makes me uncomfortable but it really cracked me up yesterday to read that someone got my blog by typing in “boobs cannot die” in their search engine. First of all, what does that even mean, and why would it lead said person to my blog? I hate to break it to him, but Dude, boobs die. Boobs definitely die. In general, I’ve decided to be as upfront as possible, because authenticity is a dying art in this culture, and I believe in it. More vulnerability equals more connection, as long as the people I care about speak up if something I’ve said offends or hurts. Molly Wizenberg in her excellent book A Homemade Life says:
“I guess you could say that having a blog is a little like the windows of a house I used to live in during my sophomore year of college. I loved opening them wide during the day, so that the smell of the eucalyptus trees outside could drift in and sweep out the rooms. But occasionally I would come home and find a squirrel on my desk. A live squirrel. He would have climbed up the tree outside and jumped in through the window, and now here he was, rifling with his tiny, scratchy claws through whatever he found, tearing up every paper and scrap. Blogging is a little like that. . . . [O]ccasionally you come home and find a squirrel on your desk, so to speak: a nasty comment, maybe, or even worse, something you wrote yourself, probably late at night, when you should have been sleeping, something that makes your cheeks hot.”
I have caught a few squirrels, but I always set them free.
4. Riding the High
A post that has been received and read by more than just the people you live with, and has led to some sort of conversation leads to a satisfying feeling of success. “I am actually a writer, however insular and self-published it may be!” you think to yourself, and you feel good for about a day. Before I started this endeavor of blogging, I thought blogs were sort of stupid. I imagined the writing was not very good, unfocused, self-reverential and pithy. But then I read a few really excellent blogs, and I started to see it as a chance to let go of perfection and just write. Give up on the idea of writing The Next Great American Novel and start with writing about what’s right in front of you. Here’s a weird thing: writing begets writing. My awesome writer friend Christine turned me on to this site, 750words.com, where you can do your “morning pages” online each day — they send you reminders, track your word count, and let you know when you’ve completed the equivalent of 3 pages. Then they do this weird thing where they turn whatever you’ve written into charts — a bar graph of how your writing progressed and a pie chart of what it was about. My favorite was the day they told me I was feeling affectionate about death. Anyway, doing this each day helps me build the muscle of writing, without worrying about the content or the reception. It’s writing for the fun of it, and indeed it feels good. In fact, since I started blogging I have been encouraging other people to start their own, as well, because everyone I know who has started a blog has something interesting to say. Maybe I just know really interesting people, or maybe blogging has developed enough as a form of writing that people are just better at it, putting out more thought-provoking material rather than the drivel that pervaded its early years. Granted, there are bad ones out there. I recently unsubscribed to a mommy blog because her posts were less and less about parenting and more and more about how she came off to her readers. I drew the line at the post asking everyone to “get skinny” with her on her new diet plan. If YOU have read this far, then I probably would like you a lot and maybe you should start a blog and become my new favorite. I have a space that just opened up on my google reader, afterall!
5. Crashing the Wave/Brainstorming
The high of Stage 4 is wildly short. Soon enough, the worry that you haven’t posted in awhile sets in. Ideas for a new post come and go, with you either dismissing them or letting them simmer to see if there is more there that needs to develop before putting them down in black and white. Sometimes you get a great idea but have no time to actually write about it, and this is an uncomfortable fullness that needs expression as soon as possible. If more than a week goes by, you wonder, “Have I lost all my interested readers? Am I really still a writer if I’m not producing regularly? WILL I EVER WRITE AGAIN GAHHHHHHHH!” It can get pretty bleak. However, soon enough you find the time, courage, and brain power to get back to Step One. Unless you die first, and your last post you ever wrote was about something dumb like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, and that is how everyone will remember you. Please God, don’t let me die tonight. I don’t want to be remembered as the “boobs cannot die” girl whose boobs died along with the rest of her after posting about it. Ahhhh, you see what Stage 5 does to me? Even writing about it makes me insane!
So, how about you, fellow bloggers/writers/creators of any kind? Do your stages match up with mine? Any important ones I left out, like the stage where you put on a fox costume and skulk around the house on all fours? Oh, nobody else does that one? Yeah, that’s why I omitted it — it’s not exactly universal.