I joined the ranks of 4 million bloggers in late January of 2004 as a delayed New Year’s resolution to write everyday. Okay, fine, I just broke up with a boyfriend, and break-ups mean tears, maudlin introspection, and let’s face it, online therapy. Shopping therapy was too expensive; I needed to obsess over something other than the lack of incoming messages on my answering machine. Enter the modern instantaneous diary where word count, editing, and fact checking fall by the rubbish-strewn wayside. Blogging is mental masturbation with thousands of peeping toms.
Shifting focus off the Tom, Dick, and Harry’s of my life, I chose to invest in my interests: writing, photography, hedonism; that sort of thing. For real change to happen I knew I had to be consistent; it meant a commitment that wouldn’t leave me biting my nails. Blogging sporadically won’t give you results; it’s like investing in a personal trainer for your mind. It means showing up, even when you’re lazy. Because once your online journal becomes bookmarked as a favourite, there are fans and an impetuous audience with frenetic fingers on the refresh buttons of their browsers. They’re waiting for your next post. These strangers become your personal trainers, even the ones who tell you your words are too small, sentences too big, and stories just plain inappropriate. Hey, it’s better than, “You’ve got flabby arms. Now two more sets!” (Actually, I get “you’ve got flabby arms” in the comment section of my photography posts.)
Blogs are reality TV without an editing room. As a reader, suddenly you’re glancing over your shoulder, worried someone might find you out. You’re a voyeur, but instead of a pair of binoculars, you’ve got a computer monitor and a bevy of blogs to lodge your fix. In reading personal blogs you experience an emotional RPM, ranging from terror and sorrow to entertaining delight. We read blogs to identify with the human condition, and, let’s face it, to break up our work day for a laugh. We feel less alone, and suddenly, now we can comment on what people are writing. There’s a community, a sense of home, really, where other readers know your name. With blogs ranging in content from political satire to personal exploits, there’s a favorite flavor out there for everyone. Pass the mint chip, please.
I’ve been known to make a one hellofa homemade ice-cream, have an eye for the composition of a photograph, and I can occasionally be dead on with where to place an area rug, but I’m no blog expert. I am an observer of behavior and the world around me, taking care to honor details and delight in imperfections. “Write what you know…” is fine for books and magazine articles. But for blogs, I’d add, “…and do it often or people will stop coming back.” From the snarky to the satirical, that’s all we bloggers are doing out there.
Blogging isn’t for the thin-skinned, and no over the counter sea cream is going to help you out with this one. A story is written. A reader loves it, hates it, or just shrugs and moves to the next. But the more popular your blog becomes the more fan and hate mail you get. For every nasty comment or email, you’re likely to receive five genuine sentiments of appreciation, so if you’re starting one of your own, learn to have a sense of proportion. If you have nothing nice to say, come sit by me—link to me, same diff. That is, if you’ve got nothing to post, “link dump” to those who do, or post a photo worst case scenario.
On an active day, 20,000 unique visitors read my site, a slower day peeks at 5,000 readers. That’s a whole lot of strangers peeking through my keyhole. Of course, everyone’s a critic. But I remind myself, with the fan and hate mail, the blog, at the end of the day is for me; it’s my commitment to my writing and my sanity. It has become a home and lodge of comfort no one can ever take from me, and that’s all I’ve ever been looking for, well, at least since January and the dreaded resolutions.