The Blogging Dance in 5 Steps

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Dance

I had at least three reasons to be offended by being called a cock and bull girl.

                                                                                                                                               
“So you’re a cock and bull girl,” someone once said to me upon learning I’m a Taurus born in the Chinese Zodiac year of the rooster. I had at least three reasons to be offended. One, at best I was being likened to an English pub. Two, I was being characterized based on someone’s notion of astrology. Three, the phrase sounded vulgar, or at least, my mind leapt to a phrase where “bull” is replaced with “ball.”

I remained unmiffed, because bulls and roosters aren’t meek or stand down, and I equated a cock and bull girl to what I am: an all-or-nothing girl. That means I’m a tortured perfectionist when it comes to pursuits of my own choosing, and sometimes incapable of half-assing even mundane chores. I deliberately don’t tackle certain tasks to avoid being sucked into that hyper-focus trip of darkness and misery where there’s no food, water, sleep or friends. As such, I don’t clean my own home, I pay money – that could be better spent – to someone else to do it. It takes that life-saver of a person six hours to do the job. But it would take me, my toothbrushes, and other implements small enough to attend every dust-collecting crevice present in a normal apartment, three full days.

An all-or-nothing approach for the purpose of this post means that I can’t possibly publish a piece without a subject or idea that genuinely stirs me. It needs to be well-thought out and interesting even if discussing the commonplace. After that, I cut down, polish and fine-tune paragraphs nonstop until the cringe of horror on my face relaxes and I could bear my own writing. Even if you threw hundred-dollar bills at me, I couldn’t bring myself to regularly contrive cutesy non-sequiturs just for the sake of posting. But I’m not ruling it out on an irregular basis, especially if hundred-dollar bills are involved.

You can see the problem. If you take on blogging seriously, you glean right away that you’re expected to post frequently – twice or more per week, preferably on a set schedule – to first, build any sort of readership, and second, to keep it. The idea for many is to monetize and/or grow their reach beyond their blog to become contributors on big sites. Between writing, refining, promoting, and interacting with readers and other bloggers, blogging takes over your life. So imagine what it’s like for a person like me, for whom any endeavor takes over.

I re-established my abandoned Twitter, only to discover I enjoy it as a social, rather than promotional tool, and that it requires its own full-time upkeep. It’s also a great exercise in brevity and conveying thoughts clearly and concisely. So then I joined Instagram to support my blogging habit. But I really got into the images and realized cultivating followers there would take too much time away from my blog and defeat the purpose. I’m not even going to touch on the countless blog networks and platforms for tribes and hops. The fact is, you could have no other obligation in life but maintain a blog and still find every waking hour filled. Most of us have many other obligations, therefore consumed as I am with my blog, l landed myself in a quandary.

Time mismanagement was an issue I contended with long before taking on blogging to pile on top of my filmmaking endeavors, studies, overactive social life and half a dozen hobby obsessions ranging from snowboarding to drumming. Only recently have I begun to see that everything I’ve hinted at in this post – hyper-focus, perfectionism, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, time mismanagement, unrealistic goals – might be symptomatic of one personality-glitch umbrella that pharmaceutical companies call “disorder” in order to peddle pills. But that’s another discussion. Suffice it to say, in the short time I’ve been blogging, not only have I learned much about myself, I’ve had to adopt a system that would allow me to continue to blog and live my life. It’ll prove a challenging feat for Miss All-or-Nothing, but I couldn’t just up and walk away from my blog, child of mine born of passion.

And so, my personal blogging dance, which I emphasize, is by no means what I believe to be a universal standard, but rather, what works for me personally – I call it The Cathartic Monkey System for Maintaining and Growing a Blog.*

1.  Post regularly. In my case, that means once a week (on occasion twice), and because I work best with flexibility, I’m giving myself the option of any weekday except Friday. If you can keep up with publishing posts that are meaningful to you daily or every other day, great. But remember, people respect, trust and respond to consistency. Writing every day for two weeks but then disappearing for two months might be inconsistent and disappointing to your readers. That’s not to say I’m relinquishing my option to disappear (lest I dig myself into a hole here).

2.  Maintain an organized site design. Often I click eagerly on a new blog address only to find my eyes assaulted by a cluttered front page. And each time, I run. Time is short, and a densely packed page with no organization could potentially keep people from exploring a blog. It’s helpful to have basic buttons like equivalents of Home, About, and Contact in plain sight. Periodically testing links to make sure they remain unbroken is not a bad idea either. Simple navigation to all your posts through drop-down menus, side bars, etc. is valuable – it stands to reason, if readers can’t get to your posts, they won’t read them.

3.  Promote your work with class. Use Social Media for authentic interaction. Remember, it’s not a one-way platform, engage others as much as they engage you. Your personality is key. Spamming, automated messages and robotic tweeting of posts, are not only devoid of personality, they’re counterproductive. The point is for people to develop an interest in each other so that they may be drawn to one another’s work. Automated methods accomplish the exact opposite: they annoy people and cause them to tune-out the offender.

4.  Seek others like you. The most time-leeching and ineffective activity for the sake of my blog was indiscriminately reading and commenting on every blog that found its way to my browser. Don’t get me wrong, I only leave comments I mean. But it’s far more efficient to cultivate a selective list of blogs you enjoy by bloggers who feel the same about yours. The result will be mutually fulfilling interaction, and far less eye-strain.

5.  Reciprocate. Courtesy is a human trait applicable both in life and online. Most of us know to write thank you notes when warranted, and not to show up to dinner parties empty-handed. If you’ve received a comment on your blog, replying to it is your thank you note. But reciprocating is visiting the other person’s blog, and the equivalent of not showing up empty-handed, is commenting on their posts. Sure, sometimes we might enjoy a post but have nothing to say, or we’re short on time, or we simply forget. It’ll happen, and it’s okay. But if you make repeated copious visits to blogs and find the interest is not returned, perhaps seek other bloggers who write well, but also practice etiquette. There is no shortage of great bloggers, so in the interest of time and common human courtesy, I personally choose to cultivate authentic, mutual interaction.

Growing the readership of a blog takes time, but once in a while synchronicity and the generosity of established bloggers speed things up. Unless you can manually align stars, synchronicity happens on its own and you can’t control the right person discovering you at the right time. But if they do, often they are generous with their experience and tips. Needless to say, if the rest of us also act with generosity any chance we get, together we’d build an enriching blogging community.

It’s only been a few months since I began blogging, but between those who are kind enough to share their knowledge with me, and the diverse, fascinating blogging circle I’ve begun to cultivate, the experience has been so far worth it.

 
*My posts usually end with Cathartic Monkeysims, but this post is already one big chunk of it.


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24 comments

  1. Congratulations. I think this is the first blog post I’ve read that is at once both inspiring and demotivating . . . as it turns out, both of those are compliments . . . perhaps even complements?

    1. Ha, how so? The last thing I want to be is demotivating to myself or anyone else…

      1. I suppose I mean that in some of what you say, you set some pretty high standards, though from the comments you’ve posted below, I don’t think that was your intent.

        Personally there are a lot of very big, deep issues that I won’t blog about…frankly they are just too damn depressing. By trying to keep things more lighthearted that is my way of countering the filth I won’t write about.

        Anyways, that’s enough from me…I enjoy your posts…if I didn’t I wouldn’t bother to comment, even with short ones.

      2. It’s valuable to realize that how I come across at times may not be what I intend, and I thank you and the others here who brought it to my attention. I hope the minor edits I’ve made alter the tone of the post to that which I intended.

  2. mike · · Reply

    good stuff. time management in all aspects of life can be a challenge, at least I find that to be true. I probably should post more meaningful things but I am who I am I guess

    1. “Meaningful” is quite broad — after I read your comment, I edited that part to read “posts that are meaningful to you…” It’s not up to anyone else to judge.

  3. Great dance steps! I pinned this to some writing boards on Pinterest! I try to follow these dance steps — sometimes I get a little wild and dance free-style! Ha! But mainly I try to follow your suggestions!

    1. That’s lovely, thank you! As far as free-style — it’s so often the best style.

  4. P.J. · · Reply

    Blogging is truly what you make of it. I don’t consider myself anything special in the blogging world, but I’ve been at it since 2005 because I don’t worry much. I know I have a mixed bag — in-depth pieces, quickies, meaningless posts etc. — because it’s whatever is in my mind at the time. I’ve posted everyday for months and gone time without. If you build a base of readers, they stick with you through it all. I’d rather have 10 regular readers who I interact with than 150 who come once or twice and never again.

    Blogging — to me — is also something I do for myself. Once I start worrying about too many things (such as advertising etc.), I know it’ll lose the fun. Would I like to make a few bucks? Sure. But I also don’t want blogging to become a job to me. I know of a few people who were obsessed in growing their blog to make a living that they burned out.

    I really do enjoy your writing and your blog. In the end, that’s key. Have something people will read. But there are many who will look and not want to think or read. Some bloggers like to look, read quick and leave a short comment to get some love back. And then never again. I try and keep up with the ones I really like and in the end, I think I’ve found happiness in the blogging world.

    1. What now seems like a terrible word choice — “meaningful” — was referring to my personal experience with my own writing. I’m not made up of 7-days per week worth of writing material that would be meaningful to me. And most definitely, I agree, blogging is whatever you want to make of it. Based on what I want to make of it, I had to decide on a system that works for me.

      I’m certainly with you, in terms of having 10 habitual readers versus the 150 who pass through with no real interest.

      1. P.J. · ·

        The meaningless part I commented on was more of something I’ve always called “throwaway” posts. In other words, kind of just throwing a “diary” post of sorts to fill a day or just rant. I have other things I do (Snapshot Saturday, for example) that I know many readers may not care about because it’s photos of my family from years ago etc. That’s the beauty of blogging — so many ways of doing things.

        I think the way you tackle blogging is a great one. You are doing it how you feel you need to and that’s how it should be.

        As for making money on a personal blog — take a peek around at many mommy blogs or food blogs etc. They have advertising all over, whether it be sponsors, exchanges, small ads or other things. Will it make a living? No. But some people get into this thinking people will want to read everything they say and they’ll be the next big blogger. It’s just not that way. I like it when people go into this knowing it won’t happen and it’s more about the love of doing it.

        We discover each other’s blogs through promotion, and that’s not a bad thing. That’s how I found many blogs I follow and read. And though you are right about promoting through interaction, it’s something I really enjoy. But advertising as mentioned above is something I’d hate to do (though I would like to swap “button” links with some blogs I truly enjoy as a way to advertise each other with no cost).

        Do a Google search for “blog topics” or “blogging ideas” or something along those lines. See those blogs. Click on one and look at all the ads many have. It’s crazy to think they make money off telling me how I should blog! (Side note: I think I actually posted about that once!)

  5. bgbowers · · Reply

    Well, like you, I am an all-or-nothing kinda gal. My issue is that I usually ‘give all’ in a new venture, take blogging for example, but when I become familiar with the territory (or identify the ‘game’) I get bored and disillusioned. I’ve been blogging since May this year and I have realised that, generally speaking, it’s mostly a popularity and ego-stroking game. Unless you’re constantly liking other bloggers posts, regardless of quality, your own readership will wane. Unfortunately, that’s just not me. I only like and comment on posts that I genuinely like / engage with / that resonate with me / that provoke me etc.

    So, as is always the case with me, I went all out at the start, but now that I’ve identified the game, I’m slowing down – only giving my time and attention to those blogs and bloggers that I respect and who genuinely support my work.

    I started my blog in order to focus my writing career and get my work out into the world, so when the blogging maintenance (reading & commenting on other people’s blogs) starts to encroach on those goals, then it’s time to rethink and develop a new strategy.

    I’ve cut down my ‘blogging butterfly’ time & have noticed a definite drop in ‘likes’ and traffic, but I don’t see it as a negative – more of a quality cull.

    As always, your posts get me thinking…. Enjoy your weekend. 🙂

    1. “I only like and comment on posts that I genuinely like / engage with / that resonate with me / that provoke me etc.” As we all should.

      “It’s mostly a popularity and ego-stroking game.” I find almost everything that involves people is an ego-stroking game, so I try not to pay too much attention.

      “Only giving my time and attention to those blogs and bloggers that I respect and who genuinely support my work.” To me, this is the only thing that makes sense.

      The “quality cull” – perfect term. I’m not at a place where I get a lot of traffic, so I suppose I’m glad I executed my “quality cull” early in the game so I won’t notice a sudden slide. The main reason we are here is to write. We lose sight of it sometimes, for the very natural and understandable reason that we want to be read.

  6. Guilty for disappearing! But I always reciprocate, even if it’s too late. Sorry for not responding sooner. I tend to slip into depression and truly cannot interact with others during those times. Please don’t think too badly of me 😦

    1. This comment makes me feel like a stern schoolmarm! First, no one owes me anything, for goodness sake! Second, sometimes I visit blogs late too. Lastly, I’m sorry about your depression — when that happens to me, I go on a hike. Three days in a row lifts the depression. Of course, forcing ourselves to do anything during depression is a feat…

      1. 🙂 Thanks, I’ll be trying the hikes. Anything is worth a try!!

  7. I’m an Aquarian born in the year of the Monkey. Which means I’m an all wet simian of a girl. Or something. Or maybe nothing. It’s very hard to tell sometimes.

    1. All wet simian, perfect!

  8. Wow that is a well thought out presentation of what I think about a lot. It was a slow build for me, not getting 10 likes on my blog for about six months. But learning things from other bloggers caused mine to grow and all my experince has made me a much better blogger.

    1. Thanks for reading the post. The community of bloggers is a great bonus, one I hadn’t known about before I started.

      1. It really is one of the best parts about it.

        So have you done posts about what kind of acting/directing/writing you do? I’m just kind of curious. If you haven’t done one, could you do one in the future? That would be cool. Thanks!

  9. Very interesting and well pointed out blog

    1. Thanks for reading.

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