Thursday, August 19, 2010

On Traffic, Blogging, Stirring the Pot, Monetization, and Who the Hell am I, Anyway?

One of my lovely and talented roommates at the BlogHer conference has been going through a sort of identity crisis of late. Not a personal one, really, but a blogging one. On Saturday afternoon, sitting in our room before the evening's keynote address we talked about our blogging identities; what we blog for and about. (I wish we'd had more time for that conversation, it could have lasted all weekend.) 

I began blogging almost 3 years ago because I wanted to join this community that I'd been reading. Women, writing about their lives, making friendships that have no physical boundaries, heading to great cities once a year to visit and learn and laugh together. Sounded like just what the doctor ordered for me after sitting in my house for 7 years nursing, changing diapers and driving the carpool.

I've never been much of a writer. Yes, I have an English degree, but if my grades from college are any indication I'm only mediocre. I have forgotten all the rules of grammar, half-learned in a summer class, from a professor who thought I was cute and liked to give me Necco candies, communion-style. I write like I speak, in half-thoughts, fragmented sentences, with too much punctuation added for pauses where sighs and hand gestures would be. My blogging, I suppose, is my coffee date with my readers, only without the cussing thrown in. You'd get that if you were in my kitchen.

Shannon asked, (I'm paraphrasing here,) "What kind of blogger are you? What is your specialty?", and it got me thinking, again. I've tried to answer that question over and over, for a year or more, and all I can come up with is that I'm a "Nice Blogger." Boring. But! I don't like controversy or ugly disagreement. I shy away from conflict even in my real life, so putting it here, on this blog, is not my cup-of-tea, so to speak. There are things that I think I do well, and in my previously professional life I actually taught people to do those things, but it doesn't translate so well on a blog. See: I can carry 4 full water glasses in one hand at a time. Wordless Wednesday, maybe, but not so great for that traffic-getting, pro-blogger, propel-me-onto-the-A-list kind of post, right? See also: I can alphabetize a 16-foot rack of cd's in less time than you could probably even get through a 4 foot section. Great skill when I was doing that job; again, not translatable to blogging.

Headless Dad sometimes will listen to me talk about what I've read on other peoples' blogs. His interests lean heavily toward the political and when I read something that he would agree with, I share. He keeps telling me that I should write about politics; that it would get me lots of traffic. Probably true. But if you read the paragraph above you know that I don't like conflict, and politics, like few other subjects, is polarizing and brings out the trolls. Not light on the conflict, that subject 'politics.' Even he and I don't talk about it much, nor do I typically talk politics with my family or friends. I don't like to stir the pot, really. I know my position on issues, (conservative, if you must know,) but having to defend them in such a public forum, when others do it so much better than I could, makes me afraid that I'd just end up sounding stupid in comparison. Not the image that I want to portray.

Nor do I want to alienate friends that I've made here. Many of my friends, (and yes, they are friends,) completely disagree with me on public policy. Or I disagree with them. Whatever. Do I think I'm right? Of course. Do they think they're right? Certainly. Do I think that my thoughts on any subject would sway anyone? Not on your life. Those kinds of debates raise my blood pressure and push me to say things like, "Who would like a fresh cocktail? Cheese ball? How 'bout those Broncos?" (Which, if you live in Denver, can be a heated subject all on it's own, especially with Tebow in the blue and orange, but I digress...)

No, politics is not my thing. I'm not a working mom that can tell you how to balance all of the things that you have to get done. I don't home school. My kids are not prodigies or have special needs. My marriage is solid but no where near perfect. I'm a terrible Christian. I'm not thin or fat, nor am I an exercise or health food fanatic. My house does not look like a magazine and you can often find dropped food drying under the dining room table waiting to be vacuumed up, some day. I have trouble with our family budget. I have shelves over the bar that desperately need to be dusted, and a bathroom that perennially smells like pee thanks to the little boys that live here. I smoke and drink and cuss, but don't do it around you because I want to be polite. I don't like to rock the boat.

So where does that leave me? The mediocre writer that shies away from conflict, with no other skills or passions to write about, who wants to have a slightly larger readership so I could have a pedicure once a month instead of once a year? (See top of left sidebar for the reference, if you're unsure.) Or, if you want to know the truth? I'd love to be able to pay off the balance of what I spent on going to the BlogHer Conference with the money that I make here. There. I said it. I want to make money on this. And, as a little peek into my ego, I'd love to be a blogger that was sought out, recognized, on someone's list of "Oooh! I'd love to meet her!"

I don't really know where this is going, as a post, or as a direction for this blog. I think I'm capable of lots of things. I 'run' in lots of internet circles, have a diverse group of internet friends, a small but seemingly devoted group of readers. Is it worth alienating some of them (you) for a little traffic? No, absolutely not. Yet, growing this thing, making it bigger and more profitable, at least in dollars and cents, is becoming important to me, and more importantly, important to our family's bottom line.  Just how to do that and stay true to me is the real question, I guess. But who is the true-blogging-Me? What is my draw? Like Shannon said, What kind of blogger am I?

Headless Mom


kyooty said...

Can I just sign my name to the bottom of this and call you me? Only difference is you would have never ever ever smoked anything, but the rest? all true... let me just get that copy and paste button... heheehe ahhaha
Totally! Coffee with friends.
The Monetize part kind of worries me because I'm not exactly the same online as I am on the island. :pAlso my mom called lastnight and told me to go to Church Sunday. :p

Anna See said...

Loved this! I wonder who I am in the blog world, too. What are the additional constraints on a blogger who monetizes? Do you have to have a certain amount of traffic? A certain # of posts a week? As you can see, I know zip about this topic, but would love to learn as you learn.

Ramblin' Red said...

I find myself wondering the same things - especially since having the kids all summer has made me all but quit blogging over the summer. Not that I wanted to but more that I HAD to for the sanity of things - that and my damned laptop died - but hey, that's all changing!!!!

You and I, we're a lot alike(not quite sure of blogging identity, struggle a lot with domestic issues, write like I talk. etc), and then we're not at all (I do lean a little left sometimes, though I am pretty comfortable reaching across the aisle so to speak, don't smoke, have younger kids, etc...) and I love you no matter who/what you become!

Keetha Denise Broyles said...

I like the kind of blogger you are because you are real, have humor, and produce variety.

And of course there's the whole trash can burning thing. Couldn't you call that a "protest burn" and claim to be political to please headless dad????

I'll be honest - - - the blogs that are all about ONE topic (home decor or shopping for instance) bore me to DEATH. I hardly EVER click over there.

About the monetize thing - - - I have nada to day since I keep choosing to not put ANY adds on my blog.

Maybe you should figure out a way to charge all of us, your bloggy readers, a minimal "cover charge" to get in here!


Headless Mom said...

Only one problem with the 'burning trash can' protest, Keetha.


Carmen said...

I think you just wrote what I've wanted to write for a week or two and you did it better than I ever could.


Erica M said...

I loved this post, and I forgot to grab some Golden Oreos on my way back to my room before reading it. Where was I? Oh yes, saying this: not all of us can be on the A-list, that's why there are 25 other letters. I love your space and the fact there are no confusing, alienating bitch fights in your comments. It's what I like about mine, by the way. So no one else knows we're here. So what, yeah? I'll click on your ads more often if that will help.

Cap'n Sam said...

Whether you realize it or not, my money spent on your education has payed off in SPADES!!!!
I love your writing and reasoning and the ability to voice yourself is wonderful.
Jut keep it up, we will all be following------

anymommy said...

Great post. I would have liked to sit in on that conversation, so interesting! I think sometimes, the fact that I love to write and like the practice is an easy cop out. Sure, it's one reason I blog, but it doesn't come close to the real reasons.

Just Breathe said...

Your dad is so sweet :) I agree with him.

Shannon said...

I wish that conversation could have lasted all weekend, too. I love to explore the question of how a "life" blogger can make money. In theory, if you offer value to a big enough audience, you should be able to make money. But blogging is still so new, and that makes it difficult and confusing.

Just Margaret said...

Though I may get a bit controversial on my blog sometimes, I find myself describing my blog as a "life blog". I also find myself putting air-quotes around it when I say it out loud, which annoys me, but that's another story! However, I found the best way to earn money from my blog is to get pieces I write published by places like BlogHer. They pay for the articles they feature, unlike many other sites. It hasn't quite covered the bill for my NYC trip yet, but it's chipped away a bit at the grand total.

You offer a real look into life--written in an engaging way. That has an appeal to many of us who read your blog, that traffic stats or A-List Status can't offer.

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

This is about 98% of the blogosphere, dear. Including myself! ;)

The Empress said...

I love that second last paragraph. WHY? because it is taken right out of my head.

Every single word.

What wonderful writing, I have thought that, but could never phrase it as clearly as you just did.

Thank you, pleasure to meet you.

Liz@thisfullhouse said...

In my opinion (since you asked, ahem) you are a "memoirist."

One of the many reasons I love visiting your blog (and Shannon's, btw) is that your stories resonate with me.

Meeting you in person was a thrill and now that we've slept together (relax ya'll, I was one of her BlogHer roomies) I feel very lucky to be able to call you friend, IRL.

Still, there is value there that just cannot be quantified by a dollar amount.

With that said, it's pretty much the reason why I decided to split my blog in two.

There's the one where I claim to be a "life blogger," and write for me -- one of the few places where I don't have to wait my turn to speak.

Then, there's the one where I claim to be a "professional dork," and try to use my blogging powers for good.

Finding balance between the two is a constant battle, but writing makes me happy and I've become a pretty good juggler, so there's that.

Please, keep blogging and (again, IMO) don't worry so much about labels and concentrate on writing about what makes you happy, or not.

The rest WILL follow!

[climbs down from soap box]


I.M.A. Dork