I’m a failed blogger, and I know I’m not alone. I’m sure a statistic would be useful here to illustrate my point, but a quick Google search of ‘failed blog statistics’ didn’t bring up any useful data on the first page. I can’t be arsed clicking into page two-and-beyond of search results for the sake of accuracy. I ain’t got time or energy for that (see, also: my recent posts on quitting sugar, re low energy and bad attitude!). A well-researched article, this is not, folks.
For six months from August 2015, I had a blog that I called The Years Are Short. It was named after a quote I read in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project: “The days are long but the years are short”. Boy are they ever. My first baby, who turned one during that period of blogging, was growing so fast and I wanted to capture some of our happenings. I know, such an original idea!
I also needed a little project (besides housework) and did secretly hope a blog could become a future income stream, or lead to one. I jumped in with both feet, going self-hosted from the outset and agonising over every design element. Over that six months I blogged voraciously, at least five posts per week, as well as spending ridiculous amounts of time on social media ‘networking’ (aka foisting my blog onto anyone and everyone). I scored a few brand collaborations and even a paid post which was beyond exciting.
And then, apparently overnight, I dropped my beloved blog like a hot potato. In truth, I’d been growing disillusioned with blogging for quite some time before I reached my failing point.
An introvert tries to play the social game
I just write and the readers will come, right? Uh, no.
It didn’t take too long to learn that I’d have to work hard at link building via other blogs, and driving traffic through my social media accounts. I poured hours every day into researching how to use social media effectively, keeping my accounts updated, and reaching out to people.
For sure, online networking is a million times easier for an introvert than face-to-face networking. However, we introverts have a tendency to overthink every single social interaction, and (for me at least) online interactions were no less fraught. I wanted to acknowledge every comment, like or share on every stream. I’d have daily dilemmas about whether I should follow-back someone who followed me, even though I didn’t really enjoy or get any value from their content. Basically I wanted to be the friendliest blogger on the internet even though the social game was literally taking up all my free time (and more) and not even driving a lot of traffic to my blog.
It’s no coincidence that my social media accounts died a death the same day as my blog did. The only account which is still ‘out there’ is my Instagram account which hasn’t been updated in forever. I like to look at those old pics occasionally and remember that uncommonly creative and productive time.
Awkward consolations from family and friends
My original audience was family and friends, mainly via my personal Facebook page, and the positive feedback I got from them early on was such a buzz.
Eventually I also created a Facebook page for The Years Are Short. I was inordinately thrilled each time I got a new follower because they were so few and far between. Like, happy dance in my chair thrilled. A lot of other bloggers, even much bigger ones, were complaining about how difficult it was to grow an audience on Facebook, so I put most of my energy into Twitter and SEO.
For some of my family who followed my blog via Facebook and weren’t aware that I was using other traffic generators (such as Twitter, Instagram, email subscriptions, and even eventually receiving some search engine traffic) it certainly must have seemed as though my blog was falling flat.
When I heard spontaneous consolations like Oh, you just need to write that one thing that goes viral, or Well, maybe you just missed the boat on the whole blogging phenomenon, I began to feel that the people who I wanted and expected to be proud of my efforts were in fact a little bit embarrassed for me. And I began to get embarrassed for myself. Awkward!
Burning the candle at the both ends
In my usual all-or-nothing fashion I became
nearly fanatical about my blog and its statistics. I read somewhere that a regular, frequent posting schedule was a Key to Success and committed myself to publishing a post every day, Monday to Friday. Eventually that self-imposed pressure became a burden. In the end, I published too many posts that I wasn’t really excited about or proud of just to maintain an arbitrary posting schedule.
Not only did I fall out of love with writing when my blog became an (imaginary) must-do, I let more important, less measurable things suffer in order to feel productive. When I should have used James’s nap time to have a rest myself or take care of things around the house I blogged. When I should have been chatting to James over breakfast I sat next to him like-for-liking on Instagram. I frequently stayed up after Mark went to bed to tweak my widgets. No innuendo here! I felt guilty all the time.
The great pretender
Every article I read about growing a successful blog told me I should find my niche. Parenting blogs seemed the be the natural choice for me since most of my posts were about family life and so that was the niche my blog grew into. I began to see that there was a common formula, common themes and a common ‘voice’ that parenting blogs were written from, and I began to emulate that too.
Somewhere along the way I started believing my blog could only be useful to others if I wrote with a voice of expertise or authority. I started writing about parenting as though I had all the answers when I really really didn’t – don’t.
Eventually my blog had a bit of an identity crisis, it could have been written by anyone.
Putting it all on the line, online
Doing my best to do like the best, I noticed that the posts that generated the most interest in my niche came in two varieties: controversies and confessions.
Bloggers who wrote posts defending bold statements or unpopular opinions and those who bared all about their failings as a parent seemed to enjoy a wide audience. As a person who will do anything to avoid conflict and has absolutely no flaws to humble-brag about that wasn’t going to work for me.
Joking. I have parenting fails every day of the week, I’m just too self-conscious to be loud and proud about them online!
I was also acutely aware that people from my real life were regular readers and that affected what I felt comfortable about sharing online. Somehow it’s so much easier to let loose when you’ll probably never meet your audience – if you even have one!! When people I knew mentioned they’d read a particular post it made me feel quite awkward. Frankly, I’d have felt less embarrassed to be told I had my skirt tucked into my pants.
This time around…
This time around, my aim is simply to write and keep writing. I know there will be cycles of ebb and flow, that sometimes I might not feel like blogging for weeks or months. But I’ll be able to come back here anytime I want to. No-one is expecting me to ‘turn up’ except me.
I’d love to work as a writer but not on this blog. I don’t want to earn a living by wedging random product reviews or paid links into my posts. I also don’t want to be concerned with whether or not Musings and Mumblings is commercially attractive.
I haven’t shared my blog with anyone except my husband. That way I won’t have to defend my blog or guard its contents from people who think they’re supporting me by giving me a dose of ‘reality’. Who needs reality when it comes to passion-projects anyway?!
And that’s all blogging is this time around – just a little project to while away the time.