Image by johnrite, via Flickr
Obviously, I love blogging. It changed my life professionally and connected me to community. But more importantly, it brought me to a self-awareness, a self-possession I never had before. The very act of publishing my thoughts day by day has brought me to value my own opinions – and that’s a kind of bedrock that’s allowed me to build many structures of business and personal growth.
This is an experience I wish for every blogger, but I worry that it’s a lot harder to get to these days than it was for me. Here’s why….
The first people to the blogging scene were lucky. They simply expressed what was inside them with no expectations – basically the way we started paper journals before blogging existed. And (surprise!) these early bloggers were often richly rewarded with attention and validation.
That got all of us excited, because recognition is manna to even the most introverted of us. And so we collectively decided to decode what the early bloggers had done “right,” and turn that into a whole slew of rules for blogging – rules that were supposed to bring us “success” in the form of increasing recognition.
Image by neilalderney123, via Flickr
The problem is, that early famous-blogger thing was a spontaneous event, springing out of random cultural forces. (Blogs were fresh and exciting, there were fewer of them, etc.) Blogging has never been a sure path to recognition, but there seems to be a prevalent mythology that it is.
That quest for recognition is where the blogging landscape has become muddied. We’ve taken what is basically a tool of personal expression, and heaped a great many other expectations upon it. In the last five years, I’ve seen far more blogs start up with the explicit or implicit hope of recognition, than from a desire to self-express.
I’m not saying that seeking recognition is wrong! We’re humans and social animals, and we deeply want to be seen by one another. Here’s what I am saying, though: I worry that in our quest for recognition, we follow formulas that squash our intrinsic joy in blogging. And that intrinsic joy is really the “juice” of blogging. Lose that, and there may be no point in blogging at all.
I know it’s ironic for me to be saying all this when I’ve been publishing ebooks and teaching classes about these very rules of blogging. But this teaching has given me something of a front-row seat for the struggle between intrinsic and extrinsic blogging.
I’ve had countless conversations about blogging that were really about how to get more recognition. I’ve watched so many promising bloggers get far away from themselves in the quest for recognition. I’ve seen so many great content ideas become frozen in time while the blogger worried about what people would think. I’ve watched many bloggers get bogged down in rules and stop blogging altogether.
And all of these things make me so sad. I hate to see anyone missing out on the wonderful personal journey of blogging.
Image by Wonderlane, via Flickr
Can blogging lead to business opportunity? Yes. Can it lead to recognition? Yes. But blogging gets to these things through a doorway made of pure enthusiasm, sustained effort, and occasional luck. Which are not things we can create with any rule.
At some point, the intrinsic reasons we blog have to win out over the extrinsic ones. Blogging is learning to love your own ideas enough that you’ll put in the effort to express them well. It’s the satisfaction of making the very best post you can make today, and the fun of watching your growth over time.
…And this is true even if you blog for business reasons – there has to be some spark of genuine excitement in there. If you look at the bloggers who seem most successful to you, I’m betting you’ll see a real, heartfelt quality to their blog posts. I’m betting you’ll see their enjoyment in the process of blogging.
Image by byronv2, via Flickr
I’d like to wrap up with this related idea: at the end of the day, blogging requires a set of skills that are not universal.
Somewhere along the line, the myth developed that “everyone should be blogging, and anyone can strike it rich through a blog.” Well, perhaps not. People who genuinely enjoy writing and photography and editorial planning should be blogging. People who want to learn these skills through active practice should also be blogging. But what if these things aren’t your idea of a good time?
If blogging feels like a chore to you, please know that it’s 100% okay if you don’t do it.