Gettin’ Nothin’ But Stat-Sick

The past couple of weeks I have, once again, been thinking about dropping my blog entirely. Last night I even fantasized about deleting the whole thing, closing my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and just hermiting myself away, using the internet only to help my daughter find out how many young a pine marten has per gestation, uploading photos of my kids for their grandparents, and to look up the weather for my husband (even though he already knows the weather because he checks it himself every 23 minutes, an idiosyncrasy he apparently shares with every other bike commuter in the United States (all 12 of them)).

I do not have a wildly popular blog.

Most of my daily page views are from people doing internet searches about Victoria’s Secret models or nude moms or roast fresh ham. The other twenty are, I’m certain, from friends. And from my mother-in-law. (Hi, Millie!)

Don’t get me wrong, I love that my friends are reading my blog. I just kind of wish I was reaching more than just the people who already know me in real life. Or that I had about six hundred friends looking at my blog each day.

When my post about bok choy was on Freshly Pressed this past spring, I first felt pride because by my skill, intelligence and hard work, I had Made It! Then I felt confusion because I had apparently “Made It” by writing about what I had for dinner, not for all of the dozens of posts in which I waxed poetic about friendship and exploration and mindfulness and motherhood.

And then I felt anxiety because I had no clue how to keep all of those readers. I didn’t want to go back to blogging obscurity, not after getting a taste of the limelight. I heard Neil Young in my head telling me, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” and I thought that the best course of action was to quit right then while I was ahead.

It’s interesting to me that both “high” blog stats and “low” blog stats cause me to consider giving up blogging.

But I didn’t quit, I just watched my page views drop off and then gradually diminish to near pre-Freshly Pressed levels over the next several months.

I think, “Well, if so few people are reading my blog, why bother having it?”

It’s possible that it would be better to give up the blog. It would leave me with quite a bit more free time and it would take away the anxiety that I feel that I might be putting things on the internet that will embarrass me and my children and grandchildren and make it impossible for me to get a job when my kids move out in twenty years.

But maybe it would be even better to hang the pretense and just blog for my friends and family. I would have the same blog and post about the same things (you’d all still have to put up with my book reviews), but I would write as though the only people who read my posts are those who already care about me and want to see me succeed and aren’t waiting to jump on me and leave nasty comments every time there’s a typo or I misspell idiosyncrasy.

Which is pretty much how it is now.

I just need to look at my page views and say, “Wow! Two dozen today! Look at how many of my friends care about me enough to read my ramblings today!”

And since I don’t want to leave my friends hanging, the average number of young a pine marten has per 7-month gestation is 1-5.

I Am, therefore I Blog

I had a thought about blogging while I was riding my bike home from the library today.

The thoughts I had on the way to the library had little to nothing to do with blogging. My thoughts while I was biking up an endless hill towing 80 pounds of child and 20 pounds of books in the bike trailer were more along the lines of, “Oh, my God. How much farther to the top of this hill? Wait, am I in the lowest gear? Maybe I can put it down one more—crap! Okay, think about the way back. On the way back I get to ride down the hill. If I ever get up this hill in the first place. Which I might not. I could die on the way up. I could hyperventilate and die. Can you die from hyperventilating? Okay, the melodrama isn’t helping. But people do die. And one day I will. Maybe today. To hell with this. I’m walking.”

The way home, however, was downhill, which was much more conducive to thoughts focused beyond mere survival. So, among other things, I thought about blogging. And why I do it.

The other day when I was blogging about why I blog, I reduced it to self-aggrandizement. And there’s likely something to that. But I was thinking about those years and years of notebooks I’ve written, all of the short stories and novel starts and essays that never saw the light of day (nor should many of them, not to mention the poems, which are largely just awful). I clearly didn’t write those out of a desire for feedback in the form of comments and blog stats. I wrote those because I had to.

Writing is how I mark both celebrations and tragedies. Writing is how I think things through and how I make sense of my life. It brings me comfort as I identify themes and order in the avalanche of experiences I’ve had in my nearly 35 years.

Natalie Goldberg writes about how writers experience things more than once because, as they’re recalling the details to write them down, they live the moment again. Even while they’re experiencing something, part of the joy is the anticipation of re-experiencing it later when they’re alone with their notebook or laptop. For some people, life events aren’t real until they’ve shared them with a best friend. For me, the events aren’t real until I’ve written about them, sometimes dozens of times.

Blogging gives me both of these things. I get to re-live and re-frame events while at the same time sharing them with other people, making them even more real. It gives me the chance to see my experiences mirrored back to me by others which brings a different dimension of meaning to my understanding of myself and my life.

I realize that when I feel like I need to pull back from blogging, it’s when I’ve let blogging become the only time I write. When I don’t write elsewhere, I bring all of the frantic, unfiltered thoughts that I usually get out long-hand in one of my forbidden notebooks to the screen where it’s only a mouse click away from being available to English speakers around the world. Rather than being cathartic and meditative, this type of writing brings me anxiety and self-doubt. It has me refreshing my blog stats dozens of times a day, ignoring my children, my housework, my writing, my personal hygiene to get that hit of approval.

Last November when I was doing NaNoWriMo, I was writing on my novel every day and blogging and journaling, not because I felt a responsibility to do so—in fact, I’d given myself permission to work only on my novel and not write anything else. I found that as I worked on my novel, it was easy to blog and journal. Writing begat writing, and I went with it gleefully.

So that was the realization I had while pedaling faster and faster downhill on the way home from the library, the wind roaring so loudly in my ears I couldn’t even hear if there was traffic behind me. As I turned my head and heard my children giggling as we sped back down the endless hill, it hit me that the reason I blog is the same reason I write anything: to open up my experience of the world and put it somewhere outside of myself, a gift back to the world. Blogging in itself isn’t the problem; it’s not writing enough that makes the blogging seem overly important, either in a positive or a negative way.

After more than a year of blogging, I may have finally figured out why it is I do it and maybe even how to make it fit better with my life.

Perhaps I should try to kill myself by towing my kids uphill more often. Who knows what other insights might come along?

How Not to be a Famous Author

A sampling of my forbidden notebooks.

I checked out Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones from the library nearly six weeks ago. It’s due next week and I can’t renew it again, so I’m trying to scarf it down now. I might end up buying it, but I think I used to own it and gave it away when I did a big book purge a few years ago, so I’m going to need to reconcile myself to spending the same money twice before I can purchase it. Also, I tend to ignore the books I own because they don’t have due dates and so the library books always seem more pressing. I can always read the books I own, therefore I never do.

Writing Down the Bones was one of the books I was supposed to read in college. I probably did, sort of. But like with many of the books from my writing classes, I don’t think I was ready for the message when I was 19 years old. That probably comes as no surprise to my writing profs. I think I got too much praise for my writing when I was younger and thought I ought to be able to do it without effort, so I wrote without effort and then stagnated after I left college and no longer received praise for my writing (or no longer trusted the opinions of the people around me who praised my writing: non-writer friends, my husband, my mom). Now, that I want to write and write well and realize that’s not something that just happens, I’ve developed the humility necessary to seek out the voices of experience to help carry me as I prepare to suffer for my art. So to speak.

Goldberg, like Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, talks about just writing and letting it be bad. You’ve got to sit down and write and let the bad stuff out so that you can get to the gems. Goldberg, Lamott, and my beloved writing prof, Susan, all stress how important it is to just make writing a routine. Show up at the desk and get the pen moving or the fingers typing. Don’t think too much, don’t control the writing, just write.

Since starting this blog, I’ve been writing a lot more regularly. I try to post every day and usually I meet this goal. Last November I even completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge, so I know that I can, if necessary, maintain a writing schedule. But aside from NaNoWriMo, I’ve not been doing much more writing than what I post on my blog.

I worry my blog writing isn’t crappy enough.

It’s quite possible it’s crappy, even very crappy. But I’m not letting it be crappy. I’m trying to make it witty and interesting and cool enough to be featured on Freshly Pressed again (last time I did it by accident, and I’m trying hard to make that accident happen again). If I really do have to write a certain amount of crap before I can write the good stuff, does filtering the crap before it posts to the blog count as that crappy writing?

And why am I blogging anyway?

Well, I think the biggest reason is self-importance. I value my opinions, and I think other people ought to, too. I want to believe that I’ve got something really important to say and that if I don’t say it, it may be lost to the world forever. And what a pity that would be.

Then there’s the interaction with others online, which, frankly, I only want to do if the people who are commenting agree with me on my first reason for blogging. And it helps if they’re specific about just what it is they love about what I wrote. But of course, I still have the tendency to disbelieve anything positive people say about my writing, so the good feelings are short-lived. I need to write another post—another even wittier, even more insightful, even more awesome post so I can bask in your adulation until the stroke of midnight when my blog stats reset and I start from scratch again.

Last but not least is my “it fulfills my goal of daily writing” reason for blogging, and I’ve already addressed that one.

But it seems like there must be more than that, because every time I think about quitting the blog—and even announce that I’m going to step back—I keep writing posts. I just can’t stop blogging. Like Homer Simpson, “I want it all: the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles.” Also like Homer Simpson, I sometimes fear I might offend with my “cocky stride and musky odors” (especially the musky odors—a high-greens diet in a humid climate is a pungent combination in the chemistry of my particular body. Lucky for you all, it’s only my words and surly attitude that are transmitted via the blog).

I guess I’m still going to blog, even if it means I need to make more time in my day to write down the crap. Or I suppose I could just intentionally post the crap here. Yes, that’s all I need. I even hesitate to keep journals because I worry that one day I’ll be a famous author and someone will want to publish my journals. *shudder*

That’s it, then. I’ll spend the next 30 years blogging daily and pseudonymously, working diligently to never be a famous author so no one will ever know what’s written in my journals.

So far, so good.

Ten Important Things I’ve Learned About Blogging | Confessions of a Pioneer Woman

Of course, just after I decide to take a blogging break, here are ten reasons to keep at it: Ten Important Things I’ve Learned About Blogging | Confessions of a Pioneer Woman | Ree Drummond. Well, four reasons to keep at it, and six other suggestions for how to blog happy that aren’t directly related to keeping at it.

This one particularly got me:

9. If you have writer’s block, push through and blog anyway.

I posted the first chapter of Black Heels on a morning when I woke up with the most raging case of writer’s block, I couldn’t even type my name.

I was sure you’d hate it, but I posted it anyway.

I went on to write forty-plus more chapters.

What if I’d given in to my writer’s block and decided not to blog that day?

I would never have written my Green Acres-meets-War and Peace romance novel.

And my bottom would likely be a little less jiggly.

But I think a blogging sabbatical still might be a decent idea to try to reignite the blogging spark for me. As you can tell, just telling myself I’m not going to blog gets me looking for things to blog about.

I wonder if it’s odd that I use reverse psychology on myself?