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This is Why I Read Your Blog

I want you to understand why I read your blog.

By which I mean, the active, continuous reason why I read your blog.  Of course I came over in the first place because something piqued my interest.  You had a similar situation to mine.  Or you had a thought-provoking post that someone linked to.  Or you had an interesting blog name that made me click over for a moment.  There are plenty of reasons I could catalogue that make me give a blog a first look.

But what makes me keep reading a blog and add it to my blog reader?  Because there are lots of blogs that I visit once or twice.

There is really only one reason why I would keep reading a blog, and that is because I connected in some way with the writer and his/her voice.

I like the way the person writes — their choice of phrasing, similar to why I like certain book authors — or I feel like there is something in the voice or ideas presented that makes me think that if the person lived in my town, we’d be friends.  So I add their blog to my reader because I respect them as a writer, and as long as their writing style doesn’t stray too far from why I originally liked them, I’ll keep reading.  I expect their subject matter to change, after all, we are all in flux and have different aspects of our life come to the forefront at various times.  Some topics resonate with me more than others, but there is no one I read who writes solely about one thing and one thing only.  By which I mean, they may think they write about one thing, but really, they write about their life.  Or they write about cooking, but they throw in a lot of stories about their dog.  Or they have an adoption blog, but they also sometimes get a little political.

Yes, I will admit that I sometimes skim a post if the subject matter doesn’t hold my interest, but overall, my continued reading of a blog is directly tied to the voice.  The only constant I need is whatever drew me to your personality in the first place.

*******

There have been a lot of posts lately worrying about changes in the blogosphere and whether or not to keep writing and whether readers have floated away.  These are all legitimate thoughts, but they’re sort of touching-the-elephant musings.  We all have our personal observations, but they’re coloured by our own personal experiences, and that includes what we are doing or not doing.

The first thing I always ask when someone comments that the blogosphere has changed is “has your writing and reading habits changed?”  That usually points to the issue: they’ve become self-conscious in their subject matter and stopped writing, they’ve felt uninspired for topic ideas, they’ve run out of time to write, they’ve stopped commenting as much because they’re reading from a phone.  Actions have consequences: if you change the way you blog, you will see a change in the way people read.

And those actions are what you are feeling when you’re touching the elephant.  It’s easy to feel that trunk or tail or tusk and use it to describe the whole animal.  But elephants and the blogosphere are both huge.  You can’t really get a sense of them if you only look at your own experience or that of a few people around you.

If you stop writing, people will stop reading.  If they suspect that you’re not comfortable in your own space, they will not be comfortable in your space. (Have you ever been to a party where the hosts have obviously fought right before you arrived?  And they’re sitting around in frosty silence?  It affects the party; it has to.  And the same goes for writers who don’t feel comfortable with what or where or to whom they’re writing.)  If you stop commenting, new readers will stop finding you and your readership will drop.

Luckily, there are answers too: Write.  Build a space where you are comfortable.  Read other blogs and comment; regularly.

And also, along the way, recognize that even if your blog has changed with age, underneath it all, regardless of whatever feelings you have to the aging process, it’s still your story.  Just your life; in word form.  We’re all like that too: I may have more grey hair than when I started writing in this space, crinkles around my eyes and lines in my forehead.  I look older.  But I’m still me.  And this blog is still an extension of me, a receptacle for my thoughts.  So no, nothing really looks like how it looked back in 2006.  But that’s okay because the important things — the spirit of this blog and the readership at the core — hasn’t changed all that much.

And all of this is to say that I don’t think that blogging has changed as much as people fear.  Has it changed?  Of course.  Again, everything — including blogging — is in flux.  But anyone who fears that the end of blogging is nigh needs to ask themselves if they’ve done anything to change their blog or the way they interact with the blogosphere.  And as a test, go back — for an extended period of time since change always takes time — to reading and writing as you used to read and write, and see if blogging now resembles blogging of yesteryear.  I’m willing to bet that at its core, it does.

I’m writing this in case you need reassurance to find your voice again.  Your voice is why your loyal core readership reads you.  Are there people who come to blogs when a person is experiencing something difficult because they thrive off the drama?  Yes.  But those aren’t the people you want to cater to or worry about because they aren’t sustainable or retainable.  They will float away to the next blog and feed off the drama there like a mosquito drinks blood.  And just as you wouldn’t work to actively keep mosquitoes biting you, there is no reason to attempt to keep that sort of blog reader.

Do you know how every person has a base weight that your body strives to return to; a happy weight that is easy to maintain?  Your blog has a base readership.  The numbers may go higher or lower based on external factors such as people linking to a post or getting a lot of Google juice or taking a blogging break, but overall, there is a base readership your blog strives to maintain.  That is your core.  When you push too hard to try to get that readership to go up, the core pulls you back down.  If you go away for a long time, starving your blog, your core pipes up when you return to remind you that your blog has gotten too thin.

Every blog has a core, even if that core only consists of five people.  And they read you because you are… YOU.  Isn’t that a powerful thought?  That there are people out there who care what you have to say.

Think of all the people you meet in your life that you don’t retain as a friend.  All the hundreds of people around you that you don’t connect with.  The same goes for blogs.  There are hundreds of blogs out there written by Jewish women or vegetarian women or mothers of twins or those experiencing infertility: all topics which resonate with me.  But I don’t read them.  Because for whatever reason, I didn’t connect with the voice.

So if you ever believe that people only read you for your situation, think again to all the people around you who share your interests and yet aren’t your close friend.  We don’t connect solely over shared experience because there are way too many people out there who share our experiences.  We connect over shared experience coupled with something else, a je ne sais quoi, that tells us that we like this person; we like their voice.

I like your voice.

Keep writing.

33 comments

1 Christine { 03.19.14 at 8:39 am }

This is so nice. Thank you. 🙂

2 a { 03.19.14 at 8:48 am }

Yes, please keep writing. But I’d like to add that I know that writing is hard work, and I appreciate your efforts.

3 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 03.19.14 at 8:50 am }

🙂 I’ve been thinking about the blogosphere a lot lately, and I think I’ve come to similar conclusions– why aren’t people writing as much lately? Why are less people writing?

Um, well, Kate… YOU aren’t writing. And when you do, you’re writing far less (read: really not at all, except on FB).

So yeah. I think about it all the time, about picking up the story of my life, but I’ve just got so damn many reasons not to– discomfort in my space (who, exactly, is reading me? What will they do with the information I post there? I’ve been burned enough in the past to have this hovering over every word I write, which *has* to come out in my writing.), I don’t have time (I seem to be the last person on the planet who does not have their 3 yr olds in preschool– how do people afford this, especially times two??), and honestly, I’m out of practice. Writing is definitely a muscle you have to flex in order to use it with any finesse, and times when I have decided to fuck-it-all and just write, I haven’t been pleased with what comes out.

So for now, path of least resistance. Connect on FB. Comment as I can on others’ blogs, and know that eventually, when I have time again, the people I care most about will still be there, waiting to start the conversation again.

4 Esperanza { 03.19.14 at 9:31 am }

As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. And I don’t know that I believe that when we perceive changes in the blogosphere, we’re really perceiving changes in our own writing habits, or blog presence. My blog presence hasn’t changed much at all in the almost five years since I started writing, but I feel like the blogosphere has really changed in the last year or so. But maybe it’s just the group of people who read me that have changed. And maybe that is bound to happen when the group of people who follow you have kids and resolve their infertility or process the grief from their loss. Or maybe my own writing has changed and I don’t realize it… I don’t think it has, but maybe that is not something that the writer can recognize, at least not always.

I think it’s true that we all have core readers, but those core readers clearly change. You lose them and gain them. Maybe I’m just trying to figure out how I feel about the idea of making connections with women only to know that those women will eventually stop reading me some day, even if I keep writing. Because that seems to be what happens. People stop writing themselves, or they just stop reading me, either way, if my comments are an indication, my core readership has shifted at least two or three times over the course of my blog. A few women have stayed the whole time, but only very few. So I guess I have to realize that if connection and community are two of the major reasons why I blog, am I interested in continuing if I know that someday there might not be anyone left reading me, who is reading me right now? I haven’t answered that one yet.

5 Colleen { 03.19.14 at 10:21 am }

What a good perspective.

6 Mel { 03.19.14 at 10:25 am }

Will the exact same readers continue to read your blog? No. But you also don’t have the exact same skin cells or blood cells that you had five years ago, even though you’re still the same person. I would bet that when you first started blogging, you looked for new blogs to read. In turn, new readers found you. You may still be writing the same, but are all your other behaviours the same? I would be willing to bet that you aren’t reading in the same way even if you are still writing in the same way.

The question above can be taken out of blogging context. Is it worth making a friend when the friends you’ll have today may not be the friends you’ll have five years from now? Is it worth working on that friendship and making that connection? Only you can answer it. Though if it’s worth making a new friend and putting out that effort in the face-to-face world, it would follow (maybe) that it’s worth putting out that effort on your blog even though the readers may come and go.

7 Katie { 03.19.14 at 11:02 am }

Thank you. I needed this.

8 Kimberly { 03.19.14 at 12:13 pm }

Thank you, Mel. I needed to read this. I went almost two months without writing a word and now I’m just starting to make my way back.

9 Knottedfingers { 03.19.14 at 12:46 pm }

Thank you for this!! I needed it!! I stopped writing for a while because I’m dealing with new circumstances

10 Peg { 03.19.14 at 1:03 pm }

Lovely post. Thank you. I like reading you too. Lots.

11 Tiara { 03.19.14 at 1:04 pm }

Me too…I needed the reassurance to find my voice again. Thank you, Mel…for all you do.

12 Catwoman73 { 03.19.14 at 1:10 pm }

I’m sure you already know how much this post would resonate with me! Thank you so much. Seeing all the comments here- the fact that others are struggling with the same issues- makes me feel a whole lot better. 🙂

13 Jess { 03.19.14 at 1:49 pm }

Thanks Mel, as always. Personally I feel my blog was at its strongest a few years ago and I feel lately, I’m rediscovering my voice. And with it, new connections with the “core.”

14 Gypsy Mama { 03.19.14 at 1:53 pm }

This was a great post! I agree that the reason I add a blog to my reader is because I like the voice.

I lost a lot of readers when I became pregnant after 2 years of writing about adoption/infertility. Partly because I created a new space for my new journey, but I think in large part because of the huge change in my circumstances. It made me self-conscious, like maybe all the people reading and commenting over the past 2 years didn’t like my writing as much as they liked having someone who was in a similar situation to them. I never questioned whether to continue blogging though, because I write for myself and my family. If others connect, that’s great. If not, I still get the benefit, the release, from writing.

If you start writing what you think others want to read, instead of what you want to say, you writing suffers and you don’t feel the same sense of personal connection to your work. Your voice can’t shine through when it’s being filtered.

15 Justine { 03.19.14 at 3:43 pm }

This is why you’re my guru, even if I’m not always a very attentive student.

I’m struggling to find time and energy and something to say … I have been since summer, and even more so now. But I’m grateful that my core does always come back, in some form. And pokes me gently when I’m absent.

16 Mali { 03.19.14 at 5:17 pm }

I really really love this. I always think that blog readers are a little like work friends – we meet when we’re in the same place, and when they leave (or we leave) the workplace, we don’t always stay in contact, but we were pleased they were there when we were, that we had that time together. And if we’re lucky, some of them will become real friends, and stay with us for much longer.

17 Karen (formerly Serenity) { 03.19.14 at 7:53 pm }

I know this wasn’t meant for me; but thank you.

Xoxo

18 Queenie { 03.19.14 at 10:50 pm }

I love Justine’s comment. You really are a guru. 🙂

19 Brid { 03.20.14 at 1:53 am }

I check my blog periodically to see if I’ve posted. I’m always disappointed.

20 KeAnne { 03.20.14 at 8:41 am }

Thank you. It is so hard to get the words out of my brain on onto the screen lately.

21 Amel { 03.20.14 at 9:40 am }

BRILLIANT post, Mel! I think blog readership is also similar to friendship in real life in a way. Some become my readers for a reason, some stay only for a season, but there are some rare individuals that become friends for life, even if we may never meet in real life. Maybe that’s also because the friendship grows more than just a blogging readership/interaction – we get to know more through FB and emails and other means of communication and maybe in some cases we also met/meet in real life and that adds another layer to the whole blogging friendship/readership aspect.

22 Suzanna { 03.20.14 at 10:08 am }

Their voice…. That is so it! I’ve tried explaining to my husband that some people… you just like how they write. I’ve occasionally done that with books at the library, flip to a random page just to see what the writers voice is like for whether or not I might want to read it. I prefer to follow blogs of people that are going through the same situation as me, but if I’ve made a connection with the writers voice then I’ll continue to follow because I feel like they are my friends.

Thank you for your words on a blog “core” readership, it’s very encouraging. And I’ll try to remember to just be myself instead of trying to impress people with my words, so my voice stays MY voice. 🙂

23 Stacey { 03.20.14 at 10:10 am }

So glad you wrote this post! I can relate to so much of it. It’s so true that the face of a blog will change over time, as will the readership. But you’ve encouraged me to keep writing, and to keep reading AND commenting. I may not have as much time to do all of that as I used to, but I can still take an active role if it’s important to me. And it is, so thanks.

24 Jamie { 03.20.14 at 10:33 am }

Thanks for the post. I had a post contemplating if I am done writing, but it is more about wondering if the story has been told and it is like the end of a book. But, then I think that maybe it is more like an end of a chapter and there is more to write. As you pointed out for many blogs, my blog is more about life. So, I think my blog is more in a transition state and shifting. I will just have to keep writing and see where it goes. I think that is one reason why I tried to name my blog with something that is more wholly me and to not just focus on IF. Mel, I also keep in mind your words to write for yourself and not for an audience. The audience will find me if it speaks to them and I will gladly accept their company. I write because I need to write. Thank you.

25 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 03.20.14 at 12:38 pm }

I think a post like this every so often would do wonders 🙂

26 Rachel { 03.20.14 at 6:25 pm }

I have to say my reading AND writing practices have changed. Every. Single. Solitary. Blogger that I started blogging with has had a child, and most are on their 2nd. I only read blogs occasionally, when I’m feeling up to it, to be honest. And I no longer write because starting on your 5th full year of infertility when you can’t afford treatent isn’t very interesting. I can only write about my dueling preggo sisters so much! That being said, I value the solace I’ve found in this ALI community so much, and love that I was able to find my voice for a time. I truly appreciate all that you do, Mel, on a daily basis.

27 It Is What It Is { 03.20.14 at 9:35 pm }

I read and I comment mostly out of kinship. Some blogs (yours included), I’ve read for 8+ years. 8 years is a long relationship. Our lives are different (yours and mine) but, as you said, your writing, your insight, your perspective, your life is interesting to me, so I keep on. Sure, do you go off on, ahem, tangents, (cough: candy crush), yes, but that’s still part of who you are and chiding you about it is what I do.

I feel similarly about the blogs that I follow regularly (as in put in my reader and always at least skim what’s been written). And, yes, there were bloggers who stopped writing altogether and it felt like a real loss, a story without an ending (even if they, themselves felt like they’d come to a stopping point, I would have continued reading whatever they’d written). I comment way more than others comment on my blog, and I’ve never fully understood why (sometimes I wonder if its the subject matter so much as my perspective that some may find off putting or do readers think I won’t value what they have to say or do they feel too vulnerable to step out from lurking). I don’t know, but I’m still at it, reading, writing, and commenting. I still have a lot to figure out and my blog is the space where I feel safe to do that.

I hope that everyone who is struggling with whether to continue writing, finds solace in this post and motivation to continue on.

28 Katherine A { 03.20.14 at 9:43 pm }

This is wonderful. So encouraging, and I like your comparison of blog readership to in-person relationships – that some people are there for a season, others longer.

Thank you for your voice and all that you do.

29 Battynurse { 03.21.14 at 1:12 am }

This is a great post! Thank you! I know I’ve had a hard time feeling comfortable in my space for a while now. There have been a lot of reasons but I do miss that connection I had before.

30 Amber { 03.21.14 at 11:15 pm }

Great post Mel. So true, how our own personal blogging can affect our perception of the blogging world. I love reading blogs and leaving comments, but I have fallen wayyyyyyy behind in my blogging since our babies were born. I love the relationships that have been built through blogging, but I know exactly what you mean about friendships changing through the years and how blogging is much the same way.

31 Northern Star { 03.22.14 at 12:12 am }

I’m such a firm believer in “how we blog” being a direct result in how/when others read our blogs. I know the more I post and the more I comment (in other words, the more active I am), the more interactive people are on my own blog. It’s like any relationship I have that I want to nurture – if I want my relationships to flourish, I need to dedicate the time and space to those relationships. The more I dedicate to blogging, the more I get out of it, for sure.

I think the way we read blogs has changed significantly since I first started blogging … I am super guilty of reading blogs on my iphone now, and I’m not able to comment (consistently and easily anyway). I’m still there, I’m still reading, I’m just less active I guess. There is definitely a correlation between my blogging style habits and the feedback I get on my own blog.

We need to give if we want to receive, for sure! Great post.

32 Becky { 03.22.14 at 11:02 pm }

What a fantastic article! I saw so many people commenting about it and had to check it out for myself. I was thinking about this a couple weeks ago when I wrote my first post about our miscarriage. I wrote the simple account of what happened and how the Lord helped me. People flocked to my blog and then… after the news was out, the numbers went down. I was disturbed, and thought, “these people are looking and waiting for shocking headlines,” something I wasn’t willing to cater to. I just want a space where I can write what I live and learn about life, and how the Lord is helping me be what He desires for me to be! And maybe have something to show my daughter some day (when I have one that is!) I also began to be concerned when my recent experience with miscarriage started leaking into so many of my posts. I thought… this isn’t really what I was aiming to do with my blog, but… that’s just what’s on my mind right now. It comes out. Thank you for writing this! It just reaffirms that there is no need to keep second guessing ourselves in our writing.

33 Mommy-At-Last { 03.27.14 at 4:28 am }

Thank you for this. My last blog post was months ago and I have been mulling over all this in my head. I still haven’t made a decision, but this post helps to put it all in perspective.

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