What we learned
This post continues from the reflection we posted last week. Read it here.
We all came to this collaborative project with different levels of blogging familiarity, experience, and expectations.
Marta: I had zero knowledge, so my learning curve has been enormous. My first lesson learned? Blogging is personal. I think I somehow envisioned that our blog would be just like the media I was most familiar with: magazines and newspapers. In my mind, I would cover local events and conduct interviews. I would be an impartial journalist. And there are blogs like this…really good ones. But, I quickly realized as I prepared my first selection of posts that my expertise lies in my own point of view. I may not be an art critic, but I can still write about an Ansel Adams photography exhibit at the local museum by focusing on what the works meant to me, personally. I do not have an advanced degree in literature, but I can talk about how a book made me view my own life in a new light.
Lesson two for me was that you have to give to get. There’s a whole world of bloggers out there, and it is fun to take part in it. When you take the time to read and comment on someone’s post, they often respond by doing the same for you. Getting feedback on your post is a great feeling.
And for lesson three? Blogs are niche. Over the past year, we have been committed to changing our theme each month. That has been fun; it kept us on our toes. I had a chance to reflect on such rich topics as age, beauty, belief, and disguise. But, the more I started reading other blogs, the more I saw that successful blogs are often focused and narrow. There are book blogs, food blogs, travel blogs, parenting blogs, regionally focused blogs, art blogs, etc. These bloggers can form a community. And us? Where do we fit in? What are we? Our vast array of topics may have negatively affected our readership. If you scroll through our list of most used Google search terms, you’ll find a disparate list of phrases like oracle bones, Anne Frank, and displacement. People who find their way to Connect Shore to read about a certain topic may never find that topic covered again. So, we are creating a new concept to reign in our vast array of thoughts and focus our content. Expect to read more on our future direction in later posts.
Beth: Unlike Marta, I came to the table with a lot of ideas about blogging — after all I’d been doing it for a long time. I started my first ever online blog when I was 17 (in 2002!), and maintain an on-again/off-again blog called All Growing Up. Not only that, I know a lot of people who blog and I have read plenty on the “how to” of blogging over at problogger.net. I thought I had it all together.
However, writing a group blog turned out to be a bit of a different thing than writing for my own blog. Sure, some of the things were the same. For example, I still planned out posts in advance and structured my writing in a “formula” I rely on to get my ideas across — balanced reflection with story telling.
Other things were totally different. When I comment on other blogs, I’m not just speaking for myself any more — I speak for other people too. When I feel like reinventing myself over at my personal blog, I don’t run it by a couple other people first, I just do it. Finally, as much as Marta was learning how to be more personal on our blog — I felt like I needed to not be too personal — just in case my views weren’t the same as my co-authors. In short, I felt a few of the constraints of being part of group.
On the other hand, being part of a group means not posting a week here or there is hardly noticed. Talking over ideas, themes, and seeing the connections in a group is much more fun than solitary stewing over possible posts, or trying to grab my husband’s attention at nine at night, when I do most of my writing.
Over the course of the next year of blogging, it will be pretty interesting to see where we end up and what kinds of things change with all our new found experiences.
Madelene: There was one main reason why I decided to join Marta and Beth in a group blog: I am a much better collaborator than instigator. For example, I started a poetry blog where I was posting my own poetry with gusto every day or so. Fast forward six months and my blog was reduced to a lackluster post every now and then. With my busy, discombobulated life, I just didn’t have the energy or focus to stick to blogging on my own. But I love writing and having a public venue to share ideas — and I absolutely love bouncing ideas off of others. And I really like Marta and Beth! I find that I work much better with other like-minded people to help encourage and motivate me.
My expectations were all over the place…I think I was definitely looking for a space to be creative and share stories and ideas. I also envisioned interviewing locals and acting sort of like a reporter/journalist at times. I also thought it would be cool to feature beautiful photography, unique recipes, and DIY crafts interspersed with witty commentary about being a hip, artsy mommy. Basically a blog about everything that looks like every other blog I have seen? I really had no clue, but a lot of energy.
After a year of blogging, I have indeed interviewed a few awesome local artists and business owners, posted some recipes, some crafts, and some beautiful photographs. I have shared stories and ideas and witty commentary…but I found my energy waning a bit. All of that was fun, but I think what I enjoyed most were those posts where I wasn’t trying too hard. Trying to recreate a blog that you like (dooce.com anyone?) isn’t sustainable. Let’s be honest, I am not, nor will I ever be one of those supermoms, who seem to be able to do it all: dress, feed, and parent their kids, cook everything from scratch, reupholster all their furniture, stencil their living room, and find the time to blog about it, complete with professional-style photographs. To be honest, I am insanely jealous of them. Are they real?? How do they do it???
I have so many interests and passions, it is easy to get carried away and want to write about EVERYTHING, which can be kind of overwhelming after a while….maybe that’s why my personal blogs have failed — I could easily burn my candle at both ends if left to my own devices. Collaborating on this group blog has been a really great way for me to reign in some of my writing, and edit myself. I hope the new direction we are taking will help make blogging even easier and more enjoyable for me.
So the lessons I have learned? Keep it real. Be kind to yourself. Don’t over complicate. And most importantly (for me at least) — work with others who will help keep you focused and excited about blogging.