No, this is not Kristen having a breakdown. She’s on a boat having fun. This is Cait, talking about why I hate blogging as much as I hate downward-facing dog in yoga.
So, if I hate blogging, why do I do it? What’s more, why do I do it to Kristen’s exacting standards? Well, partly because I’m afraid of her. But, mostly, I blog because she is right about blogging in so many ways. It’s really not fair that she’s always right about this sort of stuff.
Yet, for something that seems so instinctive and intrinsically simple (“Writers write, ergo blogging”), why do we have so much trouble with it? Why does it spike my anxiety, trigger my perfectionist paranoia, and send me in the direction of scrubbing the toilet as a preferable way to spend my time?
I have spent a lot of time pondering this (probably time I should have spent drafting blogs). In fact, I have spent most of this week struggling with this post.
The first thing I had to do is come up with was a solid list of why I hate blogging (again, time that could have been spent writing). After thoroughly psyching myself out, I went back through all Kristen’s reasons that blogging makes sense (reinforcing the soul-eating guilt I feel at having wasted all that time not writing a post).
Finally, I remembered the corollary to Kristen’s blogging rule…but I’m gonna be mean and force you to read to the end to find out what that is. <insert moderately evil laugh here>
Blogging vs. just about anything else
I could do a whole post about all the reasons I hate blogging, but Kristen would probably jump off that cruise ship, swim all the way back up the Atlantic coast, dodge customs in Boston, and break down my door just to slap me upside the head about positivity. Because she loves me.
But, the truth is, I am more at home using negativity as a motivator and dwelling in the blessed realms of snark, cynicism, and dark things. That’s just the Slytherin in me, I guess. The challenge is finding a way to use my negativity about blogging to motivate myself in a positive way. And, I’m going to stop right there, because I’m starting to sound all self-helpy, and I can’t stand 99% of that ish.
So, let’s just dive into the top three reasons I hate blogging, shall we?
Supersizing the topic
I come from an academic background. In a parallel dimension, I am a professor of history, still using the Red Pen of Wrath…just on my students instead. Academic writing habits are hard to break when it comes to blogging, even though some do come in handy.
One of the cardinal sins of academic writing is tackling a topic that is too broad or too narrow for the projected length of the paper.
I mean, sure, we can describe the decline and fall of the Roman empire in a three page, double-spaced, 12pt font paper (I’m old school page-count and print-out, before word-counts and emailed/uploaded papers became the norm). But, those three pages are going to be uselessly generic, not contributing anything to increasing our understanding of Roman history or helping develop our ability to think and analyze critically.
On the other hand, focus on TOO granular a subject, and well…it ends up being more of an anecdote or footnote. Probably interesting, but again, unlikely to contribute anything to the greater understanding or improve our critical thinking skills.
Blogging is like that for me.
I want what I write to be informative, useful, and accessible. But, writing a blog on “How to write historical fiction” isn’t going to help anyone. Writing a blog on “Understanding currency, income, and prices in historical fiction” (shout if you want me to write something like that) is probably a lot more useful AND interesting AND better written.
I constantly feel like Goldilocks, trying to find the right-sized topic that will live up to my probably-obsessively-over-fastidious standards.
Yoast is killing our brain cells
You know that little thing called SEO? Yeah, worst thing that has ever happened to the written word. And, I’m saying that even in comparison to text-speak and adding words like ‘ginormous’ to the dictionary. If SEO is pure evil, then Yoast is its right hand.
Yoast is a website plugin that scores your posts and pages on readability and SEO strength. It’s unfortunate, but if we want our blog posts to have a chance at traction, we have to follow the rules it sets out. What are those rules?
First, we have to set a keyword. Fine. Like a gateway drug, that’s not so bad. But then, Yoast tells us how often we should be using that word (*side-eye at density score*), and where that word should come in titles and first paragraphs. If it stopped that, I’d grit my teeth and accept that algorithms are gonna do what algorithms are gonna do.
But then, Yoast starts picking at other things, like breaking up the text every 300 words with a sub-heading. Like making sure we don’t repeat the way we start a sentence. Like making sure less than 25% of our sentences have more than 20 words (and I know I purposely triggered the repetitive-sentence-start thing, but Yoast doesn’t really understand context or dramatic intent *flounces off*). Paragraphs can’t be too long, either – oops, gotta cut this one short!
Yoast is dumbing down blogging. By trying to make blogs easier to read, Yoast is encouraging a growing laziness in blog readers. What happens to a society when we can no longer focus past three sentences at a time in order to process a complex thought or multiple pieces of evidence to support an argument? I’ll tell you what happens: we get bad movie sequels, clickbait, and double-very-bad politics.
Paging Mr. Orwell, your 1984 is ready.
I resent being forced to ‘dumb down’ my writing just so a brainless algorithm has an easier time of it. I write for people, not Google. Oh, wait. I use Yoast, so I guess I’m writing for Google. But, consider this another major reason why I hate blogging.
This actually isn’t quite as related to what Kristen was talking about in this post. I’m talking about my inner intellectual demon that MUST BE RIGHT AT ALL TIMES. If a blog post is a form of educational argument, then dammit, I’m gonna WIN!
I’m not kidding. I approach each topic – especially anything that involves factual research – with a goal of creating an UNASSAILABLE argument. I want my post to be the Fort Knox of logic. My brain goes into hyper-passive-aggressive-nerd mode, playing Kasparov-esque chess with each point I write.
I don’t mind admitting when I don’t know something. But, I feel soul-crushing humiliation when someone points out a stupid mistake or an obvious (or not-so-obvious) flaw in my argument. Maybe…just maybe I’m over-reacting, and I should get some therapy about it. Or, maybe, that drive to be as certain and correct in opinion and facts is what helps make my writing and teaching reliable and useful.
Still, the fact that I’ve got some subconscious id and ego stuff going on with perfectionism makes blogging an emotionally and intellectually draining task.
Le sigh…why Kristen is right about blogging
There are a lot of reasons Kristen is right about blogging being the best, most effective way for writers to market themselves. She is also right about Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, but we’re just going to focus on blogging for the moment.
It all comes down to the three C’s: classic, cost-effective, and control. This is a trifecta that is pretty much the holy grail goal of all marketing. When I used to work in advertising, we wanted our ads to be memorable over the long-term, hit the target audience without breaking the bank, and look/feel/sound exactly as planned.
While the landscape might have changed from analog to digital, the principles and goals remain the same. Classic. Cost-effective. Control.
Classic: why blogging is the Talbots of author marketing
Warning: extended metaphor ahead. May cause eye strain from over-rolling of eyes.
Think of getting ready for a job interview. We have our resume, portfolio, references, and talking points at hand. The job description is a great match for our skills, and we know we’ll kick butt at it. We just have to wow them at the interview, so we inhale all the caffeine we can handle without inducing tachycardia, pop a couple of breath mints, and put on our interview suit.
The classic interview suit.
Maybe we stay simple and true with traditional accessories (pearls for ladies, cufflinks for gents). Or, maybe we add a dash of flair with a daringly patterned shirt or chunky piece of jewelry we picked up at a vintage sale. It’s a small piece of individualism, a little personal pleasure, and it only adds to the solid impression a classic suit makes.
A blog is like the classic interview suit. It never goes out of style. It is the best and strongest way we have of presenting our brand to readers. It’s the one wardrobe piece we never throw out because its quality was designed to endure. We can easily update and refresh the look with accessories, apps, widgets, and chunky vintage jewelry (um, yeah, getting all the metaphor stuff mixed up, I know).
Besides, if we want to be remembered as a writer, then the best and most enduring pitch we can make is…well… our writing.
Social media outlets like Snapchat, Instagram, What’s App, etc. are all well and good, but they are the Forever 21 funky accessory of marketing. They are fun, get attention, but may also tarnish and/or break fairly quickly. Can you say Vine? (So 2015!)
Just think about it…is anyone really ever going to go back through all our Snapchats, Tweets, or Instagram posts two years from now? But, as an admin on this site, I can tell you that there are blogs that Kristen has written that are four and five years old that are still top trackers and getting comments on a daily basis.
Now, that’s some classic-interview-suit power.
Cost-effective: how blogging can keep us from sin
Marketing is expensive. It costs us time and money – resources most of us are chronically short on. Marketing is also seductive. Nothing is as exciting as seeing swag with our name on it, or an ad for our book pop up on Facebook, or getting that shiny new book trailer. So, we try to find that balance between price and quality. Fun times.
And yes, if we set up our own domain and do stuff right with backup, security, and all that jazz, it will cost us a couple hundred dollars to get started. Depending on what plans we choose, there is also the yearly renewal fees. Still, that yearly cost pretty much comes down to the equivalent of three or four impulse purchases at Target. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to continue the clothing metaphor.)
The keys to leveraging a website (assuming we have decent content people want) are consistency and distribution. Consistency is a free feature that comes with wrangling our brains into some semblance of discipline. Distribution? Well, that’s what Jetpack is for. Again, it’s free.
Even with graphics, there is a lot we can do with free ‘photo editor’ apps. Personally, I pay $10 a month for a subscription to a professional-level app, but that’s because I do a LOT more than just blog graphics. And, I only started that subscription last year. Before that, I made do with free for about four years.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some COSTLY mistakes. Like cringe-inducing-dear-God-if-You-loved-me-You-would-have-stopped-me-because-that-was-a-really-expensive-lesson mistakes. The only marketing tool I keep coming back to in the end is…you guessed it: my website (and occasionally Kristen’s because she forgets to lock the door).
Control: blogging vs. paranoia
Wanna hear a scary story? A romance author on Facebook builds an author page that gets 15,000 followers. She posts a picture for fun. The next time she logs into Facebook, her page is gone. DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUN!
No, it wasn’t me. But, it has been many authors I’ve known. It’s a ‘cross-cultural’ phenomenon – there are versions in Instagramland, YouTubia, and Twitterburg.
Don’t laugh. It was actually a great site for finding pet info. The fact that it was MySpace for pets is a whole other level of psychosis. Still, I met other Basenji owners through their forums, and they have become some of my closest, dearest friends. Thank goodness we had all exchanged contact info and signed up for Facebook before Dogster announced they were shutting down.
Think of MySpace…and Tila Tequila. Her original claim to fame was getting to a million followers on MySpace without much else (i.e. talent, content, etc.) to back it up. So…how’s that workin’ for ya, Tila?
A website of our own never goes away. Our blog content is subject to our rules. Our website is our castle, and we can defend against trolls and hackers with laser precision. Oh, and we can also build community through interacting with commenters, adding chat and forums, etc.
Remember, the flip-side of paranoia is control-freak! 🙂
Wait…that didn’t come out right…
The thing we usually forget Kristen said about blogging
Here’s the promised payoff from my little intro tease. Yes, we need to blog…but we also have to find a way to ENJOY it.
Somehow, I tend to forget that.
I haven’t entirely solved my blogging problems, and that’s probably partly because I’m still figuring out how to TRULY enjoy it. There are moments when I giggle to myself as I write something that is (at least I think) funny. Picking out the memes to go in a blog…I love telling people that it is legit part of my job. I bask in the glow of the final product and clicking ‘Publish.’
But…there’s still the anxiety, the dread, the worry I’m not providing good enough content or that I’ve gotten something wrong. It doesn’t take much to spiral me into a perfect orgy of procrastination…er…research.
However, I am experimenting, trying to figure out what I can do to both get better ABOUT blogging regularly and ENJOY blogging regularly. I’ve found I really enjoy making videos, and I’m about to dip my toe into podcasting (which I think is really spoken-word blogging). While the file sizes mean I wont’ be ‘hosting’ the videos and podcasts on my website, I will be centralizing all the information about them there.
I also have been sharing my love of creating reading ‘syllabi.’ But, being a snotty little French historian, I have to call them something pretentious like a ‘Catalogue Raisonné.’ It turns out I have a lot of fun going through my personal library to pick and choose what I put into the list. It also became something I could turn into another page for my website.
(And by the way, while I do think you’d enjoy those pages, putting external links into a blog post is another Yoast requirement. *shakes tiny fist*)
All in all, I’m still on the journey, but I’m determined to get there. If you happen to be on the same road, maybe we can travel together?
Let me hear it!
Why do you love/hate blogging? What are your tips for becoming a happy, successful blogger? Share the love…or hate, LOL.
URBAN FANTASY: SALT CIRCLE NOT INCLUDED
Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, October 19, 2018. 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. EST
Be honest. How many voodoo dolls have you mutilated in your quest to become the next Laurell K. Hamilton or Sherrilyn Kenyon?
- 0-9: You’re probably too virtuous to ever get published.
- 10-19: Equivalent of the New Year’s resolution of voodoo…fizzles in week 2.
- 20-29: You’ve won NaNoWriMo once or twice and wear lucky writing socks.
- 30+: Now, we’re talking.
In all seriousness, urban fantasy has emerged as one of the strongest and most competitive categories in publishing, building on the momentum of legends like Anne Rice and expanding to embrace all kinds of sub-genres such as YA, satire, and romance.
But for all its badass convention-breaking, urban fantasy also a genre boobytrapped with the worst pitfalls of all the genres it borrows from.
If we’re not overdoing the Mickey Spillane-esque hard-boiled grit, we’re confusing which supernatural creature has which power. Or, we’re creating characters that are so wrapped up in their love lives with <insert hot supernatural guys here>, they almost miss the climactic battle between good and evil happening a couple blocks over.
Fear not! Strap on your vampire-hunting gear, grab your wolfsbane gris-gris, and don’t forget to bring your sarcastic sidekick to this class where I will help you navigate the mean streets and treacherous back alleys of urban fantasy!
A recording of this class is also included with purchase.
SEE YOU TONIGHT!!!
I don’t know that I love blogging, but it’s just become ‘a thing I do.’ And I have a no-missed-week’s record that I’d hate to end, so that’s my motivation on the weeks I really don’t have much to say.
Fortunately for me? I’m pretty chatty, so I can usually find something writing related that I can ramble on about for 500 words or more.
I’m a year into the podcasting(?)/video-blogging thing and I have a small audience there, but I probably don’t promote it like I should. Or network. But hey, I don’t put a lot of post-production into it. It’s literally my weekly blog-post in video format, so half of reading/presenting it aloud is me editing my blogpost.
For an unpublished author, with no marketing, I’m pretty pleased I got to celebrate my 500th blog-follower last week.
That’s fantastic! Congratulations, Morgan, and right on with the strategy. You’re on the right track!
Great post! My hesitancy about blogging stems from being afraid I have nothing interesting to say. So then I stop blogging, my audience numbers fall, and I have to build them back up. It’s a vicious cycle. And the bad thing is that one person said on THEIR blog how much they loved reading my blog because he never knew what I was going to blog about. So why do I stop?
Btw, I would love to hear about “Understanding currency, income, and prices in historical fiction”. 🙂
Lauralynn, I totally have the same fear. It’s not so much about my ego, it’s that I’m afraid of wasting people’s time. I know how angry I get when I get suckered into a click-bait-ish blog that ends up being useless. I struggle to find the right topic to write about so that I can spare others from having to feel the rage LOL.
And, I’m seriously thinking about that post. It’s a nerd-alert-pet-topic of mine 😀
For a long time, I resisted starting a blog but I’m enjoying blogging more than I thought I would. Possibly because the pressure isnt great – not a lot of people read my blog other than my writing group (for whom I edit, hence the advice on commas and dialogue. We’ve just self-published an anthology). Therefore, it isn’t as frightening as I expected (it will be when I get something wrong – or annoy someone… so I try not to. Especially when commenting on other people’s posts).
But I agree about resenting the time it eats when I ought to be doing something else. I planned to blog fortnightly, but have found myself adding snippets in between and have joined a couple of website groups that publish members mini-contributions (you have to join in, don’t you? Or what’s the point?)
Lucky you! Getting to lecture people about grammar and enjoying it! LOL. There’s probably a reason I don’t teach English in a jr. high or high school (it’s most likely my tendency to slap people LOL).
Love this entertaining post. Thanks for verbalizing this conundrum. Honestly hate to blog about a topic unless I’ve studied it to bits (lawyer training) and then I’d never write. So I’ve stopped blogging. AlI want to do is write my stories. But that means very few ppl know they exist.
You and Kristen are two of the few bloggers I read with any regularity.
Isn’t feeling obligated to be fully and factually correct just the worst? LOL. I truly appreciate the compliment of your time in reading our blogs. That gives me some inspiration to keep going!
And like I said, maybe blogging isn’t the right thing to do on your website. Maybe it’s videos, or graphics…or cat pics. Yeah. Cat pics FTW!
Great blog post, Cait. Love the memes! I was on a roll after taking Kristen’s blogging class. I was having a ball with it for about 8 months, then went on vacation, came back and fell into a funk for various reasons, and I guess I just broke. Am slowly getting back to blogging because I know Kristen is right.
Yoast is helpful, but also annoying.
Good luck with your podcast. I bet it takes off and gains a huge audience.
I’m into making videos, too, and they sure come in handy to use for blog posts! I hope Kristen is having the time of her life.
Don’t you just hate it when Kristen is right? LOL. Can’t wait to see you in December!
Yoast. Yoast. Why do you torment me so? I know I’ve used that keyword before. Yes, it’s not the first word in the title because it wouldn’t make sense.
I’ll cheat against you to get my words down, don’t think I won’t.
I’ll blog three times a week. Satisfied?
OMG, I think we need to start anti-Yoast haiku writing!
I blog three times a week, but still have low reader numbers. I generally attribute it to my tendency to write about whatever takes my interest (regardless of cohesion), but maybe it’s because I’ve never bowed my neck under the yoke of Yoast.
I can’t say you’ve sold me on the idea, though. I’m not trying to take over the world, really, I’m just having fun. If my words lighten the day of only a handful of people, I can live with that.
Do that. Keep doing that. Yoasting is a totally personal choice, and not one I make willingly, LOL! But you’ve nailed the enjoying part of blogging, so my hat is off to you!
Such an understanding of the tides of blogging. Tides? I mean mud-flats, where footprints are sticky and don’t seem to take hold, and eventually one finds oneself completely b(l)ogged down.
I began a post this morning. I promised myself I would – about NaNoWriMo. Then my mind grew hazy and I began to wonder if anyone would get anything out of it.
I don’t suffer a lack of self-confidence as a general matter. I don’t wonder if people will find my novels interesting, because I know they will.
Then I went to read my emails and found your post. It was fate. NaNoWriMo is in limbo.
By the way, your post is funny, charming, exceedingly well written, and so much to the point. Thank you.
Hi Judith – I feel your NaNo pain, too! I’m still trying to figure out what project I want to fail at this year. Funny thing – I have never ‘won’ NaNo, but I have written and published many books LOL! And thank you so much for your kind comments!
I have permission, been turned loose.
She told me, “Blog like Dr. Seuss.”
I won’t be crass or turn uncouth
but tell you all the total truth.
I really do not like to blog.
I’d rather walk a furry dog.
I really do not like to blog.
I’d rather walk out in the fog.
Out in the fog, with furry dog,
I do not, do not, like to blog.
I have no time to SEO,
with books to write and plots to grow.
The screen becomes a frozen floe
where cursors blink upon the snow,
Ideas spring vast leaks and sink
when blog winds blow.
To blogging pundits’ diatribes,
of “write fresh content, build your tribe,”
I bend no knee.
My kith, my kin, is Bartleby,
The Scrivener whose ink-stained pot
produced the words, “I prefer not…”
Until there’s undisputed proof
that blogs sell novels, stand aloof.
A siren-sweet, deceiving angle
Of social media, hindering tangle,
Hold your course, and do not yaw,
into its scurvy gaping maw.
Quit counting likes and netting “follows,”
The habit’s sure to leave you hollow.
No! Spread imagination’s sails,
Strike out in vivid, freeing tales.
She gave permission, turned me loose,
and told me “Blog like Dr. Seuss.”
But Blogging is a stealthy thief,
Don’t run aground upon its reef.
For all these words, the time they took,
are one page stolen from a book.
Um…do you think this is too long for a tattoo? Because I want to get a tattoo of this. YOU WIN TEH INTERWEBZ TODAY!
Thank you very much. You may need to do it in 8 point font.
Chapeau! And further kudos for using ‘yaw’ – I am firmly in favour of extending, not collapsing, vocabularies.
Thank you. I’m glad to see I’m not alone in my enjoyment of expanded vocabulary.
In my mind,blogging is bad journalism. Most are way too long winded. Blogs may be good practice but doing journalism is better, and you get paid. Anyone can do freelance journalism and in doing so you quickly learn how to get to the point and use less words to say more. Editor’s rejections school you fast. Journalistic methods should be applied to blogs just as they are in opinion editorials. If one cares to hold blog readers, learn these techniques and apply them creatively. Whatever is said in 1000 words can be said better with 600 words. Try it.
I took up blogging as a way to build a writing habit. To finish things and put them out there for the world to see. That was in 2009. Now, I post every Wednesday, unless I’m participating in something special, like the A to Z Blogging Challenge or the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop.
Mostly, I think of it as sort of public journalling, where I write briefly and hopefully interestingly about some little thing that’s on my mind.
These days I find it stress-relieving because I can write ahead instead of always feeling like I’m behind and know that my words are still going out there even if I have a completely ineffective day. So, it’s sort of relaxing for me; I save my stress for my WIPs. Then again, I’m not even trying to build a huge following. I’m pleased if a hundred people read one of my posts.
That’s amazing! What a track record!!! And writing ahead? *faints from being so impressed*
My reluctance to blog comes from fear, mostly. I find myself worrying that I will sound like an idiot, offend someone, or worst of all, be wrong. But I also know I need to be more open with my opinions and talk about things that are in debate, in order to get a debate going. And I don’t know if anyone else asked, but please do the post about money in historical fiction. I’d love to get your take on that.
For me I think one of the biggest obstacles to enjoying blogging is the way in which it’s so easy to feel like I could be doing more, and losing sight of the fact that there’s always “more”, particularly writing more posts, posting more frequently, etc.
I think I’m happiest when I recognize what my comfortable level of blogging is, and don’t push myself to exceed it when I know I can’t maintain that higher rate.
I also think there are times where blogging feels like a means to an end. The goal is to write fictional stories, but along the way blog posts have to also be written, and that’s definitely a mistake. I try to remember that I’m writing blog posts to further understand and clarify to myself what I think, and learn from others (and have interesting conversations with others) via the comments feature.
Wow. I hadn’t thought of any of those negatives. I just…blog… I like writing. Now I realize I’m doing it all wrong…
I’m going to go sit in a hard chair and reflect on that.
You’re not doing it wrong if you’re enjoying it! A lot of my blogging is multi-purpose with complex targeting. That’s part of why I’m so…ugh…because if I could just let fly with the words, it would be so much more fun! Keep enjoying what you are doing, and don’t let any bastards (or me) grind you down 😀
Great post, Cait.
I’d love if you wrote a piece called “Understanding currency, income, and prices in history.” Never mind in historical fiction.
Tell me why the Roman legionnaires were paid in salt and what happened to the Deutchmark in 1929 and how to work out the monthly income of a Wehrmacht soldier in 1940.
Never heard of Yoast, or Jetpack, and what’s that graphics doohickey that you pay $10 a month for? Is that how you create all those captioned pictures?
Say Cait, Your next tattoo? “That’s fine,
Choose Times New Roman eight, or nine.
Get inked in red, or blue or black,
From me you’ll get no words of flack.
But don’t choose green, I’ve heard it fades.
And when your phone cam has the shot,
of silly, sprawling Seuss-ian dots
that spiral down your youthful gam,
and you post it on Instagram,
Hashtag my name: Heidi.Kortman.
Please spell it right, I’d like the credit.
I’ve heard tattoos are hard to edit.”