One of the great things WordPress does is keeps stats for its users. I can always click on my stats page to see how many people have visited Jenion on any given day (or ever), how many comments have been shared, etc. When I posted Flashback Friday last week, I happened to note another statistic that really got me thinking: it was post #299 since the inception of this blog. Which means that this very post you are reading is #300.
Three hundred posts later, what thoughts can I share about this blog or the experience of blogging? To say that it has been a life-altering experience may, on the face of it, seem dramatic. However, it is no more than the truth. So, below, are my reflections on what I have learned from maintaining Jenion.
What I’ve learned about form:
- There are many ways bloggers try to appeal to their readers: photos, catchy catchphrases, polls, weekly/daily features. When I (briefly) experimented with daily blogs, I tried some of these. What I discovered was that sometimes they were just too gimmicky. I attempted a Triple Word Tuesday – but let’s face it, I’m not good with brief and pithy. What works best for me are posts that reflect my personality – which isn’t stylish or trendy, or the blogging equivalent of cheerleading.
- That said, it doesn’t pay to be too rigid in style. You end up boring yourself, not to mention anyone kind enough to regularly read what you post.
- It is way more difficult to write funny than to be funny. In life, being funny just happens sometimes. In writing, it rarely ever happens without forethought and rewrites.
What I’ve learned about content:
- I used to think that people weren’t interested in what I had to say. That no one ever listened to me carefully enough to understand me. The unexpected truth I’ve learned over the course of 300 blog posts is that people can’t listen to what you’re not saying. As an introvert, I wanted others to intuit what I was feeling, based on my minimalist approach to conversation. That doesn’t work interpersonally, and it definitely isn’t a successful blogging technique. However, when you speak up, and what you share is authentic, other people will connect with it. They will want to talk about it, offer support and encouragement. They will respond in big ways and small, and in so doing enrich your life.
- Saying what you mean isn’t as easy as you expect it to be. Sometimes, this is caused by a lack of skill or facility with the language. Other times, your self-censor prohibits direct expression. In either case, it can be frustrating to have something unique and nuanced to say, only to find yourself mired in trite platitudes. (True, Molly?!)
- Despite my best efforts, I’ve learned that, no matter how “transparent” I hope to be, I always hold some things back. Even those of us who have a propensity to shout publicly what others would, with difficulty, only whisper to themselves have our limits. Even we have our secrets and hidden places into which we prefer not to invite the light of blogger’s day. The extent to which I am willing to uncover these in my writing, though, determines the extent to which others connect with what I say. Apparently, the things we don’t talk about are the things we have most in common with others.
What I’ve learned about myself:
- I love writing. Ok, I actually knew this before I created Jenion. But I had mostly forgotten how much. I’d forgotten the joy of crafting a sentence or paragraph. Of finding just the right word to express a moment or sensation. I love editing and paring back and even, on occasion, scrapping the whole thing and going back to a blank page.
- What I didn’t know before this blog was that I also love readers. The format of a blog makes it less nerve-wracking, in some ways, to put what you’ve written in front of others. You just press a little button that says “Publish”. Not scary at all. But then the most amazing thing happens: someone reads what you’ve written and comments. Or not – but a year later sees you in line at the grocery store and says, “I love your blog, I can’t wait for Thursday every week!”. Or cuts your hair and says, “What the hell happened to Flashback Friday?” Every now and then, someone says, “I didn’t know anyone else ever felt that way.” And suddenly, the writing that you’ve always loved becomes something that brings you into dialogue with the world and people around you. It is no longer an endeavor by and for yourself.
- For perhaps the first time in my life I truly understand the concept of humility. Yes, I am proud of my blog. Yes, I have enough ego to hope others like to read what I’ve written. But I have never felt so acutely that something bigger than myself is at work. In writing about my own experiences, feelings, journey I sometimes receive the gift of touching someone else’s hurts or struggles in a helpful or healing way. And while that makes me happy, I am completely conscious that it isn’t my doing.