Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

It’s not unusual for there to be flurries of activity around something in the blogging world. Right now there’s a lot of talk about quitting and the pressure of blogging.

I respect where those people are coming from, but it’s only reminded me of something that I realized a long time ago: I don’t feel it the same way a lot of other bloggers do.

For me blogging is only a choice in that it’s the fastest end possible. But it IS an end, it’s not a means. I’m not using blogging to get somewhere or be someone. Blogging itself is what I want, it is where I want to go, it is who I want to be.

I have been able to use my blogging to make other things happen in my life, I’ve tried to be savvy and leverage it when I can, but that was never the goal. And it has never been more than a perk.

It is possible that someday I’ll pull post less or differently. But that’s life. That’s things changing. 

I do have that dream that I really will get the time to write that novel and that my blog will become my secondary form of expression rather than the primary one. 

But I don’t see a future where the blog stops. I don’t see me quitting. 

I’ve been doing this for a long time. Two weeks ago marked my 14th blog anniversary. 14 years ago I wrote my first blog post on my old site. I wrote that post as a freshly minted college graduate, just 21 years old. I’ve been blogging my entire adult life. 

I went through one big change, moving from that old site to this new one. I had to find a different way for my blog to work. I had to fit it into a different kind of life. But it didn’t die. And I only feel more strongly about it as time passes.

Those pressures? I don’t feel them. Lately I’m posting around once a week and I’m okay with that. I’m still experimenting and trying things. The blog continues to evolve, but I feel like “evolve” is the correct word because it’s moving forward and becoming something better. 

I post and I feel better. I post and I feel centered. I post and I feel like I’ve spent some time with myself. 

I forget to promote my posts sometimes. I have things I want to try that I don’t get to or forget about. I have goals I set and don’t meet. But none of it changes anything. 

I get that blogging has become an industry. And I’m thrilled that it’s a way some of us can monetize something we love. But I’m here for it whether that happens or not. 

If you don’t get me, that’s fine. You don’t have to. I’m not saying my way is the right way. We all do this for our own reasons and in our own way. But I think there may be some people out there like me who are starting to feel like they should respond to the pressure to “be” whatever it is. And if that doesn’t feel right for you, I just want you to know that there’s nobody out there who says you have to play by a set of rules.

I have a small blog. I don’t care if it ever gets big. I am thrilled with it staying small. I write what I want and the funny thing is that my readers have become more involved when I am more true to myself. I’ve been able to make tons of blogging friends and get a day job or two out of it and learn things and teach them and be fairly well respected in my own small-time way. I thought for a while that I had to be popular and have huge numbers for those things to happen, but you don’t. And I want to make sure that someone who needs to know that can know it.

I love my blog. It is me. It makes me happy. It makes my life better. It makes me a more fulfilled human being. That there are other people who enjoy it and even care about it is still astonishing. That it has done something small for a few people is more than I’ve ever asked for. It is, frankly, the best. And I just can’t quit.

Why I Unfollowed You on Twitter

First off, don’t feel bad. This doesn’t say anything about our friendship. I’ve been unfollowing a lot of people and it’s not because I don’t like you. 

Here’s what you need to understand. I like Twitter. I’ve been there for years. And it’s the social network I care about the most. For a long time I followed everyone I was friends with and everyone I thought might have something interesting to say.

As time has passed I’ve realized that a lot of you don’t like Twitter the way that I do. I want to have conversations there. I want to learn things there. I want to enjoy myself there. So I have a new rule: if you’re not making my life on Twitter better, I’m unfollowing you.

It’s not personal. Promise.

In all likelihood, I still follow you elsewhere. Probably multiple elsewheres. And you’re awesome in those other places. 

There’s no need to make excuses. I know that there are a lot of social networks and you can only invest so much time into them. If Twitter is the one where you’re automating, that’s totally fine. But it means that those of us who Twitter our asses off aren’t going to follow you. 

Reasons I might have unfollowed you:

You Auto-Tweet

By far this is the biggest one. Auto-tweeting has become the norm. But it’s really obvious you don’t pay much attention to your feed when you auto-tweet things so constantly that it gets annoying. You’re on a pinning spree and every single pin auto-tweets. You auto-tweet your posts as they go up on your blog. Even worse, you auto-tweet everything on Facebook. You’ve got automation so far stretched that I’ll often see you tweet the same thing 2 or 3 times in a row from different automated sources. You use triberr or one of those other things.

Auto-tweets aren’t a death knell, but if I see one I’ll pull up your profile. And if all you’ve been doing is auto-tweeting, I know you’re not on Twitter the way I’m on Twitter. I know we won’t have a conversation here. So that’s that.

You Self-Promote

We all do it. But if all you tweet is links to your posts, I can get that from other places. You aren’t here to hang out. So that’s that.

You Sign Up for Programs That Tweet For You

I don’t care how many people unfollowed you today. I don’t care who your most engaged followers are. This is stuff for you, not for me. And if you’re tweeting this and not hanging out, that’s that.

You Share Inspirational Quotes

Personal pet peeve. They bug me. I won’t ding you for one, but if that’s all you’ve got, I’m out.

You Tweet a Lot of Ads and Twitter Parties

I know you can get paid to tweet. I tried it. And I quickly quit. If you do this too much, you’re taking up my feed and that’s that. I’d rather hang with you in a place where I don’t see your ads.

 

The bottom line is: we all use the internet differently. And following you on Twitter isn’t an endorsement of you as worthwhile. It’s a decision I make about what I see. 

So if I unfollowed you, no hard feelings on my end. I hope there aren’t any on yours either. Feel free to say hi on Instagram, Facebook, email, or in real life. 

And if you want to join the conversation, then just @ me and start a talk and when I realize I’m not following you, I’ll rectify that. 

A Study in Contrasts

I’ve always been a bit of a study in contrasts. 

I love rules. I often break them. 

I love organization. I tend to be messy.

I crave science and data. I yearn for creative expression.

It’s just how things are. I’m pretty used to it.

Last week my post on the snow in Boston went a teeny bit viral. Viral in the sense that it spread almost exclusively on social media, mostly Facebook, and that almost everyone who read it or shared it is from Boston. (How many people that I met on OkCupid found that post and recognized me and told me so? 3. I’m assuming many more just didn’t send a message.)

The blogger rule book says I should capitalize on this, being every so briefly dubbed the Voice of Boston. But I won’t. Thanks.

Because I never want to be blog famous and that post reminded me why. I don’t want to have to moderate comments when people are fighting. I don’t like internet fighting. I spend a lot of time on the internet, but I also carefully control what I see and unfollow liberally. I can’t imagine what that would be like if they were fighting about me.

It’s funny, but I kinda hate conflict. Yes, I know, I used to be a lawyer and made my living fighting in a courtroom and I hate conflict. Like I said, contrasts.

There’s more reasons I won’t keep writing about the snow. Not because it’s any better. (We got another foot or so over the weekend.) But because I am trying really hard to hold on to any bit of grace and kindness I have left. I’m at the end of most of my ropes and it’d be great if I could hold on a little longer.

That post I wrote about banding together after divorce and treating each other with grace? I really meant it. But I’m not particularly good at it. It’s more about what I want to be and not what I actually am. 

I need to work on that. And writing about all the stuff that’s making me angry isn’t going to help.

Just a few days after I wrote that post I read a post by two divorced women and instead of feeling connected and full of grace, I felt resentful. I thought then that they really didn’t get it because they both fell into new relationships and got into them quickly and how could they understand the loneliness that I’m dealing with when they pretty much skipped that part?

It was a stupid thing to think. Luckily my own post talked me out of it. 

It’s not that I feel the need for this blog to be constantly positive. That is so not my jam. My jam is being the other side of that a lot of the time and not being afraid to talk about things that people won’t talk about. 

But this is a little different. It’s something I’m working on. Actively. And I have to nudge myself a bit. Just a bit closer towards grace.

I can’t promise there won’t be venting on social media (there will be) but I feel like I’ve said my peace and it’s time to tell a new story.

701 Words.

This post is 701 words long. It originally clocked in at 1258 words and made its points very well. I’ve trimmed it down for reasons that will become clear and many of my points are now rather crude.

Normally word counts are something I deal with only in my freelance work.  I am usually given a firm 700 word limit and it’s often impossible to write something really good in so little space.

This blog is a place where I don’t care about word count. Here I tell my story and I tell it however it works best. 

This online writing thing is a bit of a thankless job. You write in the hopes that what you write will mean something to somebody.

But if I aspire to anything it has been to one thing: to write something good enough to be a BlogHer Voice of the Year. BlogHer is a conference that happens every summer for women in blogging. It’s a huge event that can be overwhelming due to the sheer number of people and sponsors and things and events. 

I went to BlogHer in 2012 and that experience was about just one thing for me and that was Voices of the Year. 15 people stood up and read their stories and it meant more to me than I can possibly express. It inspired me to up my game as a writer. It showed me the potential in every single post. It changed everything.

Those stories were what inspired me to write my own story and audition for Listen To Your Mother. Now helping people tell an important story in front of people they’ve never met takes up half of my year. 

I’ve been honored for the last two years to have a post selected as a Voice of the Year. I wasn’t chosen as a reader, but seeing my name on that list the first time jolted me. I set out to do it and I did it. That meant a lot to me.

So why am I writing about this right now? Nominations have opened for Voices of the Year 2015. This year I’m planning to attend and that means I could finally have that dream of being a reader. But it won’t happen. 

Here’s what they want:

We’re asking you to help us find the most memorable, heart-stopping, brilliant, hilarious, impactful works of the past twelve months … works that deserve to be heard, seen and read.

But this year they’ve decided that they will limit blog posts to 700 words. (There is an exception to the rule if you have a “viral” post. But we all know most posts aren’t “viral” enough to count.)

700 words. I’m nearing that right now in my initial draft and I’ve just started to make my point. 

The posts by last year’s readers, on average, clocked in at over 1255 words. The longest was over 2,400 words. The shortest was the only one that would be eligible now, at 700 words. Go figure.

This is VOTY deciding that the writing they have previously valued is not the writing they will value this year. If you have a post you want to submit and it’s over 700 words, you must re-write it. So basically, that thing you wrote that was so powerful, make it shorter. Which, of course, makes it an entirely different post with its power stripped out in bits and pieces.

The stories that are shared on that stage are personal and real and incredibly moving. They’re also usually people you haven’t heard of, posts you didn’t read, stories that didn’t go viral. It’s a moment to remind ourselves that stories are everywhere, they’re all around you and you don’t even know it. 

This year there are a few I wrote I’d submit. But the shortest one is 1077 words. I refuse to go back to these posts and change them. They are just as I intended them to be and I’m not going to change something I love to get a prize.

I can’t say that this year’s Voices of the Year won’t be worthwhile. But I know I won’t be in it. Most of the posts other people wrote this year that I loved won’t be in it. That feels wrong.