(Almost) every morning I write. I credit my need to write to my mother who made me keep a journal. Every night I had to sit with my bound book for 15 minutes. Roughly 87% of my entries were about how much I loathed keeping a journal. The rest were poems written to my cat. For a brief period of time I wrote about Nate Archibald, the Celtics point guard with the nickname Tiny who made his way cheerfully through the courts with the giants. He was my guy. Although he probably enjoyed his paycheck he ran around the court like a kid (and not just because of his stature) he was there for the pleasure of the game, not the business end of basketball.
Last September I started a big project. Called Slut: Spit AND Swallow it was the story of my adolescence juxtaposed with my current life. It was about sex for sure, but also mental illness and the work that it took to feel that I was not simply some giant hole to be plugged. Forgive the imagery but those of you who know the emptiness of depression will know exactly what I mean. As time went on the simple weave of past and present became a snarl. I knew the narrator of my past would be acerbic and pretty unsympathetic but I had hope that my current voice would be more appealing. Sadly this was not so.
I have blogged for five years. It started just like journal entries. The posts were like this one, completely stream of consciousness. If I go back and read them I can always find a line or two I love but they were really a brain dump rather than a discrete piece of writing. When I started writing for other websites I tightened things up a bit. It took a little more time and thought and I devoted less of my word count to my bigger project and more to my individual posts.
At around the time that I virtually shelved Slut I had a blog post go viral. It was never my favorite post, but at least the headline worked because I had 250,000 views in 5 weeks. Feeling that blogging wasn’t “enough” I looked back through my traffic over the past two years and realized that my parenting posts were garnering more attention than my posts about sex. So I began gathering my thoughts and sketching out an idea for a large scale parenting piece.
But something got in the way…the business of blogging.
I work for 4 hours a day. Often I only write 4 days a week. Recently I have started tracking my time. The results are uninspired. I spend 2 full hours on social media promoting my work and the work of a small handful of friends. I schedule pins and tweets and I flip and stumble. Flip and stumble. If those names don’t say it all I don’t know what does. There are stumble groups on google+ and twitter groups on Facebook. There are blogging groups and social share threads. There are group Pinterest boards and Pinterest tribes.To pull my weight in the share groups I have to read and comment on dozens of blogs. Outside of my small regular groups I pop in to other share threads. Thats the crummy grammar posts. There are literally thousands of sentences with the word literally. I an greeted with so many exclamation points!!!!! !
It is tiring. It also makes me feel like a sell out sharing posts that I don’t like or care about. (BSlovers this is not you, I love you.)
There is also the time I put into optimizing my site, finding tags, creating link backs, and labeling images with whatever keyword I have chosen that rarely works for my wordy posts. The WordPress SEO plugin wants posts to be at the readability level of a fifth grader. I pretty much never get there. Not to be bragadocious but I have the biggest vocabulation. Which means that my readability needs improvement.
I try to make sense of the cents. Since last September I have earned roughly $6,416.10 on affiliate links within my blog and re-posting my articles on other sites. If I roughly calculate my hourly rate it comes to $13 an hour. Which I guess is above the minimum wage. (Although it shouldn’t be.) Now I need to back out expenses. I pay $35/month for buffer + tailwind, applications that help schedule my social media so I am not just a storm of shares about comfortable shoes. I spend around $20 a month on graphic design and $35 dollars a month on hosting the site. Let’s leave out the cost of the tea and tips at my coffee shop office. Now my hourly rate is an impressive $11.11. (Pause to make a wish.)
I know I have never done this for the money. (Which becomes even more clear when I look at the dollars and cents). I used to think I was motivated by the conversation. I felt privileged to be able to share details about depression and sex and parenting. I loved to hear that I was striking a chord with readers, even when it was dissonant. I wanted to build traffic and gain an audience. I imagined even more spirited conversation. I am not sure about that anymore. When my lazy parenting post gathered momentum it really didn’t shift MY momentum at all. The comments were a mix of “right on” and “you suck.” Which was what I thought I wanted. As it turns out comments on posts that I wrote with SEO in mind and click bait headlines are not posts I am interested in talking about. They are pieces that came about because of the business end of blogging. As we all know, the business end is rarely better.
Chatting with a friend who has made a legitimate career of blogging we talk about the grind. She has taken three weeks away and realized that the business end of things has brought her far from herself.
She sent me the image of her profile for some social media site.( I can’t even tell which one it is that’s how many we need to deal with.) She called it “boring, lame, and promotional.” I can promise you she is none of those things in real life. Yet the business of blogging makes us robotic. She explains that she has let her online persona take top billing. She manages three sites and has managed to shelve her self in the process. She tells me she might change her profile to “doesn’t give a shit.” I know which description would make me want to click through and read more.
I have never been one to avoid swearing in social media profiles. Or in life. Lately I have been cursing top ten lists and fear based headlines. I have been swearing at SEO and throwing the F bomb around Facebook. (Which then edits my writing more than I do.)
So I am going back to my roots. To my journal. To celebrate brain dumps. To eschew editing. To channeling Nate Archibald and focus on the joy in writing rather than the business end.
Here are things I didn’t put into this post. A click to tweet link. A prompt at the end to try to get you to comment. A focus keyword. A numbered list. Or time editing.