Friday, March 31, 2006

Who's this for anyway?

Nancy raised a good point in her comments to my last post. I said I worry that I don't have anything interesting to say. She said she has the same feeling but needs to figure out where blogging fits in her life and who she's writing for - herself or her readers.

For me, the answer is that I'm writing for myself AND my readers. If I wanted to write just for myself, I would have a private journal. There would be no reason for a blog. But I write in this public forum because I want an audience. I've always wanted an audience - I used to do musical theater so I could have a live audience. At this point, I'll settle for a virtual one.

That said, the essence of writing is very personal (depending on the topic). "Write what you know" is a cliche for a reason. Even the most empathetic among us can only write from our own perspective and experience. And unless you're writing an instruction manual, your biases and personal views are bound to come out. There are as many opinions as there are people and if we're nervy enough to express our views in public, we have to be thick-skinned enough to hear dissent. Unfortunately, we may also need to be thick-skinned enough to hear personal insults. Not that I'm condoning such behavior but some people simply can't stop themselves from personal attacks when expressing disagreement. I hope I never get to the point where I need to turn comments off like MIM did - the give and take is what I like about this writing format.

I assume the people that stop by this blog think I'm interesting, at least some of the time, otherwise they wouldn't keep reading. And the fact that I have a few regular readers helps keep me motivated to write (when I'm not otherwise engaged in fire fighting in my non-blog life). Ideally, I'd like to have more regular readers. To that end, I'm going to try to write more often and, sometimes, write about potentially controversial topics. My goal isn't controversy for the sake of controversy (although that might get me some short-term readers). My goal is dialogue. In this self-selected world of bloggers, we have a surprising diversity of views. I hope we can learn from each other. Another goal is to get more comments - I know from my hit counter that more people are reading this than are commenting. I want to hear from you, even if you disagree with me. Really. Just don't make comments about my ass or I'll have to go all Tae Kwon Do on yours.

Now that we have that settled, I have a few questions for you:

Why do you blog? How much do you care about the number of readers you have? Have you sparked controversy? If so, how and what happened? What topics would you like to write about or discuss but are afraid to touch on?


landismom said...

I'm usually surprised that my (political) posts don't generate more controversy--I use a traffic generating engine (Blog Explosion), and I know that there are right wing types seeing my blog on there. The one time I've had disrespect break out, was when I posted about the estate tax repeal that was being pushed through right after Katrina, and I just squashed it.

I do care about being read (and commented on)--on the occasions where I've written a post that no one commented on for a day or so have bugged me until someone has commented. I don't deliberately go out to be controversial, but I do have some extreme political opinions, and sometimes I blog about them.

Jessica said...

Maybe you aren't generating more controversy because you write thoughtfully and your views are intelligently expressed. Although you might have extreme political opinions, you don't tend to do what many extremists do - state your views as if they are the gospel to be followed by everyone.

Sometimes when my view differs from yours, I don't comment because I'm not very informed on those issues and while that never stopped me from having an opinion, it does stop me from expressing that opinion. As my husband is fond of saying "Discretion is the better part of valor."

Now that I realize how much I would like to have people comment - even if they disagree, maybe I'll comment more!

Sheryl said...

I blog because I like to write, and I think that sometimes what I write is entertaining. I used to care about the number of readers I had, until I did the de-lurking day thing again this year. I had tons of people coming through, and then I realized what I want isn't a lot of readers, it's readers who like what I write. I'm not controverisal often, not because I fear trolls, but because I fear my views might be distained by people I respect.

Jessica said...

Wow....great questions.

I blog because I've always written - even at the age of 8 or so, I made my own book of poetry. I like using my blog as a way to create, as an outlet, and as a way of recording the moments in my life I most want to remember and/or share with others.

I've never been concerned with the number of readers I have. That said, I have found at times that I refrain from writing something because I don't want to offend the readers I do have. The most controversial post I think I've ever written was about how I refuse to teach/preach abstinence to my son. Most people were supportive and agreed with my viewpoint - I had one person who said that I was borderlining on neglect and that my son was sure to live up to my expectations because I set the bar so low for him. I felt totally unaffected by this comment.

Kristen said...

This sounds weird, but I was never able to successfully keep a journal. The idea of "writing for myself" didn't ever make sense for me personally. I felt like my voice was phony or forced. But on the blog, I don't feel that way, so I'm actually recording more details about my life in a public forum than in any private journal I've ever tried to keep!

I too want more readers and more comments, but I've made some decisions about things I will / won't do to get them. I purposely haven't posted controversial items (though I did write a political post today, ironically) just for the sake of generating traffic. There are things I would prefer to be able to write about (in-law issues, mostly) that I can't, because I don't want the personal fallout that would result. And I've actually considered starting an anonymous blog for this purpose! LOL.

(BTW, I found you through a comment you left on MIM.)

Jessica said...

Sheryl - You are definintely entertaining. BTW - I love de-lurking day. I want to participate next year.

Jessica - I love when you post your writing from your younger days. (Not that I don't love your more recent stuff . . .). As a teenager, you were more thoughtful, mature and eloquent than most people twice your age. My pre-teen journal makes me gag. In fact, I hope it perished in my mom's basement flood two years ago because I can't bear to look at it again!

Kristen - Loved your political post today and I totally agree with you. Thanks for visiting!

In all, maybe I don't want to be controversial - as Kristen said, I don't think I want the personal fallout that might result.

Nancy said...

I have decided I blog because I want to be part of something bigger than myself. And, the blogging community works for me. I get disappointed sometimes by no comments and then I am surprised at when I get 10 comments, like I did yesterday.

I don't want to be controversial just to controversial. But there are things I think that I need/want to discuss that will be controversial to some. I always hope by writing about them we can have a civilized dialogue from all points of view. We can learn so much from others if we take the time and to talk and listen.