When I first started this blog, I had no real idea what blogging was all about. I just knew that I wanted the chance to write about coping with the stage of life that we call middle age, and I wanted to do it in a format that allowed me the freedom to write exactly what I wanted to write, when I wanted to write it. I was tired of the assigned subjects and deadlines that came with freelance writing, and I was especially tired of having so many of my fiction manuscripts returned to me with a rejection letter attached. Blogging seemed to be a perfect way to write without having to deal with other people’s expectations, and I thought I had found a perfect creative outlet.
I told myself at the beginning that I wasn’t going to care if my blog was particularly successful or not, because I wasn’t planning to try to make money from it, and I thought that making money was only real reason to try to attract huge numbers of readers. Honestly, I knew there was a very real chance that I would have exactly six readers: my husband, my two kids, my mother, and the two good friends who encouraged me to start this blog in the first place. (Thank you, Jacque and Jeanie!)
But then I started publishing my posts, and I soon learned that it was actually very nice to see the number of “visitors” and “views” on my blog stats page grow beyond the six person mark. I was thrilled when perfect strangers took the time to write a nice comment after a post, and touched when old friends reached out to tell me how much they identified with what I wrote. I was surprised at how easy it was to make friends with other bloggers. It wasn’t long before I found that I was beginning to care very much about how many people were reading my blog, and I began to pay attention to all those guides out there on “how to increase your blog’s audience.”
And that’s where the whole thing began to get complicated. Wordpress is designed to make it easy for me to keep track of which of my blog posts are the most popular, and even when I ought to post them. (I have the highest numbers on Sunday, at 5:00.) Not surprisingly, my posts that had the broadest appeal also had the highest number of readers, and I found that including some photos also helped. But the problem was, the more I became focused on raising my number of readers, the less I enjoyed actually writing the blog.
Self-awareness comes slowly to me, so it took me quite a while to figure out that the problem was I had wandered too far from my original purpose in writing this blog. I had started out wanting to share my experiences of coping with middle age mostly with friends and family, and anyone else who happened to relate to what I had to say. I had wanted to write without worrying about other people’s expectations, but instead, I had begun to focus on how “successful” a particular post would be. When I got an idea for a blog post, I would immediately wonder whether that idea would be popular. Then, if a post did very well, I just worried that my next post would not be as good. And if a post didn’t do well, I felt as if I had, in some important but obscure way, failed. Worrying about my numbers was sucking the joy right out of blogging.
So, it’s time for me to get back to the basics. I want to enjoy writing this blog, and I want to write it for the people who actually enjoy reading it. And while there may be times when I’d like to be able to say that number is in the thousands, the truth is that I have only 144 followers. Like all writers, I do want people to read what I am writing. But I also want my writing to be meaningful, honest, and always the best that I can produce. Because that is my own, personal, definition of success.