Notice this post doesn’t read, ‘The Trouble With Mum Blogs’? I will readily admit that all the discussion taking place about mum blogging has spurred this post. I’ve read a lot of criticism about ‘mum blogs’ in the past week or so. A lot of it is very fair and makes a lot of valid points. Points which aren’t always received too well by the community. I personally believe that most of the points made could and should be addressed to bloggers of all niches.
The great thing about blogging is that you can do it your way and the hell with your detractors. You choose the content and no one can change that fact. That’s pretty powerful. So, as you read this, know that I’m not trying to tell anyone how to run their blog. I would, however, like bloggers to think about how they do things, question what they’re doing and spark a conversation.
It’s one thing to be ‘all about the writing, man!’ and not care too much about your design. I get that. Your writing should be the most important focus. Or if you have a photography blog, your photos, and so on. But what if your blog is so difficult to navigate that readers can’t move easily through your content? What if your blog is so ugly or busy-looking that it distracts the reader from your brilliant pieces?
Honestly, if the content is good, many a reader will put up with a bad blog design, but it has to be good for that to happen. Hell, I will grit my teeth and put up with it if I want to read what you have to say. I just find the blog experience tedious when it happens. The other problem with a bad blog design is that new readers are far less likely to stay on a blog like this for very long at all. Like it or not, readers don’t have a lot of time, and won’t waste time on a new blog with a shitty layout. Many will assume a blog is rubbish and won’t be any good, based on a poor design. It’s nice to have our own turf on the internet and do whatever we feel like, and if this is you, knock yourself out. Just decide if it’s worth being stubborn over.
Maybe I shouldn’t be the one to talk about this. I mean, I don’t have the qualifications to tell you my opinions on what constitutes ‘good’ writing, and I’ve yet to publish my own book, despite it being a goal. I can state with confidence though, what I think of blog writing.
Spelling, punctuation and grammar matter to the reader. Every blogger/writer makes mistakes sometimes, be it due to typos or a simple brain fart. What really eats at me with some bloggers though, is that they plainly don’t know the first thing about these aspects of writing, or worse, they just don’t care. If I can see someone who writes well has made a typo and not spotted it in their editing process, I couldn’t care less. What is incredibly irritating to me as a blog reader though, is bloggers who can’t write well, and make no efforts nor attempts to try to improve or grow as a writer. The reader can tell when you are at least trying.
This is a tough one. What is boring/interesting to one person is the opposite for another person. I have posts that I’ve believed were my most dull efforts ever, but published anyway. Sometimes these end up being popular and the reader gets something out of it. Sometimes I’ll write what I think is an interesting blog post, and no one could give a fat rat’s clacker. In fact, sometimes I will write a post I suspect may not interest many, simply because I need to write and touch base with my readers. I think most bloggers have their less than interesting blog posts, definitely!
I think the tough thing about blogging is that if you’ve been doing it for a few years and your blog is known by others and you’re getting very little interest or feedback, it’s time to ask the tough question of whether or not your blog is boring? In fact, I did just that with my old blog, Hear Mum Roar. I realised in the end, I was bored with it! Try to interest yourself, and sometimes that will flow into your writing. Failing that, try to look at your blog posts from the point of view of the reader. Would you read your blog if you were a stranger?
Hero Worship Taken Too Far
I think it’s natural for bloggers to look up to other bloggers, to love their writing. I can’t think of many bloggers who haven’t read someone else’s brilliant blog and wished they could write that well, take photos that well, and so on. Don’t ever try to write like your favourite blogger! You have something new to say, with your own perspective. Would you want to read two different blogs in the same writing style?
It saddens me when I see some remarkable writers do this. Bloggers who don’t realise they are good enough writing as themselves. That they would have so much more to offer if they did that. When you try to emulate someone else’s style, all you’re really doing is holding back your own growth, not letting your own writing talent develop. If you think this is you, I challenge you to stop reading that blog for a while, and allow your own voice to bubble to the surface. Also, if you find yourself measuring yourself against a large number of blogs all at once, stop reading blogs for a while! Pick up a book outside of your usual rut, start drawing, just do anything to shake up the mediocrity.
Community or Mob?
Bloggers should definitely get out there in the community. Get to know other bloggers, talk to them, support them. I’d like to see more bloggers function in the community in a healthier way, though. You’re not getting the right thing out of your blogging community if you’re writing all the same crap as every other blogger in your niche. Ditto if you’re all writing in exactly the same way. Imagine how a reader must feel, reading blog after blog in the same niche, with the same subject matter being regurgitated repetitively?
Every niche community has someone in it who wants to dictate how everyone else should play. I’d like to see more bloggers remember that this is just ego at play and ignore it. Do it your way. You don’t have to obey the orders of the loudest, pushiest person who believes their word is gospel. In short, get into the blogging community, but don’t get lost in it.
Choosing One Emotion as a Crutch
Have you ever read a blog where the writer’s life just seems perfectly happy all the time? Or their writing just depresses you because all they ever do is whine? Or maybe they just seem constantly angry at the world, or thinking they’re being revolutionary by trying to find meaning in writing about a cup of tea? Some blogs are full of, ‘woot, woot!’ and others are heavy all the time.
I find the best blogs are the ones where a blogger has the courage to explore a whole scope of emotion. Life isn’t all, ‘fuck yeah, man!’ or ‘squeee!’ or anything else, all the time. In life, there is joy, sadness, pain, grief, anger, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and then some. My point is that you can enrich the quality of your writing when you explore the spectrum. You also enrich your readers’ experience too. The best blogs are peppered with darkness and light, and many, many greys. If you’re not blissfully joyful everytime you write, then the times you are, will read as genuine happiness. If every blog post is a rant, the reader thinks, ‘bloody hell, they’re at it again!’, whereas a rant amidst other emotions has more impact.
I’ve heard it said that anger is the only acceptable ‘strong’ emotion for men. God, how I hope that is changing. It is, I think. But with that in mind, consider that many bloggers have their own comfortable, ‘acceptable’ emotions. Try to find which emotion you lean too heavily on, and see if your writing can grow from exploring a new one.
The Pressure to Write ‘Raw’
There is a bit of a trend for bloggers to write deeply personal posts these days. And why not? Readers love the honesty, and it guarantees hits everytime. Raw posts are heartfelt, and it is important to share something of yourself with your readers. My advice to anyone who is unsure about the ‘raw’ phenomenon though, is to know the price you’re willing to pay. What’s the price to you? What’s the price to the other people in this story? You might weigh all the potential consequences of a raw post and believe it’s all worth it. In that case, knock yourself out and enjoy the hits.
But please, please, don’t feel pressured to write something that you would really rather keep private, just because all the cool kids are doing it. They don’t have to pay the price for your honesty, you do. Do it because you want to and can handle any consequences that come with it. I don’t write every aspect of my life here. There are family problems I would’ve loved to write for you guys to read. It would be therapeutic for me. It might help some of you who are going through the same thing. It probably even would’ve helped me to cope better having that extra support.
The price for me in doing that, I’ve decided, is too high to pay. My family members would’ve also had to pay that price, and it’s not fair to take that choice away from them. Don’t sweat that if you’re not sharing every little detail of your life, you’re not ‘honest’. What you do share will still be honest. Everyone has to have their own filter. Don’t let someone else set yours. We’re all grownups, and if there’s backlash as a result of our posts, surely we could’ve (most of the time) seen the potential for it? It’s no good to whine when someone calls you on it, or act as though the world is out to get you. Own your choice in what you publish.
There be Sycophants
Yes, I’m referring to the comments section of the blog. No matter how much you vehemently disagree with what a commentor says, it takes more than a differing opinion to define a troll. I know readers only read blogs they like (don’t they?) but I’d love to see blogging evolve in the comment threads as well. If you’re going to comment, read the post first!
Don’t feel obligated to always tell the blogger how fucking marvellous they are. Bloggers’ egos are huge enough. If you have a fresh point of view, share it! I also think this ‘blogger ego’ problem makes it hard for many bloggers to take criticism constructively sometimes and especially to delve further into the conversation. Let’s bring real conversation back!
Now, all things being fair, I have to admit that there are plenty of badly-designed, poorly written blogs that I’m hooked on. If the story or insight is great, it can still make for very compelling reading. There are plenty of bloggers out there doing the things I’ve griped about, and still doing really well for themselves. Which is proof in the end, that the most important thing, bar none, is the story that is being told.
I want to hear from you, too. What are your gripes about reading blogs? What do you think would improve blogging as a whole?