What Do You Get Out of Blogging (And What Do You Hope to Get)?

I started blogging in 2005 when my life was falling apart. That’s why I blog anonymously. I wrote, to strangers on the Internet, when my then-husband couldn’t or wouldn’t hear a word I said. Blogging saved my life, made me new friends around the world, opened doors for me, and woke me up when I was sleepwalking.

At that time, I guess I thought I was writing with an eye toward publication. Nope, not with this blog. But writing a blog was a huge gift. It gave me back a me that had gotten lost in the miasma of a bad marriage, a spouse’s severe mental illness, job loss, career reorientation, surgery after childbirth, and other stresses.

Maybe I had fantasies that someone would see my writing and say “That’s the next best-seller!”, someone like an agent. But then I started reading the work of other great writers online, like Bronze John in Australia and First Nations in west coast Washington and I realized that if those two weren’t already published, I should just get over myself.

But writing my blog has introduced me to (online and in the flesh) many new friends: scientists in New York and Georgia, an incredible cook in New York City (the cake post alone is to die for), various Australian doctors, social workers, lotharios, and just nice people, the British author of the best-titled blog ever, the sweetest ex-convict you could ever possibly have the great good fortune to meet, librarians, social workers, farmers, atheists, parents, transgendered kids, and a woman in South Carolina who pretty much had the same marriage-ending experiences I did with a slightly (but not much) different Insane Ex and another woman in the mid-west who made the three of us look like triplets (in our ability to pick truly nutso spouses, but hey, you take your commonalities and connections where you find them). People in Greenland and Mongolia have read my blog. Probably read it, and said: “Feh” or the Inuit or Mongolian equivalent of “Feh”, but there you are.

Fortunately, unlike what it looked like 5 years ago, the Internet isn’t just for pornography and sex (although if that’s what you’re looking for and you can’t find it . . . seriously, I can’t help you here). It can be about human connection, whether in the flesh or merely in cyberspace, whether on an emotional or intellectual level. My blog helped me survive my divorce in reasonably good humor and even now, whenever I see something really sweet or stupid or mean or clever, I think “I’ve got to write about that.”

Now, my blog isn’t as dramatic (my life is finally, thank heavens, getting a tad routine and boring) anymore, but I still get a great deal of pleasure trying to describe interesting, funny, and moving things I see and hear in such a way that someone else might want to read about the experience.

Why did you start blogging? And what are you hoping to get from it? My initially thought out goal was not achieved, but I have gained a great deal more.

This venue, DC Blogs, is a great one for putting yourself forward. I’m kind of absent from the social side of the DC blogging scene, as I do write anonymously (and Foilwoman, while she resembles me in many ways, is a Walter Mitty-type construct), but I understand that many connections are made through all the local blogging events. I’ve had to avoid those given the anonymity constraint. But in a way, that constraint was a plus — it pushed me out into the wider world. I have met and corresponded with people from all over the world now, and not in a hook-up kind of way. In a “we share an interest” kind of way. Now I’m trying to connect more with the local blogging scene (although the Australian blogging scene does seem to be more lively — and to have better beer).

But for those of you writing here, don’t just limit yourselves to the DC/MD/VA area, to people who went to the same colleges you did, to people in the same social class. What truly interests you? If you can only come up with sports or dining out, okay, maybe your interests won’t travel well. But if you have an interest in opera, Victorian literature, weird carpentry, motorcycle maintenance, lace knitting, particle physics, calligraphy, archaeology, entomology, or whatever arcane subject makes you happy, you’ll probably do better casting your net for an audience (and, better yet, for correspondents with similar interests) world-wide. There aren’t that many people interested in Victorian melodrama in DC (although here’s one, who’s local, check her blog out), but go online and you’ll be able to find the 138 other people who are fascinated with this not exactly-roller-coaster-ride thrilling (to me, but not them, and isn’t that the point?) topic and start talking. I went afar and abroad in seeking like minds because I didn’t want to blow my cover, but reaching afar and abroad was probably a good idea anyway.

A single issue blog will probably develop a readership faster than a general here-I-am-talking-about-my-life blog, so if getting a large audience is your goal, pick a subject you know about and write about it obsessively. You’ll bore the pants off everyone else, but the cognoscenti will find you eventually, and you’ll be famous. But if your area of knowledge is not that interesting (Reviews of TV shows? Generally, eish. And Television Without Pity probably does it better and they are funny.) or you aren’t that knowledgeable (Civil War buffs can be brutal about historical accuracy even if they are batshit insane enough to walk around in the Mid-Atlantic summer heat emulating battlefield conditions — no Klondike bars! —  and wearing wool), then you’ll need to rethink.

If you’re writing about miscellaneous things that interest you, your blogging community will be harder to find unless this is just a social outlet (and then: go to the happy hours and be happy). Don’t be disappointed. Go to other people’s sites: comment on things that truly interest you and comment in a meaningful way. (“Oh, I totally agree” is really rather useless, although I have to admit I’ve been guilty of that when someone wrote something I truly loved.) Don’t be a boor — you don’t always need to get the last word in while commenting. And look for people whose writing is better than yours, whose blogs or websites are what you, if you were the ideal you, would have created. This is a great chance to cross-pollinate, all these people, all over the world, having their say. Get out there and share.

Don’t limit yourself to DC — there’s a whole world out there. People in Greenland* have read my blog, more than once, and I hope that each of you will have someone in Greenland or Madagascar or the Falkland Islands or Ushuaia or Irkutsk who will read your blog. The Faroe Islands. Kamchatka. New Caledonia. Yeah, you got me. I like to find the spots readers came from on the map and then read up on them. That’s fun, too.

And maybe your blog will bring you what you thought you wanted: a book deal, fame and fortune, or popularity with the cool crowd (yeah, right), whatever. Or maybe it will just give you a good outlet and then when a crisis hits, you’ll find doctors in Australia mailing your kids t-shirts and CDs and a woman in South Carolina who went through your same exact divorce except with more (or possibly less, it’s unclear) punching involved, who sends you all her kids’ outgrown clothing so that on your tight new single mother budget you haven’t had to spend one thin dime on clothes or shoes for your three-year old in the last two years and your kid is still one of the best dressed (not that that means anything) kids out there.

But most of all: have fun.

*I couldn’t tell if the Greenland reader was from a U.S. military base there or elsewhere.