A Taste of the Vox Populi (A Journey Through Blogging Advice)

The blogging process.

I started blogging because I am a writer and needed a creative way to express myself on a variety of subjects.

Actually, that’s horse pucky – I started blogging because I am a writer and I desperately want people to read what I write and think I’m the most talented thing to ever wear pants while typing. It’s a narcissistic ideal made complex by the large number of other narcissists out there who think they are the most talented thing to ever wear pants while typing. And some of them think they’re the most talented thing to NOT wear pants while typing. Whatever. Bottom line is, I had an ego to feed and nothing at my disposal to feed it. Thus, the idea of blogging appealed to me.

So I signed up for WordPress.com, found a design I liked, and started cranking out little missives. My very first blog was A Southern Gentleman, and I chose this handle because all of the articles I read (yes, I did research on how to become the World’s Most Famous Blogger and Earn $10 Billion a Year By Being a Smart-Aleck) suggested that, to become outrageously famous, you had to have a niche – a thing – that set you apart from other people. Those articles also recommended first-time bloggers “write what you know” and “use humor to lure readers.”

Thus, A Southern Gentleman was born with an inaugural post about sweet tea. I felt great – I was writing what I knew (being Southern), I had created a niche (filling the void left by Lewis Grizzard) and I was funny (never an issue for me). I sat back and waited for the blog hits to pile up. The returns were modest, about 15-20 people per day, a number that I found depressing.

I had followed the rules: niche, know, humor. Why weren’t more people coming to my site? I crashed Google searching for more articles on how to increase my blog traffic. I read about SEO, tags, keywords, and cross promotion. I learned that I needed to read 5,000 blogs a day and comment on every one of them and make sure to link to my URL every time. I became addicted to the Writers Market series of books via Writers Digest via the Absolute Write Water Cooler forum. I suddenly realized that what I wanted would require more hours than I could afford. I needed to dedicate myself to writing if I wanted to become the next Literary Genius.

So I dug in – I tried commenting, linking, tweeting, and everything else imaginable to get my name out there, hoping against hope that I would somehow be discovered and lavished with the praise my frail writer’s ego hungered after.

It didn’t work.

I ran out of steam with A Southern Gentleman. I love being Southern, but there’s only so much you can say on the subject and honestly, I found myself ripping off Lewis Grizzard the more I wrote. I also found myself becoming exceedingly negative about my writing; instead of writing what made me happy, I wrote what I thought would draw an audience. I let imaginary readers I didn’t have drive my voice and ignored the input of my actual readers because they were too few. So I did what all writers do. I quit.

I laid low for a while, but got the urge to write again. Since the non-fiction humor/essay route didn’t work with my first blog, I got the brilliant idea to start a blog dedicated to short fiction. I called it StorySouth (then later, The Southern Muse) and I decided to make things easier (and to increase potential traffic) I would solicit other writers I knew for stories. I would post them on the site, link to them via Facebook, etc., and the authors would in turn pimp the blog out via their social network. Great concept, right?

Except I learned the hard way that some writers are only interested in writing as a part-time gig. As in, they only write part of the time, or to be more accurate, they only write about 1/1,000,000th of their waking lives. This created a content vacuum that I tried to fill. And let me tell you – as easy as it sounds, making crap up out of thin air is HARD. Very hard. And it didn’t help that readership (my life’s breath as a writer) was only marginally better – around 25-30 views per day.

Having learned from my previous blog that when the going gets tough, real writers quit, I opted to take a bit of a break. I lamented. I wept. My ego suffocated, revived, then suffocated again. Finally, I opted to make another name change and start things all over again. Jason Muses was born. I decided that since I wrote both creative nonfiction and fiction, I would showcase those talents whenever I felt the mood (because I am like a cheap 70’s novelty – a mood writer) and wouldn’t worry about readership. I would write because that’s what makes me happy.

And things were fine. Readership about the same, though I did manage to increase little by little. I figured out how to use Facebook and Twitter appropriately (I think). I learned to be happy if I could make 2-3 people laugh or think or read per day. I still longed to be in print. I still hungered to be well known. But I was okay with the knowledge that, if it ever did happen, it would take years of faithful blogging.

That was about 2 years ago. Things finally clicked about two weeks ago when my wife went out of town to help her sister after surgery. I opted to blog about my experience as a parent without my wife. Readership went into the 150 range each day that I blogged about my kids and my own ineptitude in parenting them. I suddenly had a large audience – and was writing stuff that was genuinely fun to write. My blogging finally paid off.

Until this past Friday, that is.

I woke up and put in a movie for the kids. For some reason, I got inspired to write about my daughter’s singularly most annoying habit, so I posted a quick blog. My wife and I got the kids together and went to the gym. Normal morning.

But when I got home and checked my email, I had 84 new messages, all from WordPress.com. Sixty-three of them were “likes” for my blog post, a phenomenon that had never happened before for any post. Twenty emails were pending comments on the blog post I’d written that morning (My Daughter, The Writer (I Hope)).

It was the last one that told me the story. “Jason Muses Post Promoted at WordPress.com” The email informed me that my post had been selected for Freshly Pressed and encouraged me to keep up the good work. That was all.

I soon discovered that Friday is a great day to get FP’d because you get to stay on the front page ALL WEEKEND LONG. I’ve averaged 2,250 people each of the last three days thanks to FP and WordPress.com.

I may never see print. I may never be famous. I may never be able to fulfill my dream of walking into my local Barnes & Noble and having a signing for my latest book in front of my friends and family. But for one weekend I was utterly amazed as a writer to know that well over 6,000 people took the time to read what I wrote, and almost 300 took the time to either “like”, comment or tweet my post. My writer’s ego, as malnourished as it was, is now a fully gorged tick in danger of exploding. I have heard from the voice of the people, and it has been an overwhelming, “Good job. We like this!”

And on a Monday morning, that’s a really nice thing to have in your pocket. Thanks to all who’ve read. I hope you’ll come back.

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