Continuing on my series On Blogging, I’ve talked to experienced bloggers, Frenz and Servetus. You can read parts 1, 2, and 3. Last week, I posted the first half of Servetus’s interview. Here is the conclusion.
J: For whom are you writing on this blog?
S: In case that’s not clear by now: while I’m grateful for every reader, lurker, and commentator, I’m writing for me. I make no apologies for this decision. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about potential audiences when I write — it is impossible to write except to someone — but I am the real priority here. Every now and then the question of Richard Armitage comes up. That’s a big can of worms to open, here, and I’m not really interested in discussing it, but I can say: Richard Armitage does not enter into my blog as a reader or audience member — only as motivation.
J: If you had to do it all over again, would you blog?
I think so. I get emotional fulfillment from the writing. I enjoy having written a well-crafted piece (and learning from reader response about how to improve). I like understanding myself better. I enjoy reader contact even if I can’t always keep up with comments. I’ve loved making friends with people I’d never have met otherwise (like you!). I’m grateful if I’ve been able to do even just a little to make the world a marginally better place through a few charity appeals. I hope that what I write (whether serious or silly) brightens people’s days or makes them think — and it’s always rewarding when someone lets me know that’s the case, whether publicly or privately. So on the whole, the balance is positive.
Only two things ever make me consider quitting. One is time: I frequently think that I should spend more time on academic publishing or writing for money as opposed to “frivolous” blogging. That need may become acute depending on future employment. Right now I’m not short-changing anyone by blogging, but the danger’s there, and I certainly have it within me to devote all my time to blogging and Armitageworld, even if I know that would not be a good idea.
The second is obvious: the occasional flames. I don’t mean people who disagree with what I say and say so, whether timidly or forcefully — I mean people who bother to tell me in detail exactly what they despise about the blog and me. It’s almost always first-time commenters, so those posts don’t make it through moderation, but what those messages express shocks me. You wouldn’t believe the level of personal cruelty in some of the mail I get. I often get these after I’ve written something that reveals my own struggles, flaws, or embarrassments. I’ve learned that I’m a target for emotions and reactions that people don’t really understand (just as Richard Armitage has probably had to learn in his own context), but it still hurts. Then there are messages that do not attack me personally, but nonetheless accuse me of moral transgression or of destroying the fandom for admitting to my sexual fantasies. You can tell when I’ve gotten one of these when you see another post about an incessant topic of the blog — why it’s ok for me to blog. I’ve been amazed since becoming a fangirl at the sort of matters that people think are worth judging others over. It’s been a good lesson to me about my own occasionally severe INFJ inclination to judgment, which was enhanced by the moralistic upbringing I experienced. Blogging’s taught me definitely that moral disapproval should be saved for really crucial questions. Fangirling is not among these.
J: Could you have a blog not about any crush?
Potentially — but it would have to be something I felt fairly strongly about. My academic blogs were about the end of my crush on the university world, I suppose. I need to be preoccupied with something heavily in order to want to write about it and to do so effectively. I think a lot about another Internet writing project that would probably find a lot of consumers, but it wouldn’t be interactive in the same way as blogging. So I guess in order to blog about something I’d have to have a strong desire to speak with others about it. That’s been a big surprise for me from “me + richard armitage”: I didn’t initially start the blog with the intention of talking to other people about it — it was an analytical vent for an acute preoccupation — but, difficulties with some readers aside, that bit often keeps me going or inspires me to consider and write about things I wouldn’t otherwise.
Interestingly, a colleague suggested to me about a year ago that if it was easy to blog about Armitage, I should try blogging about my research in the same way. I did set up a blog but I never wrote a single post! Now, there’s absolutely no professional reward (promotions, salary increases) for blogging, but partially, I suspect, it’s because it doesn’t tap the same personal source that blogging stems from.
J: What pointers would you give to new bloggers scared to start out?
Hmm. There are a lot of “tips for beginning bloggers” out there that I’d agree with — comment frequently on others’ blogs to generate traffic, answer bloggers who comment on your blog, write short posts (a rule I don’t follow), write regularly, do lots of linking, put in pictures, don’t say anything you’re not willing to have associated with your real life identity in case you’re outed, etc. I agree with all of those things, obviously. My perception is that the biggest problem bloggers experience is not so much starting, but continuing at various points when excitement wanes and it would be easier to stop. It’s a bit frustrating to start a project full of enthusiasm for it, but to reach a point where you realize it is unsustainable. If this possibility is what bothers you, before you start, you should think a bit about a few things.
The first is whether blogging is really “your” genre. Do you want to write short, intensely personal bursts about your emotions and experiences that give insight into your life? Because that’s the primary reason that people read blogs: because they think they are getting a slice of someone’s “authentic” self or opinions. Blogging is really a very personal genre — but that’s not for everyone, and some people are uncomfortable with or at least unaccustomed to displaying that kind of transparency about their lives and feelings. If not blogging, what do you really want to do? Fanfic? Short stories? Art? Maybe embroidery is your medium, or photos, or fanvids, or something else that can also be exposed on the Internet and hook you up with creative people in that way. Don’t pick blogging just because it’s what everyone else you know is doing to express themselves. Do your creativity for YOU.
Second, I would suggest that the prospective blogger ask herself what her “mission” is and figure out what her voice is going to be. The point of the blog genre is that it’s *your* personal perspective, so the point doesn’t have to be incredibly original content (I almost never scoop any other fangirl on my blog in terms of information or even critical response) but the process is about becoming better and better at expressing your own insights in ways that seem real to you and speak to others. Inevitably, this involves some imitation — just as beginning writers imitate Hemingway, beginning bloggers imitate other bloggers they have read. But if it’s to be useful to you, eventually it will have to involve figuring out your voice and differentiating it from others. One way to do this is to make a list ahead of time about topics you’d like to write about, so you remember at a sticky point in writing that at one point there were all these things you wanted to comment on. But on the whole: write for YOU.
Third (and this is hard): Try to let go of your fears about being wrong or that people will disagree with you. Some of the best posts I’ve written in terms of discussion have been ideas that weren’t so well thought-out. In contrast, when a post is air-tight and sealed up at all the corners, people think they’ve got nothing to say. Be courageous for YOU.
Finally, I would say: work hard to make friends, especially at the beginning. Develop a support circle. There are some Armitage bloggers who’s support has meant a tremendous amount to me, and it helps to be able to bounce ideas around privately with someone you really trust before you go live on the blog. In the end, when blogging ends (as it seems to do inevitably), you’ll still have those friends to talk to. Make friends for YOU.
J: Thanks Servetus for participating. As you can see, these are wildly easy questions. 😀
In the interest of fair disclosure, Servetus had already formulated many of the questions in preparation of a FAQ for her blog when I had the idea to do a blogging series. It became pure serendipity.
NEXT: Blogging: Go For It?