Megablogging: the State of the Blog

8:20 pm – Sunday night. I’m completely exhausted. Wiped out is an understatement. I got up at an hour that begins with a “6” (after having gone to bed at an hour that beings with a 1… even if you’re on a 24 hour clock) in order to do the Walk for Hunger. Generally I’d rather walk against hunger, but I figured this was the year I’d finally join the faithful footsoldiers at my church. I thought a 10 mile walk would be no problem. Heck, I did 6.5 miles on Wednesday without feeling anything more than I’d had a good walk. I didn’t reckon how much harder it would be to do it all at once, in a huge lugubrious pack of people, on asphalt, in cold 50 degree winds in the overcast. I won’t pretend otherwise – the 11.5 miles I did this morning kicked my butt.

So by the time kid-bedtime rolled around, my lack of bloggedness was a weight on my shoulders. I mean, I know I don’t get paid for this. I know it’s not really that important. But I have made a commitment to 11 am on Mondays and by gum I try really hard to keep it.

I haven't done so badly in keeping my commitment
I haven’t done so badly in keeping my commitment

Anyway, so I was brushing my teeth and thinking about what kind of blog post I should do today. My posts fall into one of about four genres. I was trying to figure out which one I had both a topic and energy for. Here are the general genres:

1) The autobiographical update
This is the easiest one to write. Sometimes when I’m really tired this is just a list of all the random post-its I stick in my head with with a note saying “possible blog post”. It’s more or less a collection of extended Facebook updates about my life. If I had to guess, I’d guess this kind of post is interesting to my mother and the nice lady from Minnesota who reads everything I write. And frankly, I’m not so sure about my mom. But this kind of post does serve a useful purpose. This blog is my journal. I could never prioritize a journal written for an unknown audience the way I prioritize my conversations with you. (In fact many of my old paper journals go on for pages pondering on what possible audience would ever be interested in reading about my deepest thoughts. Given that they’re adolescent drivel, this was a good question to be asking.) I deeply value capturing the meaningful moments and stories of my life. I preserve precious memories here. But I recognize that these posts are not riveting, and usually try to work harder to make the same information into a better written post.

2) Stuff I’ve learned
These sorts of posts are hard to write, but worthwhile for me. I usually pull together some sort of research I’ve been doing into the equivalent of a report. In the last two or three years, these have been almost entirely focused on Stoneham, my adoptive home town. As I’ve gotten a clue about the situation here, I’ve discovered how hard it is to develop an informed opinion without knowing people, and I’ve tried to share what information I’ve unearthed in a more public environment. I much prefer talking about the wolf attacks or the latest awesome thing I read in Silas Dean’s history than to wade into politics, but the political information is probably rather more useful.

3) The Perspective Piece
This is probably the kind of writing I consider to be the core of my blog. I take a moment in my life – really, I try to take the things I’ve been thinking about – and go in depth on them. This is where parenting, mortality, faith, why I can’t listen to NPR anymore, and how I feel about hiking all come out. I use the occasions of my life to talk about what that living means to me. At its best, I have a chance to work through the difficult thoughts. I actually find it really hard when the concepts I’m working through are things I can’t share with you – like a relationship that needs hard thinking, or anything about work. I have never talked much about work here, not because it’s not important to me but because I think discretion is the better part of wisdom for a hobbyist blogger. Looking at my recent posts, I’m not actually sure I do this kind of post as much as I think I do.

4) Big Concepts
These are the posts I aspire to; the ones I secretly hope will go viral. (Hint: they haven’t. I’ve only had one post go viral in the 13+ years I’ve been blogging, and that was about a tv show, which is ironic given how little tv I watch.) These are the posts where I feel like I’m really saying something meaningful. I hope to contribute a small voice to the great conversation across generations of writers about what it means to be a human. I don’t write very many of these, and they rarely get a lot of comments.

My tooth-brushing self, cycling through these known tropes, wondered which one you wanted to read, and whether you’d be annoyed at yet another autobiographical list of “stuff that happened” a la option 1. I thought “Hey, WordPress has a poll function! I could just, you know ask them. All I’d have to do is spend about 1000 words explaining the tropes to them, and then, well, I’d have my post!”

So, beloved friends, which is your favorite kind of MTP post?

Fifteen minutes of internet fame

About two weeks ago, I sat down and wrote the blog post that was rattling around in my brain about the Discovery Show Deadliest Catch. It took a little longer than my average blog post to write (I mean… I had to do RESEARCH! And PROOFREAD! The horrors!) I clicked publish with a sense of satisfaction and moved on with my life.

Then, the next day, this happened:

Best Blog Day Ever: My post got retweeted by one of the Deadliest Catch Captains
Best Blog Day Ever: My post got retweeted by one of the Deadliest Catch Captains

There was squeeing on my part. I called my sister. Then I watched the traffic grow. Before the day was over, I’d hit 355 hits – over 100 more than my best day ever. I settled, self-satisfied, into a good night’s sleep.

The next day, traffic was tailing off. That’s the way it normally goes: I write a post, everyone who reads me comes to read it, it fades away. I enjoyed my good day. I went home. Being a 21st century mom, I checked my email while dinner sizzled on the stove. I noticed I had a comment on my post! Nice! Wait, 2 comments! Three! Um, sixteen? I only get about one comment per 100 views, and if that held steady… uh, hold on, gotta go check my stats.

Holy cow!
Holy cow!

And it was off! I got 37 comments, 10,000 hits (10% of my overall total, and I started this blog in 2008), and tons of views. It got picked up and passed on and retweeted. After long thought, I broke my own personal “fourth wall” and sent it to the content manager for my company blog, where the article was reposted. It came to the attention of my management, and they were very nice about it. (Which says more about how nice my management is than anything else!) I also got approached by the staff of the Cornelia Marie blog (which was responsible for a ton of the traffic) asking to republish the article.

That made me stop to think. Did it support my goals to have my writing rebroadcast on another site? Ummmm, what were my goals again? It’s a worthwhile question. I don’t have any sponsorship (I’ve never even got hit-up by those folks who court mommybloggers.) I don’t think I really want any sponsorship (a stance that might be challenged by someone actually offering sponsorship). I don’t really want to be a famous or professional blogger. I’m not nearly funny enough (I’m both autobiographical and sentimental). I dislike controversy and fighting, which are staples of the modern internet.

So why do I write, to the tune of about 80 posts a year on this blog alone? Well, you know how successful authors – when asked how to write – often say that they write because not writing is not an option? It turns out that can be true for rather more modestly successful writers. It’s important to my mental state to write.

In addition to providing an outlet for me, this blog plays other roles. It’s how I tell my family what is going on in my life. It is a bit of a family history, where I record the important things that happen (or at least, non-embarrassing important things) in the life of my family. I capture story-snapshots of what it is to be me at a given point. I also have a chance to articulate and make more real some of the ephemeral moments and thoughts that flit across my mind. For some of my readers, my blog creates a relationship. I met a mom at Chuck E Cheese at Grey’s birthday, who recognized me because she reads my blog. It keeps me closer to people I care about.

And – I’ll admit – I’ve always hoped that some of my writing would “go viral”. And that’s just what happened. Now, I’m a sophisticated enough internetian to know that writing popularity is so often a double-edged sword, with high readership accompanied by nasty comments. But the Deadliest Catch readership appears to be entirely populated by nice, positive people (based on the feedback I got).

So what’s my thesis? Just that… man! That rocked! It was totally fun! I got all the upside I dream of in my happier writing moments, and none of the downside that so often accompanies internet fame. So unless the Discovery Channel picks up the post and it goes onto one other wave of fame, it’s likely over and time to move on with narrating my exhilarating life of jam, football and kids. But boy, was that fun!

WordPress does a nice job of providing statistics and analysis on their blogs (secret: every blogger I know watches their statistics with a hawk-like eye). Their year-end analysis of my blog didn’t seem particularly insightful this year, so I didn’t share it at the time, but it seems like a relevant baseline to this post. I still find it highly ironic that one of my top search terms is “today sucks” since – in general – I feel like I write pretty positive and cheerful stuff!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 18,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.


So bloggers have a well-known trap of writing about how long it’s been since they wrote, and then going into painful detail about WHY it’s been so long. There are a few reasons for this, but the main is that the longer you go without saying anything, the harder it is to say just something. So then you start fretting over saying the perfect thing that makes you readers forgive you for your absence and not remove you from their list of daily blogs they check.

This is a trap. Still, it’s been nearly three weeks, which might be the longest I’ve gone without writing in my blog for like seven years. And it isn’t because I haven’t had anything to say! No, we’ve had an ordination, cross country flight, life-shifting plane conversation, week of solo-parenting, Christmassing, caroling, cookie-ing, play-dating and regular old “Kids say the darndest things”-ing.

I’ve also been interviewing and (breaking news!) leaving my job. I really don’t do work talk on the blog, but most of my silence has been work related – for both time and energy reasons. (Also, for the record, interviewing is also very time and energy consuming.) So… I have this week off, work at my old job for two weeks, and then have a week off to recharge before I start my (awesome, great fit) new job.

This is all to say, I’m back, folks. And trust me, no one is happier about it than I am. So maybe now I can tell you about what’s going on in my life – and better yet, perhaps some of those things will be fun and interesting.

Merry Christmas to all of you. May Santa bring you as nice a gift as he brought me!!!

Once more, into the breach

So this Friday is my last day of the blessed interregnum. I think it’s time. Two weeks was, as it turns out, just long enough. On the one hand, I think I could handle this pretty much indefinitely if forced to… this whole not working while mostly getting paid, having benefits, and having the kids go to daycare. It’s a tough gig, I know.

But I’m really well rested. I’m the best rested I’ve been in years. In part thanks to that darn stomach bug on Monday, I’ve gotten more sleep this fortnight than I’ve gotten since… I don’t know when. Maybe since puberty. Nah, there WAS that stretch of unemployment in 2001. Still. I slept in until 10 am this morning because hey! Gather you snoozes while you may for time is still a-flying!

And then there’s my to do list. Do you remember that long list? I’ve done the taxes, done the budget (that took ALL DAY yesterday, for reals), cleaned the carpet, cleaned out our clothing for donation, gotten recycling stickers (although not put them on the cans), applied for a HELOC and was told that one needs EQUITY for a Home Equity Line of Credit. (Who knew!) I got the cat food, bleached the comforter, cleaned off the front porch, repotted my ivy, made a turkey dinner, did the old company offboarding, the new company onboarding, got sick, took care of a sick kid, and tried to make sure that our evenings and weekends were unusually chore free.

I did not order pictures or update the baby book, but the day is not yet done.

On the fun side, I read several books (not enough), watched the Olympics, beat Torchlight, got to an end point in Fable and slept in. I probably did a little too much work and a little too little goofing, but even when you’re not working, there isn’t infinite time.

This moment is a little frustrating. I look at everything undone (why does the pile seem none-diminished?) and think, “Wow, it’ll be hard getting around to that.” There are still things that I’m not willing to give up, but that I know will be a challenge to get done. I realize I’ve been thinking of starting my new job as the complete loss of all free time. While for sure I will not have as much free time as at my last month or two at my old job, or this lovely break, my life will not cease because I have a job. (If so, it’s the wrong job for me. I don’t think this will be the case.) I wish there was some way to channel the restedness of my current self to make life easier for me in the future. I suppose that’s what doing the taxes now was all about.

It actually helped TREMENDOUSLY to have that interim meeting with them. I can imagine where I’ll be sitting, what kind of work I’ll be doing at first, who my coworkers will be. Instead of a black box onto which I project my worst fears, I have a filled in outline of my opportunities. It’s a great company.

I admit that I am afraid for this blog. I’ve worked really hard at it. I know that may not always be obvious from the quality of posts: “Today’s random collection of cute kid stuff and witty complaining”. But some of the posts have been hard work, hard writing, and stuff I can be proud of. Writing a blog post is a little like buying a lotto ticket — you keep hoping that this will be the one that launches you to Internet Fame and Advertiser Fortune! But that hasn’t been the case for me. The few I thought had a chance to do that have settled down into obscurity. In fact, the one posting of my that is most hit is from a Google search of “today sucks”. (Sorry mom! You taught me to use better language!) It’s exactly the kind of whiny post I write on days when I have nothing to say. The only redeeming fact is that plenty of people click through for a link of “Gives Me Hope” that I added after noticing all the traffic.

So what does the future here hold? Gradual drying up? Guilt for not posting? New, rich posts because my brain has all this new, rich material to process? Once a week catchups? I don’t know.

I love variety. I struggle with change. I’m not nearly as confident as I appear in the movies. I just have to have faith it’ll all work out.

Oh, before I forget! I didn’t do my big “order prints for great-grandma and baby books and a non-digital future” but I DID get the latest pictures up on the web. There are three sections:

The goodbye party at Chuck E Cheese: aka why I should be nominated for sainthood

My church’s potluck. Probably not interesting to you unless you attend my church.

Family photos from February

And finally, I did something new. For Grey’s second to last day at his old preschool they were supposed to bring a picture of something they loved. I let him loose with the camera. When he was done, I made a collage on Picasa (fun and addictive!) of some of the things he loved. I made one mistake, making it too much about the things I love, but hey. We’re all human. He didn’t notice.

Things Grey loves
Things Grey loves