Doing It Wrong

by Steve

Man in hood, with some sort of listening deviceSometimes the internet seems to be filled with nothing but guilty pleasures. While many of us would struggle to live without it, spending time on the internet can feel like time wasted. There is a nagging doubt that the internet cannot ever match up to the finest books, or works of art, or even films. Each moment browsing is a moment that could, potentially, be better spent elsewhere, admittedly with less cute photos of cats.

Yet, we rely on the internet to inform, to facilitate communication and to reach out to others. And it is undoubtedly great at that, in its immediacy and ease of use. But there has come a point where I’ve realisde I should perhaps be a little more focused in my internet use, so I still have time for those great books, films, albums etc etc.

One bad habit I have pretty much eliminated is reading “How to Blog” blogs. When I first started blogging I was eager to find out how to do it well, and how to successfully reach out to others. While I had no illusions about becoming any sort of star blogger/writer, I did quite like the idea of someone/anyone reading my thoughts. If that wasn’t the case, I’d have just kept a diary, or hidden my writing in an old ring-binder, or a file on my computer, never to be read. We all get a kick out of getting a visitor, or a comment, right?

I’m sure that, initially, I did learn something from these blogs. Some of the lessons were practical, others more nebulous, based around the ‘feel’ of a successful blog as much as any hard-and-fast rules. I learnt the importance of tone of voice, of being myself. I learnt the importance of replying to comments, and of commenting on others’ sites. I learnt to always credit images. I learnt the importance of regular posts. Some of these I followed through well, others less so. But it all seemed pretty common-sense stuff.

But, as time went on, I saw the same old advice cropping up on site after site. And increasingly the focus was less on being a better blogger, and more on making money from blogging. Pretty soon I wasn’t reading these blogs for advice; I was reading them out of some kind of morbid curiosity, wondering how and why people were putting so much emphasis on essentially whoring out a fun form of communication.

These blogs would talk of pillars of content, linkbait, guest posts, SEO, Adwords, pdf reports, all geared towards finding an audience, gaining their trust, and then making money out of them. They were preaching moneytization, whatever that meant. It all felt a little creepy. I just wanted to engage with the world, I wasn’t looking for a second job.

Increasingly their plan seemed to revolve around the selling of reports that promised riches from blogging. Become a Full-Time Blogger! These pdfs seemed to consist of a plan where you set up a blogging advice site, build up a strong visitor base, and then sell them a pdf report about how to Become a Full-Time Blogger, which consists of a plan where you set up a blogging advice site, build up…you get the picture.

It was a step away from a pyramid scheme, and far removed from good blogging as I understood it.

I think the only meaningful advice on how to be successful is to be a good writer. Everything else is a scam, or isn’t going to work.

And all of this stuff really doesn’t help bloggers, as they seem to be a neurotic enough bunch as it is. They don’t need further evidence that they are Doing It Wrong. They worry about that enough as it is. I know I do.

Yet, I think the best bloggers, and the best blog posts, come from Doing It Wrong. Blogging as a platform allows us such incredible freedom. We can write what we want, when we want. So, why shackle ourselves to rules about how to write, or when to write?

The most interesting writing I’ve read has come from people willing to experiment, either in form, or in content. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t work, but when it does it is brilliant. As bloggers we aren’t answerable to anyone but ourselves. If we fail, or simply don’t pull off a new idea, it really doesn’t matter. But if we do stretch ourselves in our writing, or explore new areas, or simply let ourselves write what we feel we are bound to do something that helps us become better writers, and hopefully become more fun to read.

There’s nothing wrong with being a Dabbler. We don’t need to be consistent, we don’t need to know it all. In fact, it’s far more fun when we don’t.

We don’t need 50,000 visitors a day. And let’s face it, no matter what we do the chances of that happening are remote anyway. So we might as well enjoy ourselves, and get back to the core principles of blogging – expressing ourselves and reaching out into that lonely ol’ world of ours.

It might all sound a little corny, but I think it helps make mucking around the internet seem like less of a guilty pleasure, and less of a waste of time. And no matter how I cut down my usage, I’ll still keep reading those bloggers who are glorious, funny, clever, brave failures. I’d much rather read them than any blogging ‘success’.

This is a kind of response to The Failed Blogger at Double Word Score, which was a response to this post I wrote here. Thank you for indulging this circle-jerk-ery. I would genuinely love to hear your perspective, either in the comments, or in your own blog post. Can you relate, or am I just talking rubbish?

Image from the Reanimation Library