Tuesday, October 19, 2010

this wicked dance

Sometimes I blog about a specific idea or topic because I see it circulating around the blogosphere, and it's not like I'm the kid who sits outside an adult conversation and says "I wanna turn! I wanna turn!" (though I'm sure I did that as a child) but because I have a very not so minor obsession with Here's My Take On It.

Ego aside, I've noticed that lately, quite a few blogger buddies of mine are wrestling with the expectations put on them by their readers. (See here and here for two interesting examples.) And while this isn't earth-shattering, it's something we face everyday as bloggers.

What are our expectations for our own blog? What are the expectations that our readers have put upon us? Let me put it to you this way: How many of you, after being absent from blogging for a while, or maybe even just a few days, have apologized to your readership?

Why is that? (And I've done it too.) We don't owe our followers anything, we probably know less than half of them in real life, and let's face it, no one is the Most Awesome Blogger of Ever that if he or she were gone for two weeks, the world would explode. (Except maybe Alli. God I love her blog.)

But there's expectations, aren't there? There's an exchange of energy, information, trust... our followers start to expect a certain tone or format in our blog, or maybe they check in on a certain day because that's when a specifically themed post will go up. And when we become the followers to others' blogs, we do the same thing. We expect.


Who does our blog belong to? Our readership? Or us? Certainly there's a careful balance there. No one enjoys reading blogs that are so self-involved that it's hard to create dialogue with the blogger. But how much say do our followers have in what we put on our blogs, what we post on a day to day basis, simply because they feel they have a right to voice their opinion?

Notice I'm asking a lot of questions here, because I don't have the answers. But expectations, while intriguing, also kill. They kill energy, acceptance, growth, change, and most of all... creativity.

I'm starting to check in and ask myself what I expect from the blogs that I follow, what I expect from my readers, and how I want to dance this dance. Because I don't like letting people down, ever. But I'm also very protective of my own space and wouldn't really be willing to compromise on how I live my life just to fit other peoples' expectations. I did that once, and once is enough. It's stifling and cuts off breathing room.

I don't blog as much when things get active in my life, and I'm careful not to apologize for that, nor do I make excuses. (Okay, this post sort of had excuses.) I also try to avoid posting in any one mood for too long and and try not to do specific posts on specific days (not that there's anything wrong with that - I just don't do it for my own blog, please don't leave me sad comments) because I try to keep my readers on their toes. I want this blog to be as free as possible to change and grow and I want the space to have posts fall flat or succeed beyond my wildest bloggy dreams.

So how do we navigate this delicate relationship between being the readers and the writers? It's too complicated to just say "screw 'em", nor would I want to. But it's something to think on, because in the end, the expectations of others are just that - of others. I'm trying to be careful not to let others' expectations of me become my own; and I think most of us face that in some avenue of our lives, blog or otherwise.

In the end, we get to do what we want, and the haters will hate and the complainers will complain. If we could just surround ourselves with people and readers who allow us to always be us, and drop any expectations, and leave guilt behind... maybe we could allow the same thing for ourselves?


Robin said...

All good questions. I think that if/when the day comes that my Thursday blog becomes a hardship rather than something I love, I will quit. It has to be something I enjoy doing or there is no joy in it for anyone. However, you raise a lot of good points. I do think that people shouldn't apologize for not posting. It just means that they are busy doing something else. It's all good.

Radical Bradacal said...

Did you just call me self-involved???

PS - I LOVE Chocolate Croissants. OMG.

Phoenix said...

Robin - yeah, I figured you'd know that while I wasn't referring to you specifically, I do notice the pressure you put on yourself to have your Here's to You Thursdays perfect for everyone :) But I love 'em! And you're right, we shouldn't have to apologize for being busy and having lives!

Lysie - Yes. Yes, that's what I was hoping you'd get out of this post. ;)

I will make you chocolate croissants next time we hang out.

Marion said...

I ask myself many of these same questions, Phoenix. Then I remember why I started my blog: to share my love of poetry and words and writing and gardening which is most often what I do. Then the "Prolixity" in the title covers everything else I want to say! But as it's my blog, I can write what-the-hell-ever I want to, right? And you can, too.

But often I'll have a dream or a 'feeling' that I just have to share something spiritual and I'll do that when the urge hits. That's usually when I lose follwers. The first time that happened, it bugged me and I considered not sharing that kind of stuff, thinking I'd offended someone, but then I'd be untrue to myself if I tried to write for everyone else and not me, right? By the third time I lost followers, I was all like, "Adios, Amigo...Whatever!"

I have gotten over the apologizing for not posting when others think I should a long time ago. I just go with the flow.

I think the best thing to do is to follow your heart and your heart won't steer you wrong, followers or not.

Overall, I'm very happy with my blog. And I love yours, too, Phoenix. Love & Blessings!!

Unknown said...

I read a ton of blogs, and after (almost) every post I think to myself, "Why don't I make my blog more like theirs?" I think this is where we run into trouble. I've taken my blog on a journey from recipes, to photos, to BRIDEZILLA, to.... well I think I'm still at bridezilla, but you get the idea.

Your readers are here because they like you! Since we are always evolving, and changing, who says our blog... especially a personal one... has to be one thing?

I mean we all wish we were A Cup of Joe, but we aren't, and that's ok.

Besides, I like to cuss once in a while on my site.. and that's ok too!


JJ said...

Wow, Phoenix! I'm still blogging and it's almost midnight. I have to get up at five! I'm doing a wicked dance too.

Love your blog. I came across it through Robin's site. I would like to follow, and I invite you to follow mine as well. Thanks.

The Disconnected Writer

Elisabeth said...

I couldn't agree more, Phoenix with all these questions and our need to try to find a balance between our needs as writers of blogs and the needs and wishes of readers.

I had the urge then to take the word 'needs' away from the readers as if readers only have wishes and, writers only have needs, but I'm sure both have both.

I know that I try to blog in the same way as I try to respond to blogs - with a degree of mutual respect.

On the other hand, I could no more blog to meet other people's expectations, or at least my fantasy of them, than I could write to do the same.

I write from some inner compulsion and need to explore aspects of myself, my life, and others that stir up feelings in me and I want to get to the bottom of them.

So I must write for myself first and hope that if I am authentic with myself then some of that authenticity will rub off onto and appeal to my readers.

Thanks for taking this topic further, Phoenix and for introducing me to these other wonderful blogs.

Lira Kellerman said...

We don't expect anything and yet somehow experience LOVE, just by reading the stuff you write. Cause that's what you give us: little bits of Phoenix herself just by writing what you experience and think and feel, and remind us that we're all in this together and all share in this life as we move closer and closer to God.

Amazing, huh?

Ashley said...

Great observations. I've noticed this phenomenon as well. Regarding expectations, I have none from my readers. Because I have 2, maybe 3 consistent readers. Which is fine, because I love blogging for me. I've always been a journal keeper, and finding the blog option has been wonderful for me. I concentrate on making my space something that stands up to my own expectations. Usually what we personally enjoy, others will enjoy as a direct result. Further more, most people don't know what they like/want until they see it. So what good comes from asking people what they want? It's sort of weird. So the long and short of it, keep on keepin' on my blog friend.



Purple Cow said...

Oh, I know how you feel! I sometimes feel the same stress. I can relate to this post a lot. There are no clear lines. So much less stressful but not quite as much fun when there were zero followers.

By the way, thanks for Hyperbole and a half! Great blog.

Wine and Words said...

Oh gosh....me and expectations. What a long conversation that would be, and I'm sure pure drudgery. Keep 'em low and be true to yourself. I, for one, like it here :)

Bathwater said...

While I never expect anyone to write on anything specific I do enjoy the connect blogging brings with others and I do miss people when they get busy.

I never write for the audience, I write for myself and sometimes it suits their purpose too but I'd rather have two close readers than 100 followers.

Besides I just bombard you with emails when I want to get something off my chest.

Kristin Quinn said...

Although I do wonder where someone has gone if its been awhile, I try not to have expectations for people because just as they are ever changing so are their blogs. I sure do look forward to reading yours every time when it does pop up in my reader!

Tiffany Kadani said...

You know, there are blogs with revenue and blogs without. The feel is very distinct within a blog. I love Giveaways but I'm not in love with the blogs that have them because they are so impersonal sometimes (with a few exceptions). But a blog is for the blogger and those who appreciate it. Unless it's for money, then it's totally about readership. I could be totally wrong and probably am but those are my two cents that probably aren't even worth two cents.

Dionne said...

I know how you feel. This post really rings home for me because I need to remind myself that I originally created my blog for me, not for others. I started it as a creative release, and then others just started showing up and joining the ride. I guess people first come to a blog and then stay because they either relate to the writer, or enjoy reading about whatever it is that they blog about, so I think it's so true that we should blog according to what WE want (the bloggers), because that's what drew people to come read in the first place.

But I agree that it can be a hard balance - we can never please everyone in the end anyways, you're right!

Great post!

Phoenix said...

Marion - I love that you, like me, are learning not to apologize for what we post (and how often we post.) I don't think feeling like we owe it to others to blog is going to make anything feel more healthy.

Ashley - I love your blog for that very reason - you have so many different interests and you don't pretend to be just one thing. You're a musician and a bride and a baker and you cuss like a sailor (which is fucking fine with me!) and I think it all represents who you are.

JJ - lovely to meet you! And I'm always thrilled to hear it's because of Robin, one of my favorite bloggers and someone with such a huge heart. I'm off to check out your blog after this!

Elisabeth - I'm glad you liked where I took the topic. I don't like to see my blogger friends under such pressure from their (well meaning, just being honest) readers because it's no fun for anyone to feel let down or like they've let people down. And I love your blog just the way it is.

Lira - dammit, your comment made me tear up.

Ash - thanks for the words of wisdom. I like that phrase you used a lot - "making my space something that stands up to my own expectations." In the end, those are the only expectations we are required to meet.

Purple Cow - exactly! And it's not much fun to blog while stressing about everyone's reactions, is it. Enjoy Alli's blog (isn't she hilarious?!)

Annie - thank you. I like it here too. :) (and I like keeping 'em low as well!)

Bath - I love that you write for yourself, but you are still able to post in such a way that we all understand what's going on. I think you've struck a very good balance with your blog. And feel free to bombard me any time, I enjoy our email conversations quite a bit!

Kristin - aw, thanks girl :) I know you get busy but I always love it when you drop by and leave a comment.

Dancing Branflake - I know what you mean. Sometimes when you visit a blog and it feels impersonal (or that it simply exists to generate revenue) it's hard to get engaged. But you're right, a blog is for the blogger AND those who appreciate it. I think your comment was worth way more than two cents. :)

Dionne - you were one of the first blogs that I started following, and I love it because it shows off your artwork, your photography, you amazing cooking skillz, and most importantly, how interested you are in others. I think you do a great job with balancing it.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

I get this. I've been through this. I won an award a few months back, and suddenly I got more and more hits. And the expectation goes up. I won a 'Best Entertainment Blog' award yet most of the time I'm just rambling about funny things that happened on a film set or sharing a story about how my writing got interrupted by a friend popping round for tea--- and suddenly, what do people expect of me now with this award thing?

But whatever. We're not brands. We're just people writing. Our blogs are defined by how we choose to approach them. If you start being too conscious of expectations or needs of other people, you're just going to be miserable, much like in life. And all of a sudden rather than being this wonderful place where you can express yourself, your art, your career, your life; instead it becomes this chore where you're worrying about expecations--- and you're wondering why your last three blog posts had zero comments and you're worrying about the fact that you don't seem quite as flowing as you was a few months ago.

My attitude is, "whatever" - y'know? They're just blogs and they should be fun. Sometimes I interview Hollywood filmmakers, sometimes I give advice, sometimes I post pictures of Scarlet Johannsson, and sometimes I post short stories about tea. That's who I am - just a mixture of the things I like and the things that interest me and really; that's all my blog should be about. Sure, some people might EXPECT writing wisdom from me or they might EXPECT to read interviews with actors-- but they're one element, but more often than not, they're going to read me rambling about whatever comes to my mind.

A blog is like an art form. Fuck, it is an art form. At its best, like acting, it's about the art of being yourself. The art of being 'in it' -- and just like your acting career; if you worry about expectations and what people expect of you, your acting is going to look like Keanu Reeves. Don't let this pressure or these concerns get to you - because, most of the time it doesn't even come from your readers, it comes from the little trouble-monkey in your own head, just trying to make things complicated. Ignore it, eat a cookie, write a new blog post.

Barbara said...

I don't apologize for not blogging (or taking time off) but I do apologize for not commenting....just want my readers to know I'm still alive and kicking...and believe me, if I suddenly stopped, not one of my kids would have a clue how to tell you what happened.
It happens. We worry.

Eric W. Trant said...

All right, lemme show you my pramaticism about blogging.

For years I blogged in my cave, alone, to myself, and wrote, alone, to myself, and stored stories and novels on my hard drive, printed em out, stored em in a filing cabinet that's still at my former wife's house, and I never let anyone read any of em.

All of it was for me. I could care less if anyone ever read it. That wasn't the point, never was.

I started blogging the same way. I got a short published -- ironically, the first short I sent out got published, badabing, that was easy -- and figured it would be a good thing to line up with some other writers and see what's what.

So that's what I did and here I am. You'll notice that one of my recent posts started out, and I paraphrase: This is for me, not you, and if nobody ever reads it, it still served its purpose.

That's how I write. For me. First for me.

And those are who I read, the bloggers -- like you -- who write first for themselves.

You write it in the sky and let those who'll look up read it, and say to the wind: Blow me away, and anyone who wants to keep looking down, so be it.

Or something like that, the sky-writers.

Weird way of looking at it, I suppose, but that's how I see it. The greatest writers -- and bloggers -- don't write for their audience. They write for themselves.

And the only expectations are those you impose on yourself.

I will say this, though: How much more wonderful is it to write for yourself, and see people looking up, reading it, and saying, You did good.

I love my readers.

- Eric

Maggie May said...

i just really tried to let go of that from day one. being focused on writing what i want to write about from the get go has helped.

nick said...

Whaaat? You're saying you can live without my blog? I'm shattered.

Dave said...

If you ever find yourself eating in a cave order the "Cave Chicken". That definately makes no sense out of context. :)
(and because I remember a blog some time back about the word verification you have to type to post a comment...mine this time is "stinks". go figure.)

Lydia Kang said...

Those were great questions. I haven't thought too much about it. I mean, my blog is structured and all, but that hides the fact that I just get excited about a topic and want to share it. It's kind of just that. Nowadays, some people want to listen to the silly stuff I have to say, and it's fun.
When it's not fun anymore, I won't blog. But right now, it's wonderful.
If I think too hard about what they expect from me, or their expectations, I just kind of laugh it off, because it's only little ol' me. I'm not, like, a celebrity or anything.

Gwen said...

When I first started my blog I was blogging for out of town friends that I didn't talk to very often. Soon after that developed into blog friend relationships. I love keeping up with everyone (you included) and write on my blog to let everyone that reads keep up with us. If I hadn't made those relationships there is no way I would still be writing on the blog. And even now when I'm really busy I have to push it to the side. I used to feel guilty but I've realized I just can't let it bother me. Love you girl!!! XOXO

Phoenix said...

Kid - I think you put it perfectly - blogging is like any other art. You have to do it for yourself, to please yourself. If others can share in it with you, great; if they don't get it, heh, time for them to move along.

Eric - exactly. I write for me (and those I love, who I know will love me back) and if people read it, great; if they don't, that's their loss. :)

Maggie - yeah, I find that focusing on the writing rather than the entertainment part of blogging helps free me up quite a bit.

Nick - don't be silly, I didn't mean that I can't live without YOUR blog. ;) I just meant everyone else's. Lol.

Dave - Cave Chicken. Got it. You're sure it's not bat, right? Because in the end (and in the dark), everything tastes like chicken...

Lydia - I think because you have so much great participation from your readers, there's probably less expectations you've put on yourself because you're so open-minded about getting your reader's intake. A wonderful way to run a blog!

Gwen - My favorite part of blogging is definitely keeping up with everyone's lives too (and that definitely includes you!) I've met so many wonderful people through blogging... and I'm so grateful I do it.

Heather Taylor said...

Very thought-provoking post Tracy. My last blog entry was an apology to everyone who follows me because I hadn't been following their blogs as diligently as I used to since getting a job that time consumed me. Plus other issues. Sometimes I feel like my life is beginning to grow stagnant and I don't want to blog about nothing. If I blog, it's for me. It's about something I care about and hopefully, other readers care too. The blogosphere is like friendship to me. You shouldn't have to edit what happens in your life to others or worry about what to properly say to protect your image. A true friend will like the good and the bad you have to share- and you'll feel the same way about them too.

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