I’m not a ‘successful’ blogger – and I’m okay with that.
A good friend announced last week that he was quitting his parenting blog but not before he delivered a few honest reflections on his experiences of the blogging ‘scene’.
Bloggers will know the kind of home truths he highlighted: the ruthlessness behind the smiling public personas, excessively gushing product reviews, sharp practices on social media that reduce followers to commodities. However, there was one lesson that really struck home for me: your blog will never be good enough.
He was – is – right.
The subjective vs (supposedly) objective view
Firstly, there’s the subjective view of ‘good enough’. It’s in a blogger’s nature – as someone who puts their creativity out there for public scrutiny – to be insecure. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the saying goes.
There is always someone whose site looks prettier.
There is always someone who gets more and better opportunities to work with brands.
There is always someone whose home and children look immaculate, even if the truth behind the picture-perfect photos is somewhat different.
That much is a matter of subjective opinion. However, there are also more (supposedly) objective ways of measuring how good you are.
Parent bloggers fret over their social media followings, their Tots100 ranking, their DA, their Klout score and any of a vast array of statistics. To people outside the blogging bubble, these numbers are meaningless. That’s not to say stats aren’t a helpful way of assessing how you’re doing compared to your peers or for setting your own goals – they are. But equally they are not the sole arbiter of how good you are and some bloggers worry about them to the point of obsession.
Having X number of Instagram followers is a visible, measurable form of validation. If we just hit that next milestone then PRs will come flocking to our door offering riches galore (or, at least, a jolly nice food hamper). Numbers equal ‘success’. Numbers define how good we are as bloggers. Or so some would have you believe.
So as bloggers we devour endless ‘how to’ lists. We scrutinise the ‘best’ bloggers. We write about what they write about. We imitate their style. We copy everything they do because there has to be a formula for success that is the only thing standing between us and being the next Unmumsy Mum or Hurrah for Gin or Zoella. Even though, deep down, we know the secret of their success is that the only formula they have ever followed is their own. That, a lot of talent and a little good fortune.
Anything is better than admitting that most unconscionable of possibilities: that maybe we’re not as good as we think we are.
I’ve learned that the hard way over 10 years of blogging. We all start out thinking our take is fresh and unique. In reality, for 99.9% of us it’s neither. There are now so many bloggers out there that it would be the height of arrogance to believe our own hype. And yet I regularly come across newish bloggers – I’m talking three months or less – who bemoan in blogging forums that they don’t yet have eleventy billion Facebook followers and that brands aren’t falling over themselves in a mad dash to work with them. It’s an endless tale of “woe is me” which simultaneously disses bloggers who have been slaving away without ‘success’ for years.
Out of curiosity, I’ve checked out quite a few of these blogs. A few are very good indeed. Others … aren’t. They are poorly written, derivative and littered with so many grammatical and factual errors that the editor in me dies a little with every paragraph. Most, however, occupy the huge expanse of middle ground: they’re reasonably well written, there are occasional flashes of insight and originality but mostly they’re just ‘good’. Not outstanding, not sign-them-to-a-six-figure-book-deal-with-film-rights-thrown-in brilliant. Just good.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Most of us can (just about) carry a tune at a local karaoke night. But that doesn’t mean we’re one break away from being the next Taylor Swift.
And that’s me. Not-Taylor Swift. No shame in that.
Let’s be truthful here. I don’t think I’m a bad writer at all. Actually, if you’ll allow me to be distinctly un-British for a moment, I think I’m pretty good. But I’m also not in that very top echelon of bloggers. No publisher has beaten a path to my door and I get fewer views in a month than many bigger bloggers do in a day. So while I may be good, clearly I’m not that good.
Even so, blogging has been kind to me. It has brought me new friends and new experiences. I’ve been on radio. I’ve interviewed successful toy inventors. I’ve been to festivals and events. I’ve even sung live on stage in front of hundreds of people as a result of blogging. But I’m not afraid to recognise my own limitations.
Yes, I’ve sung live but as I’ve said I’ll be the first to admit I’m no Taylor Swift. I’m not even Steve Brookstein. (Remember him?) To extend the X Factor analogy further, what I am is one of those anonymous faces who make it through the first round of auditions but no further.
Good enough to be recognised, not good enough to be a winner.
If the above sounds defeatist, so be it. It may even seem a bit disingenuous given that I’m a finalist for one of BritMums’ BiB Awards next week. But I’m under no illusions about where my talent ends and wistful thinking begins.
Am I bitter? No. I’m not really even disappointed. (Well, okay, maybe a little.)
By many of the yardsticks bloggers use to gauge success – page views, rankings, income – I’m not successful. But you know what? I’ve become a better writer than I was when I started blogging, I’ve stuck at it for over ten years and I have received a degree of recognition along the way. So maybe I’m not as ‘successful’ as I secretly wish I was but you know what? That’s alright. I may not be a huge success – but I’m a long way from being a failure.
I never wanted to be Taylor Swift anyway. (Okay, maybe just a little.) She’d probably be a great blogger too.