Today is National Writing Day. So please indulge me as I share a personal story with you. Let me tell you about the blogger who discovered he wasn’t really a blogger after all.
The journey begins
Let me start with a confession. When I started blogging back in 2007, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew only that I had the urge to write, a compulsion that dates back to my teenage years.
My first attempt was a general sports blog, where I wrote opinion pieces about whatever caught my attention: the uplifting effect of a well observed minute’s silence; cycling’s problems with doping; Arsenal’s latest calamitous result. I didn’t promote it; I just wrote and published. Don’t judge me too harshly. After all, Twitter was in its infancy, Facebook Pages didn’t exist yet and neither did Instagram. Consequently I was averaging 1-2 page views per day. Often zero.
Was I disheartened by this? No. I wrote because I loved to write. Any external readers were a bonus, not a prerequisite or a goal. I was an aspiring writer whose medium just happened to be a blog.
Things grew over time. I expanded to a second, personal blog, which evolved into this parenting-led site. My sports blog grew, from tens to hundreds and ultimately 1,000-plus views daily. It gave birth to a separate cycling site. My personal blog spawned a TV reviews site.
Alongside my evolving content came dedicated Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. Building connections with other bloggers. Venturing on to the conference circuit. Writing was still my focus but increasingly I became involved in all the other stuff that has become part and parcel of ‘blogging’.
At one point I was publishing 10-15 posts and averaging upwards of 15,000 words every week across four blogs. Like I said, I loved to write. It was never about fame or money, just the love of crafting words into stories for the sheer hell of it.
Here’s a thing, though. During this period of what can only be adequately described as ‘obsessive lunacy’, one of the posts I wrote for Metro generated over 250,000 views. I should be proud of that, right? And I am, but not because it was a great piece of writing. In truth, it was distinctly mediocre. But it hit a sweet spot in terms of relevance and timeliness – not great writing but a great blog post.
And that’s my point. Stats aren’t everything when it comes to judging writing. But they are seductive.
It’s easy to get sucked in. After all, stats are something most bloggers seem to obsess about constantly, especially if you are looking to make a living from it. Page views. DA (which stands for ‘domain authority’ rather than ‘don’t ask’). Ranking charts.
I know. I’ve been there. Of course it’s great to be climbing a ranking or to be included in a top ten list. Of course I punched the air when my Metro piece gave me my first six-figure post – and then kept going north of 250,000. I have an ego, just like anyone else. But did it prove to me that I was a better writer – or simply a more widely read one? Did it make me enjoy my writing more?
A change of direction
Then, in late 2016, I had one of those moments of clarity. I realised that ‘blogging’ was getting in the way of ‘writing’. Instead of pouring my energy into content, I was spending too much time promoting either it or myself, or worrying about what numbers it might generate. It wasn’t what I wanted it to be.
18 months on from that day, I’m in a different place. I now focus less on all the blogging ‘stuff’ and more on writing just for the sake of writing. I don’t worry about how much time I spend interacting with other bloggers, hoping for more views, likes and comments. Okay, I do still promote my content on social media but nowhere near as much or effectively as I could do.
What was once a necessary evil simply became unnecessary. And what had become a chore has become enjoyable again.
Coming full circle
So what is the net result? Growth in my social media followings has stagnated. My blog receives half as many page views as it once did.
To some in the blogging world, that makes me half as successful; a failure. The reality is I feel more fulfilled than ever.
I write about what I want to write, not what I think will be popular. I invest more time in creating original ideas and polishing my words than I did when I was churning out post after post, day after day. Quality over quantity.
Most of all, I’ve come full circle and I’m back where I started. I’m not a ‘blogger’ in the modern sense, with all the baggage that comes with that label. I’m someone who loves to write who happens to have a blog. Which, as it turns out, was all I really wanted to be all along.
And they all lived happily ever after. (Hopefully.)