Blogging – Why I Do It & What It Does For Me
This week’s Friday Fun post asked, “Why do you blog, and is it worth it?” It’s a valid question. Blogging can be a very time consuming pursuit. I spend an average of five hours each week planning, writing, and commenting here at Live to Write – Write to Live. That’s a pretty substantial chunk of time in my world, hours some might say I should spend working on other writing projects – a novel, a nonfiction book, a short story collection, etc. Though I sometimes worry that maybe those people are right, and my blogging habit is just an elaborate procrastination scheme, those moments of doubt don’t last long. I know there’s much more to my blogging than mere avoidance.
Anyway, since client deadlines kept me from chiming in on yesterday’s Friday Fun post, I wanted to take some time today to share a little bit about why I blog, what it means to me, what it does for me, and to invite you to share your thoughts on the topic.
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My blogging journey began more or less by accident. I’ve shared my blogging genesis story before, but the short version is that I began by publicly journaling about my divorce, which led to a gig as a mommy blogger, which gave me the confidence to launch a marketing blog with five other professional copywriters, which eventually landed me here (since one of those other copywriters was our own, dear Wendy). I no longer mommy blog, or write for my own or any other marketing blog, but I continue putting in my five hours each week here.
There are several different kinds of bloggers. Some bloggers …
- Develop blog properties with the focused intent of monetizing them via products, ad revenue, or affiliate sales
- Use their blogs as content marketing, not expecting any direct monetary return from the blog, but using it to promote their expertise in order to land clients for their business
- Do what they do simply to express themselves, share their knowledge, and build communities around common experiences and interests
- Writers and artists, create a blog to be both a portfolio and a community hub for their fans and patrons, using it to increase awareness of and support for their work
- Use their blogs as a public chronicle of a personal journey, exploring their lives, thoughts, and emotions
- Blog purely to keep themselves accountable to a writing practice
When you understand which of these reasons motivates you to blog, you’ll have a much easier time setting expectations, making blog-related choices, and reaching goals (whether your goal is selling 1,000 copies of your novel or simply sticking to a consistent writing schedule for three years). When you’re clear about why you’re blogging and what you hope to get out of it, you gain a lot of valuable clarity. You can be more intentional about what you write, and this will help you evolve as a blogger (and a writer!) more quickly and in a more meaningful way.
I definitely started out as a blogger who wanted nothing more than to express myself and find a community of people who could relate to what I was going through. I had little knowledge of what blogging actually was, no idea how it’s popularity would explode, and no clear vision of where I wanted to go with it. I just wanted to get stuff out of my head and into the world. I loved that people responded to what I wrote, and was giddy when someone offered to pay me for my writing.
My professional blogging about marketing and copywriting was straight-up content marketing. As someone new on the freelancer scene, I needed a way to demonstrate to prospective clients that I knew what I was talking about and could wrangle words. Blogging helped me build an archive of articles on relevant topics that I could later use when pitching a client. I even had a few instances where clients found me through the blog (though, because I didn’t do any heavy promotion for the blog, those were few and far between).
Today, my hybrid motivation is a mash-up of professional (build a portfolio, create a platform), personal (explore ideas, connect with others), artistic (improve my craft, hone my voice), and pragmatic (stay productive and accountable) reasons. It’s a lot to expect of any practice, but – in my experience – blogging delivers.
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In her book, The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown talks about the importance of having a creative outlet. She says, “Unused creativity is not benign – it metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow, shame.” She also touches on the importance of doing work that fulfills you – work with a purpose that is meaningful to you. She’s quick to clarify that she doesn’t mean you should quit your day job in order to pursue work that won’t keep a roof over your head. She explains that people who live “whole-heartedly” make time in their lives for meaningful work, but that very few of them actually do such work as their main profession. In most cases, the meaningful work is something they do outside of their regular jobs: a plumber who paints on the weekends, an accountant who is also a jewelry designer, a marketing assistant who spends three weeks a year volunteering as a relief worker in third-world countries.
She also points out that the meaningful work doesn’t have to be grandiose. Your meaningful work doesn’t have to receive accolades, make money, or earn you any major recognition. It just needs to make you happy by providing you a way to express your own unique creativity. She gives the example of a woman who makes handmade candles to sell on Etsy. The woman doesn’t make any money selling the candles, and she only makes four each month, but that’s enough. For her, that is meaningful work that allows her to share a little bit of herself with others in an authentic and vulnerable way. Brown says, “The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.”
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In his book, Show Your Work, artist and writer Austin Kleon talks about the importance of putting your work out into the world – sharing it, even if you’re scared. He encourages artists to think in terms of “process, not product,” and to share what you’re doing in order to “gain a following that you can then use for fellowship, feedback, or patronage.”
This idea of showing your work can be, in both a literal and a meta way, the very essence of your blogging. As a blogger, I do not pretend to have all the answers. I do not present myself as a “guru” or an “expert.” I prefer to think of myself as a fellow traveler, someone with whom you may share some part of your journey, but who may also have traveled roads as yet unknown to you. While I am happy to share what I’ve learned along the way, I tend to ask more questions than I answer. I am, as Kleon recommends, fully immersed in the process.
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I share the work of these two writers because, together, their insights illuminate the primary reasons I blog: to express my creativity, create meaningful work in my life, share my experiences and ideas, and to stay grounded in the process as much as – if not more than – the outcome of my writing.
I am not discounting my professional and material reasons for blogging – portfolio and platform building, etc. My work here on Live to Write – Write to Live serves those purposes as well, but – to come back to the original question about why I consistently spend five hours each week blogging – my motivation for showing up here has less to do with my career goals or the prospect of any financial reward and everything to do with my drive to explore my experience, connect with others, and practice my craft.
Blogging has become, for me, an integral part of my creative journey, and as such, the greatest rewards are in the doing work, in giving myself the time and head space to step out of my day-to-day and be fully here, with my thoughts and with other writers who are on their own journeys. And, if that’s not worth it, I don’t know what is.
This week, two of my writer friends published pieces that are worth reading:
Tracy Mayor, my friend and accomplished essayist, wrote an insightful and inspirational piece about “The Gap Year” for Brain, Child Magazine (the smartest, sassiest, most entertaining parenting magazine out there). A “gap year” is a year period of time that students take off from school, usually between high school graduation and college, or after their freshman or sophomore year at college. Typically, students will put their formal education on hold for a year or so in order to pursue travel, outside studies, an internship, or another kind of purposeful journey or exploration.
My daughter just entered middle school this year, and I know that the next few years are going to fly by. It may seem like a long way off, but I realize that before I’m ready, we’ll be facing decisions about what she wants to do after high school. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a gap year, and the research Tracy shares in her essay points to many benefits including increased maturity, greater focus, and even better study habits and academic performance.
I also love that Tracy tweeted the piece with this comment:
We’ve decided that our mommy gap year will take place in Iceland.
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This week also included a treat of a read from my friend YiShun Lai. Her short story, “Next of Kin” (published by Atticus Review) is an exemplary piece of work that reminded me how satisfying a short story can be.
The story begins …
At the consular offices in Mexico City, the dress code is nearly always casual. Open-necked shirts, light-colored trousers that won’t stick when you get up from a park bench after your lunchtime meeting afuera.
Your father is not as interested in this new posting, but then, he’s always thought the jobs that required a suit and tie were the only ones ever worth living. At your last posting, in Hong Kong, it was suits and ties every day.
You prefer this casual option. Yes, Dad, it has buttons on it. No, Dad, I’m not buttoning that top button.
Your first few weeks are an absolute mess. Dad has decided to come for a visit before his airline miles expire, conveniently a month after your arrival in Mexico.
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- Steal Without Shame, Part Three by @SPressfield
- Why I Write As Though My Life Depends On It via @GrubWriters
- 19 Ways to Write Better Dialogue by @ShesNovel
- See Old Library Books Come to Life in Kerry Mansfield’s ‘Expired’ Series
- David Foster Wallace on Dictionaries, Great Openers, and the Measure of Good Writing via @brainpicker
- Literature vs genre is a battle where both sides lose by Damien Walter
- 5 Ways to Use Instagram as a Writer by Tee Morris and Pip Ballentine via @JaneFriedman
- 4 Steps to Read Like a Writer by @RuthanneReid via @thewritepractice
- Motivation for Creative People [podcast] with @MarkMcGuinness via @TheCreativePenn
Finally, a quote for the week:
Rather than a quote, this week I’m sharing a lovely video about the art of bookmaking. Stories are magic, and books are the vessels that hold that magic. The art of crafting books using traditional techniques is, then, a magic all its own.
Here’s to discovering and embracing your creative journey (whether it includes blogging, or not), and to enjoying the process as much as the product. Happy writing!
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.