A post about the blog

Garden Flowers - July 2010 034-sq
Garden Flowers – July 2010 034-sq (Photo credit: Paul-W)

I began blogging in July 2009, and only because my agent told me I had to start building an audience on-line if I hoped to sell my next book(s.)

In a stroke of fantastic luck, I was offered the following month a paid opportunity to blog for a community site called True/Slant.

And starting out with a built-in community made the whole thing a lot more fun than — as most of us do — pinging into the ether with high hopes and crossed fingers. I’m still friends with several of my fellow T/S bloggers and even had a great reunion with about 10 of them when I visited Chicago.

I migrated here in July 2010 when — oh, the greed! oh, the betrayal! — True/Slant was sold to Forbes and almost all of us were summarily canned after building the very value that made it worth selling.

I know that most bloggers do it for love, not money.

When your primary income, like mine (and some of yours) also comes from writing, it’s tough to spend even more time at the computer that cuts into paid hours. I blog because I enjoy it and because, as my agent warned me, I need to prove a large and growing audience for my work.

As a professional writer exploring many topics, it’s sometimes a chance to test out an idea before I sell it as an essay or longer article.

I enjoy, most of all, your thoughtful comments and the global conversation we have here. Very cool!

How do I know what you’d like to read?

I have no idea! One of the things about Broadside (which is unusual, in my experience of blogs) is that it’s not niche at all. I don’t focus narrowly on anything. Today, Broadside has 1,502 followers, (3 to 5 joining every day now.) You are one seriously heterogeneous group!

When I write for The New York Times, I have a pretty clear idea who my readers are. Same for Marie Claire, a women’s magazine.

But the challenge of this blog — and it’s a big one — is not being fussed about the fact that readers here range from high school age to senior citizens, men and women. Two recent followers are a technical school in Mexico (!?) and a political organization in Mississippi.

The commonality is….?

So I just write what I find interesting, spin it globally whenever possible, and hope you like it.

(Feel free, any time, to email me here or directly and suggest a subject you’d like to hear about. Or more of, or less of.)

Do I know who Broadside’s readers are?

Every time a new follower signs up, I make the time to check out their profile and/or blog. Often, as you’ve seen, I’ll leave a comment or “like” there, to let you know I appreciate your attention.

I’m amazed, and challenged, by the wide differences in your interests, careers, nationalities and ages. If we threw a party, we’d need a very big room!

How much time does it take to write each post?

It depends. Some I bang out within minutes. Others I polish for days, even weeks. Some, (rarely) I never post at all.

How do I choose what to write about?

It depends, again. If there’s something big in the news, (the Queen’s Jubilee, Etan Patz’ killer confessing), I’ll jump on it, but only if I have something of a personal link to it. I try to post only on subjects I feel passionate about. But because I have so many interests — design, work, ideas, relationships — I rarely feel stumped for a topic.

Anything you don’t post on?

Religion and politics. Readers of Broadside live all over the world, so how much interest do you really have in American political battles or the endless toxicity of the religious right? I may occasionally touch on spirituality.

Although my first book is about guns, I rarely blog about it as I have no time or interest in getting into heated on-line battles.

How far ahead do I write posts?

I usually have 5 to 10 posts pre-written and ready to go, at all times. But I revise and edit them many times and will update them minutes before I post.

The only way I’ve been able to enjoy a true vacation away from the computer is to stockpile some evergreen issues and post them when it feels right. While I admire the dedication of those who blog daily, it’s not for me. I’m not that interesting and I’m just too tired!

Which blogs do you follow?

I read only about 5 or 6 blogs, most related to my work or my passions, which include France and design. One, Design Milk, offers a terrific variety of daily stories, all visual, from around the world. Another, One Quality, the Finest, (written by a fellow Canadian ex-pat in the U.S.), offers a French idiom (and some history to go with it) every day. I find this one, Freelance Folder (aimed not just at writers) consistently helpful. I also like Seth Godin’s blog, which was recommended to me by a CEO I interviewed for my retail book; he’s an American business guru/author I find smart, provocative and insightful.

How often are you blogging?

Are you meeting your own goals? How’s it going?

30 thoughts on “A post about the blog

  1. Love this little mash-up/Q&A on why you blog, what you blog, who you blog, and who you blog for. Thanks for sharing all of this. It’s definitely inspiring to know why others are blogging and why what they say is important.

  2. Since you asked…(great post, by the way)…

    I think my blogs are going well. I don’t have a huge following, but those that do come by, often leave a comment. The only goal I have for my blogs is consistency, and I’d say I am meeting that goal.

    I blog twice a week on my writer’s blog, about twice or more a month on my book review blog, and I post a picture two or three times a week on my photo blog. That’s all I have going on right now, and that’s enough for me (along with a full time job). 🙂

  3. a few times i’ve seen bloggers ask readers what they should write about. seems a silly question. you write about what affects you. readers come to know you, your personality, and they read not because of what you write about but what you have to say about it. i tell those people that i and other readers don’t go to their site because of the movie they chose to review but to see what that person has to say about it.

    to me, the more successful blogs are those in which the writer has infused their personality, which is likely interesting, and thus i want to see what they have to say regardless of what the topic or subject is. i don’t read gillian’s blog because she writes about sex. i read it because i want to see what gillian herself has to say about sex. if it were sex i wanted, there’s a billions free porn sites. i don’t want to see sex. i want to see what gillian says about sex.

  4. I blog to get out of my head. My blog was started as a vehicle to write about the life I’m living. I wasn’t living before, so the challenge was to do something worth writing about! It really changed my world.

    I stumbled on you through a Freshly Pressed post about Eat, Pray, Love. You had a line about the sexy Brazilian and I was intrigued. I come back because you write about everything. I like hearing about you and Sweetie, the cost of parking in your city, what it’s like to be an ex-pat and your love of fine tasteful things. I also like that you will resond to comments! Not everyone does and I think they should- maybe that is just polite Canadian of us. Diverse attracts me, don’t stop 🙂

    1. That’s incredibly cool. I wonder how many other bloggers could say that about theirs.

      You’ve been reading this a long time! Thanks for hanging in.

      I agree that bloggers who don’t respond to comments aren’t playing the game. They’re monologuing.

  5. I find my blog a welcome change of pace from my academic work. It allows me to tackle kinds of writing which wouldn’t work in philosophy. At the moment I try and post something on alternate days, whether that is a new book review, poetry, some thoughts, or something which has interested me. I follow lots of book and art blogs, as well as some — like this one — which discuss writing (and perseverance!)

    1. I can see that it would be great for this…a complete change of pace.

      Glad you find this one useful. I don’t blog about writing all the time, but I do believe in perseverance!

  6. When I started to blog it was my obsession. I loved getting instant feedback from all over the world and couldn’t stop checking my stats. I couldn’t see it at the time but when my husband finally told me that I was spending too much time working on it I listened and dialed back on the frequency of posts. I blog because it’s fun and it’s my art. I believe that art isn’t worth doing unless it’s shared.
    I mostly follow food blogs but am also very curious about the world so when I come across one that is well done like yours I follow it too. Love Seth Godin as well!

    1. It does tend to have that effect initially. All that (global) attention! Then you really have to decide what your goals are and focus on those.

      It’s easy for me to spend/waste a ton of income-earning time and energy here. I have to be mindful of that.

  7. It’s interesting to read how other people blog. I started off in a frenzy, blogging every day, and then calmed down a bit to 3 times a week. I had so much to say. I then lost my enthusiasm for a bit and now am back into it again. I find with blogging you have to keep up the momentum. I also find I have so much I want to write about I don’t have time to post it all. I usually have two or three posts in draft form on the go at one time. Sometimes more. I haven’t been blogging for that long though, so we’ll see how it goes. It’s definitely fun though and I’m coming across lots of fascinating people.

    1. I think it’s tempting to write “everything” but how many people even read that many blogs? To me, the measure of it is views and comments — or why bother, really?

      I also write for a living and really need to un-chain myself from 24/7 word production to avoid exhaustion and burnout.

      1. I agree, although I don’t only write for comments. For me it’s a form of self-expression, and a record of my thoughts on certain ideas/topics. I try to be quite disciplined about what I write and I’m careful about what I share I didn’t want to go down the blog diary route. Lots of people look and don’t comment or like, too.

  8. My blog doesn’t have a niche audience either and I don’t have a singular focus. I write about what interests me and my experiences and it seems to resonate with my readers. My traffic comes mainly from Twitter because I am very active in that platform (I’m @dileeshus if anyone wants to follow me!) and that’s where I promote my blog and often have discussions about what I post.

      1. I only do Twitter these days. It’s a very dynamic environment with lots of opportunities to connect with all sorts of different people and a wide variety of topics. What Facebook? 😉

      2. I know its value. I lay in bed last night calculating the number of relationships I already try to manage well. To add dozens or hundreds more feels too much to me for the moment…while knowing there is a lot of fun and biz. value for others.

  9. I’m no techie, but it doesn’t look like people can follow you unless they’re on WordPress. Are those the followers you mean? Or are you referring to subscribers to your RSS feed, which I am?

    Anyway, I’m among the ranks of those who like your catholic topics. I write under the umbrella of one theme, but I cover a lot of ground. I don’t fit into any category, either. I’m a mom blogger, but I don’t focus on parenting, although I do mention it sometimes. I write about success, but I’m a writer, not a business person, etc. Still, my audience is growing. Slowly, but growing.

  10. Well, my goal of having a fun time and sharing my photography is being met, but my goal of becoming an internet blogstar…. not yet 😉 I like that you share your favorite blogs, I always wonder what others are reading. My favorite blog is my friends blog. She is an amazing writer and an ex-pat in India living with her husband and four children. Her blog is http://www.journeymama.com/

  11. reba holley

    I love your blog- I read regularly but post rarely. I really like the variety and the brains. I’m tired of screaming pundits– you’re never that- your posts are smart and interesting and I really appreciate it a lot. thanks!

  12. I am definitely a fan of your blog – insightful, varied and always interesting! Thank you.

    For me blogging always a balancing act between knowing it’s unpaid time, but also knowing it’s fun. It’s a chance to write about things that I don’t normally write about, which might give readers a better insight into the actual depth of thought and range of skills needed to write the stuff I sell. But – first and foremost – I think it’s a chance to connect – to interact with an interesting, talented and nice bunch of people in the wider world. That’s really the payoff.

    1. Thanks!

      I agree that’s it a chance to do different sorts of writing. I know of almost no markets for the sort of meditative writing some of my posts are. It reminds me there are many different ways to tell a story.

      And the conversations — across the globe! — are amazing.

  13. Great post, as always. When I started my blog, Under the counter or a flutter in the dovecot, two years ago I promised that I’d post only once a week – and amazingly enough I’ve held to that, and it’s helped to keep me sane. Like Broadside, my little place in the blogosphere doesn’t have an over-arching theme except, perhaps, arts and culture and bravery and beauty. But these are broad parameters, aren’t they. I note the comments above about the perils of diary blogs, but in a way that’s exactly what mine is. However, I do always post with a broader audience in mind – what is it that someone else is going to get out of it? It’s interesting, too, that out of the hundreds of blogs I’ve come across in my travels, there are only a dozen or so that I regularly visit (Broadside is one, obviously). Just shows that out of the 6 billion people on the planet, there are probably only a dozen or so people that I really like.

  14. Thanks…I always enjoy your blog. I find it has a meditative quality I really appreciate. Bravery and beauty are essential and, I find, rarely discussed.

    Like you, I read very few blogs. I’m already so overwhelmed with reading mags/books/newspapers for work and pleasure that I’ve very little attention or time left over after that. So I appreciate anyone who makes time for Broadside!

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