Can’t believe it’s been twelve and a half years.
My enthusiasm waxes and wanes. Truth be told, PressingPause has never really gained the traction I had hoped. Probably because I haven’t invested sufficient time and energy into growing the readership. Widely read blogs are authored by people who approach them like full-time work. In contrast, I’m a hobbyist. Just as in life, there are no shortcuts; you get out, what you put in.
And there are other impediments. Most critically, an admitted lack of focus. Bloggers with large readerships fill particular niches. People grow to trust them to be insightful about a specific topic or two, not twenty two.
My longevity is the result of two things. First, a lot of people I care about are readers. Their sporadic referencing of something I’ve written is always encouraging. Also, as a globally-minded citizen, the proportion of international readers is very gratifying.
Reader feedback doesn’t even have to be positive to be motivating, which leads me to a good friend who I greatly appreciate for prodding me lately to write in ways that unite more than divide. By legitimizing more politically conservative points of view.
He contends my writing is too often “divisive” and that I’m a part of the larger problem of a divided nation. That feedback isn’t easy to process, especially since the whole sine qua non of the blog is to help create thriving families, schools, and communities. But I truly appreciate him for actively engaging with my ideas. It’s much better to have readers sometimes say my ideas are divisive or even “batshit crazy” than to never say anything at all.
I tried attending to my friend’s constructive criticism in a recent post titled “Trump’s Triumphs”, to which he might fairly counter, “You’re making my exact point, one measly post.”
Here’s what I struggle with, with respect to my friend’s feedback. As a reader, the writing that resonants the most for me tends to be personal, and authentic to the point of distinctive, by which I mean it’s true to their life experience. I don’t find writers who strive for objectivity by alternating between sides of arguments nearly as compelling as I do writers who are clear, concise, and have the courage of their more conservative or liberal convictions. And yet, as I explained here, I find overly dogmatic, hyper-ideological thinking and writing terribly uninteresting because of its mind numbing predictability.
And maybe that’s exactly what my friend finds most frustrating about me, that I’ve become too predictable. I need to think about that more because I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
When I read my own writing, I conclude that the more moved I am about a topic, the more fired up, or even angry, the better. But what if that’s not the case for my friend. What if he finds my “fire” too one-sided to the point of being off-putting?
This touches on a philosophical conundrum which all artists, not just writers, must resolve. Is art, or writing more specifically, like business where “the customer is always right”? Meaning is the reader always right? Or should the writer follow his or her heart and let the reader response be whatever it is or isn’t going to be?
I think if the goal is only to express oneself, then following one’s heart without regard to the reader is fine. But if the goal is to engage a wide variety of readers, conceding some points to alternative views (which is usually true anyway) engages the readers more by making them feel included in the conversation and ultimately more open to one’s opinions.
I too go about my blog without much of a niche, though nowadays it’s been mostly about writing. But 12 years? That’s an awesome milestone, and just sticking it out for that long is a feat in and of itself. Wishing you many more years to come!
And to answer your question, I think you should write what your heart tells you to, but you should also balance it with providing value to your intended readers e.g. not just vignettes of your dog chewing a toy.
Thanks Stuart, makes a lot of sense.
I read (and love) your every post. Thanks for being exactly who you are!
*Nancy Van Erp, Ph.D.* *Program Director * *M.Ed. in Learning Design & Technology* *Teaching, Training, & Leading Certificate* *Critical, Creative, & Design Thinking Certificate* CELL 320.260.5116 email@example.com
*SAINT MARY’S UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA* *Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs* 2500 Park Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55404-4403 USA
Much appreciated Nancy.
First, congratulations on the twelve (and a half) years blogging. It takes dedication that, for me at least, waxes and wanes. As far as your question, I think it comes down to the why. Why do you write? What do you want the outcome to be? If you write to help create thriving schools, families, and communities then your friend may have a point if all your writings are far leaning and one-sided. (In this climate, neutrality or middle of the road, is very hard for me.) I enjoy your blog because of the thoughtfulness in your writing, the selectiveness in your word choices.
I used to wish for/try for a larger audience, but I am content with where things are with my blog. For me, I write to preserve the memories and moments as life flies by. I have no true focus and selfishly write for myself, however I enjoy the conversations and relationships I’ve formed with other bloggers over the years.
Much appreciated. Completely agree about the “why”. You’re a talented writer/blogger. Quality > quantity. :)
I think your posts are spot on. Write what you think. And you are definitely NOT part of the problem. The problem is out there for everyone to see (hopefully not too much longer)
A belated thanks for this Dean.