Prompt: Do you think being oneself can be a brave act? Under what kinds of circumstances would we be afraid to be ourselves?
Starting a new blog (it still feels new!), on a new platform, is a unique opportunity to reflect on my blogging experiences and where I want my new blog to take me. It’s also a chance to think about my audience (yes, that’s you!), and what has worked for me in the past and what hasn’t.
I first started blogging on Livejournal in 2001, when I was pregnant with my first child. At that time, my blog was public. I was part of a network of bloggers that I knew in real life – friends, flatmates and friends of friends.
I wrote (bad) poetry through much of my teens, and had always enjoyed writing, but my blog was really just a very public journal. I’d write what I was doing, how I felt, my thoughts on the news of the day, that sort of thing. Sometimes I’d post once in a week, sometimes I’d post multiple times a day.
Tiny Rubies recently described those early Livejournal blogs as a form of ‘late night confessional’. That’s pretty apt. I shared my life, my thoughts, my dreams… I shared myself. I placed very few restrictions on what I shared of myself and my life.
I didn’t actually lead an interesting life. I was a very boring person with a very boring, domesticated life, so I have no idea why anyone found my inane ramblings even vaguely interesting, but I kept blogging. People commented. I found a few other bloggers on Livejournal that I connected with. I followed them, they followed me, and we became online friends. Some of them I’m still in touch with, although not via Livejournal.
I’d only been blogging a year or so when my best friend, who was the one who introduced me to Livejournal, was fired from her job because she’d blogged about a coworker. It terrified me. I had no idea that a blog had so much power. Yes, I was a naive girl. From then, until just recently, my Livejournal has been available to a limited audience only. The vast majority of my posts are still friends-only there, and I’m actually in the process of weeding out which posts I’m comfortable making public again.
Many of my original blogging friends from Livejournal don’t blog anymore. In fact…none of them do. We had a meetup just recently at a friend’s wedding, and it was exceedingly awkward to be the only one there who was still blogging at Livejournal. They were laughing about how long it had been since their last posts.
“Eight years! Ha ha!”
“Nine years! Ha!”
Yeah, it had been three days for me. I wasn’t sure whether I should be proud or crawl under the table and hide. Then I thought about these people (who pretty much all still had access to my friends-only Livejournal) reading my latest posts, and crawling under the table won. I am such a different person from the young girl who had started blogging with them. I have changed. My blog has changed. And I felt uncomfortable with the idea that someone I knew might read it…and judge me.
I joined Writing.com in July 2010. By that time most of my Livejournal audience had disappeared. And with a blog that wasn’t public, my audience never grew. Only shrank. So I joined Writing.com and found new friends. Friends that taught me how to write (better) poetry. Friends that taught me how to write (better) short stories. Amazing friends, and amazing writers. And some truly wonderful bloggers.
I still blogged about my children, about my boring, domesticated life, but I also discovered the wonder of blog prompts.
My Writing.com blog isn’t ‘public’, but because it is available to the wider Writing.com community (an ever-changing, ever-growing community), I found myself an audience again. A blog without an audience is really just you talking to yourself, right? It might as well be an offline journal. But the blogging community at Writing.com is active and friendly. There are blogs to read – blogs about lives that are different to mine, blogs about cooking and crafts, blogs about travel, and even blog contests. And I get comments, and leave comments, and it’s all very interactive, which is awesome and what I missed so much about the early Livejournal days.
It was Kat at Bad Mum Cooking who prompted me to start a blog here on WordPress. Now I have three blogs. Overkill much? Even sadder, I must be honest and confess that I have three active blogs. I’ve actually got a bunch of inactive ones too, which were more specific ones, like about cooking or photography, rather than just about me.
Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages:
- Livejournal allows me to backdate entries without them being emailed to followers, which is great when I forget to write about something at the time, and just want to note it for posterity rather than tell the whole world about it. It also allows me to post entries that are private, that are friends-only, that are visible only to specific people, or that are public. This is a valuable tool indeed. Livejournal is pretty shit when it comes to images though. I’m having a little more luck lately by copying and pasting the WordPress posts (complete with images) into it, but historically I haven’t used many photos and images because it doesn’t work well on the Livejournal platform. I also find it hard to find new blogs to follow, on topics that interest me, and I’m sure there is a community there, but I can’t seem to break into it. It might be me though, I admit. I have not tried very hard.
- Writing.com has the best blogging prompts. There are a number of blogging groups and each put out prompts. Some are daily, some are monthly, and some are intermittent. There are writing prompts (both within the blogging prompts and as part of the broader Writing.com community), prompts about current events, prompts to blog about myself and my life, prompts to get me ranting or up on my soapbox, and generic prompts to inspire me. Lots of prompts to choose from. There are challenges, like the 30 Day Blogging Challenge which challenges me to blog every day for a month using the set prompts whether they inspire me or not (good for busting out of your comfort zone!), or the old Soundtrackers challenge which inspired bloggers to prompt about music that is meaningful to them. Writing.com has a very strong blogging community. The bloggers are great at interacting with each other. There is no way to schedule or backdate an entry though, and it’s a pain in the ass to use images. It is also difficult to limit a post to a specific audience without using a passkey or similar, although you can easily set a blog to be public or visible only to the Writing.com community.
- WordPress, I am discovering, has the best formats and layouts. It is super easy to add images, which I love. It is easy to schedule or backdate entries, BUT as far as I can tell, if I backdate an entry, my followers will still receive it by email, which is a bit of a pain. There seems to be a good community here, although I am only just dipping my toes into it. It’s really easy to find other blogs to follow on a variety of topics, and even to search by tags or key words. There is one daily prompt, which is a single word, which sometimes inspires me, but often doesn’t. The most annoying thing about WordPress is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to make specific entries visible to a limited audience. Everything is public, no exceptions.
My Livejournal blog contains my life, boring or messy as it is from time to time, as well as my poems, my stories, and also poems, stories and quotes by other people that I like or that inspire me. I usually set other people’s writing to private, because I’m not sure if reposting them in my blog constitutes a breach of copyright. Maybe friends-only is fine? I always credit the author of course. Mostly those private entries are for me, to look back at what inspired or touched me, and to make it easy for me to re-read them.
My Writing.com blog doesn’t contain all my poems and stories, if only because I have a Writing.com portfolio for that purpose, and the Writing.com community can find my stuff there. But it is almost a duplicate of my Livejournal in pretty much every other sense.
So far, this blog doesn’t really contain any personal entries. Poems and stories, and the occasional musing on a specific topic, but not so much my daily life. Partly that’s because anything I post here must be public, and I’m still unsure what should and should not be public. But looking back at the posts that have successful (by which I mean the ones that have generated interaction or caused people to read/follow my blog), on my other blogs it was more the personal ones rather than the stories and poems. That tells me that I should start to share some of my personal posts amidst the poems and stories here. But is that what the WordPress community wants to read? What YOU want to read? I honestly didn’t think so, but as I delve further into the community, I am finding some of those old-school Livejournalists, and I think maybe there is an audience for those posts. I dunno. What do you think?