Blog ennui and platforms built of bodies

“Boredom is my greatest foe; I wallow in a well of woe.”

-Ellowyne Wilde

I guess I’ll put in my two cents in the great I’m so tired of social media bitch session we’ve been having around town.

I think I spend too much time on it, but blogging is the social media thing that I enjoy. I’ve always been a fan of the essay question. But if being a good blogger means maintaining a blogroll, visiting, returning visits, leaving comments… I’ve been in a fail zone on that for a while, for a number of reasons.

It’s getting harder and harder to find good things to read. Roni Loren made a very nice post the other day in which she very reasonably pointed out that we’re all at different stages, and the posts that I come across being promoted all over my Twitter stream that seem obvious and played out are shiny new epiphany-inspiring revelations of awesome to others.

“Hey j-j-jaded
In all it’s misery
It will always be what I love and hated” –Aerosmith

Things are a lot different than they were when I started blogging. I looked it up. That was five and half years ago. Seems like longer. I started out with a personal journal in which I talked about whatever I wanted, whatever was going on. I got a bunch of followers. More importantly, I made a number of good friends.

Also important: I learned how to be myself. In public. I don’t think that’s something that comes naturally to most people. It certainly didn’t for someone like me. Learning to be me, to accept what I am and be that out loud–that’s a huge personal theme for me. If you’re reading the Talent Chronicles, maybe you’ve figured that out.

That blogging experience was absolutely essential for me in finding the voice the I needed to write fiction. Not saying everyone needs that or would get that out of it, but it’s what I needed and what I got.

When I started this blog, this writerly, professional blog with my real name attached to it, I thought I needed to be something different. If you look back at old posts I think you can see me trying to be something different. But I was never very good at being what I’m not. At some point I realized that I really only reach people when I’m genuine. Like Dorothy, that was something I needed to learn over a bit of time.

When I started, things were a lot different. There was no Twitter. There was no Facebook. You just blogged and hoped that someone would find it and like what you said enough to respond and maybe even come back. Can you imagine? When I was a baby blogger, the purpose of blogging was sometimes to entertain, sometimes to try to teach something I had learned, but it was always to share and connect with others. When I was a baby blogger it was never about the stats.

It’s very different now. At the moment I’m taking part in a class to learn how to be a better blogger. I don’t seem to be at the same stage of things as a lot of my classmates, something I didn’t realize when I signed on. I don’t mean this to be in any way unkind, but there’s a sort of Headless Chicken aspect to watching this. Some of these people are very new. They are brand spanking shiny new. And they already seem to be worried about things I never had to consider starting out.

I mean sometimes I’m sitting here watching my classmates exhibit nerves over just posting. Why are they supposed to be worried about things like stats and loglines when they’re at a point at which it seems they might focus on things like…content?

This is what comes of hanging out with a bunch of writers. You see how crazy perfectionism really is, you know you’re like that, and it makes you nervy.

They all have to get this blogging thing Just. Right.

They all have to get this platform thing Just. Right.

And they have to do it all before they finish a book so that all will be perfectly in place to launch the book or query the agent so that phase can go Just. Right.

Yeah yeah yeah. I get this. I do.

Still, it’s this big, frothing cauldron of crazy in which I see myself all too clearly and it has rubbed my last nerve absolutely raw. If you hung out in the comments to Kait’s recent post on Social Media Ennui, you possibly sensed this.

It’s like a continuation of this snit I was in a few weeks go when I was asking, Does anyone really know what marketing works? I’m feeling like way too many people are more concerned with what marketing works to sell a book than they are about how to write a good book in the first place.

And that’s the same cart before the horsishness I feel about this blogging stuff. What’s important, learning to give good blog or looking like you give good blog by getting a lot of people to read it?

I mean, if you do one, the other should follow.

Maybe.

In time.

In theory.

But what we’re being hyped at all the time is that we have to build these damnable platforms (which more and more resemble the kind of rickety-ass crazy tower Buffy leapt from and freaking died).

Tower from Buffy episode The Gift

Your platform: solid soapbox or tower of crazy with diving board?

*Question: Are the platforms built of content or of bodies?*

That is my serious question. Because if we’re all about the follower counts and blog stats and the Klout scores, that sounds like body count. Reach reach reach. Is anyone else feeling a zombie vibe right now?

reaching zombies

Get followers…reach…brains…

We’re all under so much pressure to publish content, any content, just to get it out there, on a regular basis, regardless of its quality. Okay, most of that’s pressure we put on ourselves because that’s what we do. But still, we’re not the freakin’ Borg and that idea’s coming from somewhere.

We’re going to commit to blogging three times a week. Doesn’t matter what we blog about. Doesn’t matter what our motivation is for typing the words on the screen, the important thing is just to get it out there and then go promote it. Do I know in my gut that this is a good post, that I wrote it for purpose, that I had something to offer? Screw that, doesn’t matter, promote that bitch and let’s get some numbers on that stats page. Because if we don’t, someone else will and we’ll be lost in the sea of social media noise. If we don’t stop moving we’ll die, DIE!!! and then this platform we’ve been struggling to build, body by b–er, I mean, plank by posty goodness plank of brilliance will be CRUSHED!

So I don’t have a conclusion right now. I’m just kind of sharing what I think I’m seeing. I’m questioning the value of how we’re spending our time. Of what we’re asking others to spend their time on when we tweet out every blog post we write 5 times a day under every imaginable hashtag. I’m questioning why we’re doing this, where our hearts and minds really are.

Because, in my opinion, it would be a far better thing to think of those people we’re shouting out at as people with hands to help us when we earn it, people to connect with and enjoy, rather than people to drag in and pile up to build our crazy tower.

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25 Comments

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25 responses to “Blog ennui and platforms built of bodies

  1. “Because, in my opinion, it would be a far better thing to think of those people we’re shouting out at as people with hands to help us when we earn it, people to connect with and enjoy, rather than people to drag in and pile up to build our crazy tower.”

    YES YES YES. This is absolutely something that’s been driving me NUTS. There’s all sorts of utter CRAP being RTed all over the place and they really didn’t EARN IT. Everybody’s just RTing to RT and applying six hashtags and not changing it and we’re all freaking DROWNING.

    While I fully agree with Roni that everybody’s at a different stage with things and that yeah, some of this is totally new to them, it totally does NOT excuse people misusing hashtags and using bad promo etiquette. CHANGE YOUR FLIPPING HASHTAGS WHEN YOU RT! Don’t use 7 at once. Put one or two and let others change them to get them into other streams. And be sure you have a clue what that hashtag is FOR before you go slapping it willy nilly on your tweet.

    Don’t forget that Twitter is, at heart, intended to be one big CONVERSATION, not a radio station with ads taking up the bulk of programming time.

  2. Thanks for linking to my post and I so agree with you on the body count thing. (The zombie picture made me laugh because it kind of is like that, lol.) Just hearing the word Klout lately sends me into rant mode. And I think the focus on bodies is pervasive because we hear some publishers and agents talking about klout scores and how many hits a blog should be getting to “mean something” and on and on. It’s ridiculous. All those numbers can be run up artificially and mean absolutely nothing because there is no real connection–just that pack of zombies.

    And it’s sad to hear that new writers and bloggers are already trying to be “perfect”. That newbie stage is supposed to be so fun and full of wonder. I don’t think I even knew how to check my stats until a year or so into this. That should never be the focus.

  3. I have been wondering about the content thing as well. I sometimes feel weird that I am trying to write something good, when I’m being shouted at that I should have more numbers, more, more, more!

    I cannot go out and ask people to follow me, read my blog, retweet my post if they like it. I hate popularity contests, like the flash fiction challenge I entered where the winners were picked by having the most votes; I entered before I knew that, and I refused to go flog my entry when I found out.

    Writers’ communities should act differently, with support and constructive criticism, not with calculators in hand.

  4. I’m beginning to think I haven’t been taking blogging and tweeting seriously enough. I’ve always enjoyed both (especially blogging) and thought of it as fun. I like reading posts about all kinds of things (not just writing) and it’s fun to read some of the tweets about, well, just life. 🙂 Unfortunately, I’ve found that I get a lot more comments on my blog when I do post about writing or maybe about TV shows. But when I write about things I think are fun (like the cute waiter I met in Disney World) or important (like how well behaved I thought my friend’s child was compared to the other kids at Disney), I don’t get a single comment. Not ONE. I got two comments on that particular blog and they were about 1) Writing and 2) Disney in general. I really appreciated those comments, I really did. But there were no comments on the FUN stuff. Have we forgotten how to have fun and to laugh at things? At this point, I’m not sure what to post about EXCEPT writing. That’s the only way I can get comments. I so enjoy reading posts about what’s happening in the lives of my fellow writers. I try to comment on those posts (although I was a neglectful commenter when I was on vacation).I thought maybe people might like to know what’s going on with me, too. But, apparently not. Unless it’s about writing. So my problem with social media isn’t that it’s the same thing all the time. It’s that I can’t get conversations started if it ISN’T the same thing all the time.

    Wow, I didn’t know I had all that bottled up inside of me. I didn’t mean to write any of that, really. Sorry I hijacked your blog. *looks sheepish*

    • I haven’t read your post about DIsney yet, Lauralynn *hangs head in shame* I don’t read to read about writing all the time, and I sure as heck don’t want to write about writing all the time. I guess I’ve got some of that bottled up, too.

      See what you started, Susan? LOL

    • I think I must be one of the few people I know who doesn’t worry about comments. I mean, of course I love it when I GET them but that’s definitely not why I blog. I like just putting my 2 cents out there whether anybody actually reads it or not. I’m definitely not usually as good about commenting on others’ blogs as I should be, mostly because I cruise through, read, cruise back out to work.

  5. Amy

    I went through the “panic about hits per day’ phase, the “studying what works – should I be doing cartoon photos with kitties?” phase… For me the bottom line boiled down to this:

    Why do you blog?

    If it is because you want to be a paid writer, then get paid to write. Send articles to magazines, write books, enter contests, whatever. Then put those things on your blog. But don’t think your blog will pay you, because the chances are astronomical that it won’t.

    If you blog because you like the community of it – the interaction – then do that – blog about your day and read/comment on others’ days.

    If you blog because you love to write, then good for you, write – write well and maybe some people will read.

    If you blog because you just want people to heap you with praise and follow you – rethink what you’re doing and why.

  6. Susan,
    It’s so interesting reading your thoughts about social media, as I’m new to it all. I find it very comforting that you’ve been at this so long and are still swinging, even if it’s not always stars and roses. I don’t have any answers to the questions you pose, though I ask the same questions all the time, especially right now when I’m spending whole days on exploring the options for “building my platform” and “online networking” and whatnot. It’s an enormous output of time and mental energy and I know it detracts from the actual fiction writing. I’m just hoping, once I figure out a few things about where my time is best put, that I can keep it in proportion better. It sounds like you’ve achieved that balance fairly well and are stopping for breath and examining your path, making adjustments where necessary.

    That seems to me to be a sane plan, no matter what new curves the new media throws at you.

    Thanks for your thoughts. Love the Buffy reference. Shpedoinkle!

  7. I seem to have gotten off easy on the worrying about blog stats, because I just…don’t. Everything I write on there is conversational because the few times I’ve tried to write anything of “substance” I’ve felt like a big poseur.
    I went through a period of time where I worried about Twitter and tried to “craft” tweets and, yes, put 10 hashtags after them. I did that for the first time in a long time the other day, felt icky about it and will probably never do it again. Again, people respond more to my tweets about Halloween candy and hot electricians than anything spammy about my books.
    I feel most comfortable on Facebook on my author page because I can do a mix of conversational and info. status updates and people respond to both.
    I completely understand people wanting to get everything Just Right, but eventually we all get over it. 🙂 Great posts from both you and Kait. You ladies always say what I’m thinking, but in a better smart chick sort of way. 🙂

  8. Kait pointed me this way because I did a blog post about this today too: The Blogging Cycle: How Do You Stay Sane?
    http://jamigold.com/2011/11/the-blogging-cycle-how-do-you-stay-sane/
    I linked to this post from Kait’s comment there because your zombie take on platform building is brilliant! 🙂

    I used to Tweet my blog posts 3 to 4 times a day, but then I noticed that I hated seeing that redundancy in others. Not saying I blame them, but that I’d go “ugh” when I saw the same tweet from them 4 times in a day. So then I smacked myself upside the head: “Hey, if it bothers you, maybe it bothers others too, and that means you shouldn’t do it either.” 🙂

    So now I link to my stuff just twice a day, and only on the day of my post and the day after. The rest of the week, I don’t link to my own blog at all. That way, *I* don’t get sick of me pimping myself and hopefully no one else will either. 🙂

    • Ruth Nestvold

      Eggs-act-ly! I touched on that in my blog posts about John Locke’s recipe for success. I have absolutely no interest in retweeting about my blog posts for days on end, so even if that means I will never sell 1,000,000 ebooks, I won’t do it. *g*

  9. Thanks for your post Susan and the Buffy reference is awesome—as is the platform of bodies imagery. I am new at this (June) and I am already overwhelmed and confused and…tired. I started blogging to put myself out there and interact with people—whether writers or otherwise. I didn’t care about stats or comments or anything. It was more the simple act of putting something I wrote out in the world, and the idea that someone, somewhere in the interwebs might, at some point in time, read it. As I got more and more into blogging and reading others blogs, I kept hearing about having to focus content on writing and brands and stats, and people telling me to build build, build, and, honestly, I was starting to freak out. I worried and felt horrible when I wrote a post that got zero comments. (I don’t even have a lot of stats yet or followers and I was freaking out about these things!) I finally hit my breaking point and was ready to smash my computer a la “Office Space” when I read Kait’s post and then yours and a few others. Talk about just in time to pull me out of the pit of despair. I’ve decided to just stop and get back to the original intent of my blog. I just want to write about what life and what interests me, whether that is writing or something entirely different. (same goes for twitter!) It might end up being that I only talk to myself, or just a few people, when I write a non-writing themed post, but that’s okay. I will be writing (and hopefully writing well); for now that is all that is important to me.

  10. Aren’t you glad you finally watched past season 3 of Buffy?

  11. It does kind of feel like all the Twitter anxiety is distracting from JUST WRITING A GOOD BOOK, doesn’t it? I feel like a genuine, connected online presence trumps a million Twitter followers any day.

  12. Goodness, I had no idea all this was going on. Maybe because I’m not on Twitter. But seriously, blogging and tweeting purely for the sake of marketing? That sounds so… anti-author-ish. We’re doing this because we love writing, right? Because we have stories that need to be told. Because words give us joy. The language, the flow of a perfect sentence. An emotion that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading. An experience!
    Everything else is secondary.
    My two cents.
    (I mean, I don’t leap out of bed at 6 am to blog. I don’t have dreams of perfectly worded status updates. I don’t sneak out of the office and hole up in the stairwell to respond to commentary…)

    • D, there is a fairly large contingent of alleged “experts” who are telling authors they need to approach marketing via blog and twitter the same way a company might about a product. Which doesn’t work at all for authors. But there are a lot more of them than there are Kristen Lambs (Kristen is our resident social media guru FOR writers who is the voice of sanity in the ocean of WTF) and plus there’s just a lot of newbie ignorance and annoying behavior on top of that.

  13. Thanks Susan. I’m new as of August and I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with a lot of the things you’re mentioning here and sadly, I’ll confess I’ve done some of things you mentioned too. I’ve been annoying. I’ll stop. Promise. I said this over at Kait Nolan’s — thanks for voicing what I couldn’t accurately put into words because of my newbieness. You, Roni and Kait have really helped me this week. I feel like I owe you guys a drink or something….

  14. Yesterday was my mom’s birthday and after I posted this I was out the door to spend the whole day with her. Now I’ve got a lot of catching up to do! Sorry I can’t respond to what everyone’s said individually because you guys really had a lot of good things to say.

    Getting more comments seems to be a theme. It’s a bummer not to get feedback, to put time and effort into saying something–to give and not receive any response. It’s one of the things you just have to push past and keep writing to a time when you start to get a consistent group of commentors or a larger following.

    If you’re at my blog because you’re a writer, maybe at the earlier stages you could think that you’re blogging not so much to build a blog and a blog following, but to build a bigger virtual footprint. You’re publishing articles on a number of different topics and that’s helping Google recommend your writing to strangers searching for those topics. Some of them may check out your books if you’re published or subscribe to your blog. So you’re not necessarily blogging to build a blog following and if people aren’t commenting or subscribing, that’s okay, that’s not what it’s for, but if that starts happening, that would be cool too.

    Meanwhile, pay close attention to what does get you comments, what posts do cause people to spontaneously recommend you to their Twitter following. Try to figure out what made that post different from the last one. Sometimes it is just random, but I think there are some things–not just topics, but ways in which we present them–that create better engagement. I think maybe I’ll cogitate on those for another post.

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  16. Great points. It’s so easy to get caught up in the madness of stat and comment watching. And then we stress ourselves out and forget why we started blogging in the first place.

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