Over the past several weeks I have been exploring the topic of blogging. Last Monday's installment dealt with the subject of actively building and keeping your following. Two of the questions I posed were: How much work are you putting into your blog? What is the harvest you are expecting to reap?
My dear blog friend, Stephen T. McCarthy (I continue to encourage you to check out his blogs if you have not done so already) challenged me with the following:
Actually, rLEE-b, that is the question I want to ask you. I see how much work you put into this Blogging thang (far more than I do), and how you network by visiting other peoples' Blogs and post comments there, and how diligently you work to acquire new Followers to your Blog - even to the point of printing business cards for your Blog.
I see all of this and I wonder: Why? What is the Endgame you have in mind? Is it just to have as many Followers as possible and go on Blogging endlessly?
Because, perhaps I don't have the necessary vision, or lack an understanding about some ultimate reward, but I don't see what all of this can achieve.
What I mean is, there are millions of Blogs out there; ours are just two drops in the Blog Ocean. I Blog just because (as I've said before) I need some sort of creative outlet in my life, and I hope to inspire a small handful of people to think about God. But, realistically, I know that all of my Blogging isn't going to lead to any grand end result. I am under no delusion that my Blogging is going to lead to some book deal, or a job offer to write professionally for some publication, or anything like that.
So I don't see where it makes much difference whether I have 10 Followers or 110 Followers. And I don't understand why you (or anyone else) would work so hard at this. Don't misunderstand me, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If it brings joy or happiness in some way, I'M ALL FOR IT! It's just that I don't "get it"; I don't quite see the point of working at Blogging as if it were a business. So, to toss your question back at you: "What is the harvest YOU are expecting to reap?" Just curious, Brother.
~ "Lonesome Dogg" Stephen
Before I answer this challenge I would like to offer the following information about my background:
From 1975 to 1991 I worked in and eventually managed a touring stage production. We were not a major show with stars or big money advertising campaigns, but it was a good show with dedicated performers. We had promotional teams who would go into a town before the show arrived and sell tickets under the auspices of a sponsoring organization who used the show as a fund-raiser. Our promoters were good at what they did--making money to pay the show, the promotional staff, and the sponsoring organization. But they were often not working to get attendance, which was what the entertainers wanted to see. None of us wanted to play to an empty house.
After the promotion, there may have been many thousands of tickets sold, but most were not in anyone's hands. Our management agency would then encourage the sponsoring organization to flood the schools and other places with free childrens tickets. If cast members arrived early to a town, we might even distribute tickets ourselves. What we all knew was that it was a numbers game that was usually right on the money. For every thousand tickets that ended in someone's hands, if we were lucky, perhaps a hundred people would show up and many of those would be adults buying more tickets at the door. We very rarely overfilled a venue because the numbers usually worked. It took some effort to get our audiences and when the audiences were large, they had fun, the cast members were more fulfilled, and our sponsors were more pleased.
So what's the comparison? In the past few months I have decided to take writing seriously as a means to make a living. My writing is the show I want to produce and take on tour. Right now it's in the formative stages. I am experimenting and researching. I tried this back in my college days but gave up because I lacked the initiative and follow through. But writing remains a passion for me and I want to give it my last hurrah. This will be my real push to see if I have what it takes to succeed or go back to another day job that just pays the bills.
In order to treat writing as a business, I need to take advantage of whatever outlets are available to me. A blog is certainly one of the creative outlets that writers have now. In my research I keep hearing about "building a platform" and starting a blog is a recommended part of that plan. I can go along with that because it makes sense. And if someone invites me to go somewhere and speak I'll consider that. Or if I'm invited to assist in a workshop or teach a class I'll take a good look at that as well. It's all experience, involvement, and becoming established in the field of writing. I'll play the game because right now it's the game I feel like playing.
If I'm going to treat this writing as a business then I need to start actively making contacts and developing name recognition. The blog is one place to start. I don't really know too much about what I'm doing right now, but I have to keep reaching out there. If I'm going to do the blog, then I should make a serious effort to make it grow. Like Stephen said, we are just two drops in a blog ocean, and realistically I know that nobody's going to just come to my blog because I started it. I am responsible to spread the news by telling other bloggers and in doing so I must show them the courtesy of recognizing their blogs as well. And I am finding a lot of worthwhile blogs out there.
Likewise, blogging is a topic on my mind right now. I'm not obsessing to any obnoxious extreme when I'm out in public, but if the topic happens to come up in a conversation, now I have a business card with my blog address that I can hand out if someone seems genuinely interested. It's just common business practice. When I write a book, I may print up cards to hand out about that too. People do it all the time to promote whatever it is they are doing. And if I happen to end up at some writer's event or meet somebody in the publishing business, now I have a card to hand them. It looks more professional than writing my name and phone number on a scrap of paper.
Building a following is a necessary part of growing my blog. Stephen and others have said that they just need a creative outlet. Then why not just write your thoughts in a journal or in your computer files. Come on--anyone who says that really, truly wants somebody to read what they are writing. Don't set your expectations low by just hoping you might influence a few people. I say that if your ideas are worth a damn you should strive to get it out to as many people as you can. Increasing your following is like multi-level marketing. The more places your link appears (i.e. comments on other blogs, "awards", recognition by other bloggers, etc.), then the more potential that more new hits will come to your site. That's a good reason to spend the time growing your own blog and taking care of your blog friends.
The networking, the researching, and the writing all take time but to me it's time being used with value. This is the game I'm playing right now. I could be frittering away my hours playing Farmville, or twittering, or chatting, or watching television, or building a boat, or a myriad of other activities, and I certainly do take breaks for some frivolity so as not to be a dull Jack, but currently the blogging and my writing are my centers of focus. Yes, I wouldn't mind having as many followers as I could possibly have and no, I don't plan to just go on blogging endlessly for the sake of the blog.
I don't see this blog as my business, but just part of my business plan. I don't expect that this blog will lead to a book deal --it's possible, but unlikely-- but if I did get a publisher or an agent then they would probably expect me to start a blog if I didn't have one already. I doubt whether this blog will lead to my getting a job writing for some publication, but you never know--it could happen. I could be doing far worse things with my life than spending my time writing this blog. Besides maybe the mental exercise will help stave off Alzheimer's. And yes, right now writing the blog brings me happiness.
So, dear readers, tell us why you have your blog. Is it part of a business plan? Is it your creative outlet? Would you like to increase your following? Do you want people to read what you have written?
What are your thoughts about what I have said here?