What I’m about to write is going to make me look like a jerk. But I need to put it here to get it out of my body. That’s another bonus for you, my readers, of my pain therapy.
Last week I was looking through the BlogHer ’11 agenda and noticed that there will be a session about “Old-School Bloggers” focusing on bloggers who have been around a long time. The panel (which does not include me) (and to that I say “whatever.”) will talk about how they keep the creative juices flowing after all this time. Or how they don’t. The subtitle is “From Beginner to Bigtime to Burnout…” But what if you never made the bigtime? I’m a veteran blogger in a time when blogging for a year is considered an accomplishment. In September this blog will be seven years old. Older than BlogHer, even. Over the years while parenting, working full or part time, blogging in 10,000 different places, I’ve kept House of Prince full of content. Quality content, maybe in my opinion only, but still. There aren’t many bloggers who can say that. Yes, maybe they didn’t know about me. I know it’s possible. But that is one of the reasons for this rant.
Look. I’ve been blogging for seven years, since before brands gave a crap about sending free stuff to bloggers, or inviting bloggers to parties, or sending bloggers on free trips to Kenya. Every so often I bitch about this and I write about how I need to get back to my roots and blog for the same reasons I started blogging in the first place: to tell the stories of my life as a parent. And since I’ve embraced that “Parent” is one of my many personalities, this blog has become so much more than a “Mommy Blog.” To the point at which I actually have started to feel uncomfortable describing it as such. When people ask me what kind of blogger I am, I’ve been giving a long-winded awkward answer that essentially means “I like to write about what I think about stuff.”
As the years have progressed and billions of newbies have thrown their hats into the ring and become far more popular than I – more comments, more subscribers, more traffic, more gigs, more cool trips, more free shit, better and higher profile jobs – whether or not they are actually good writers – I have watched and worked and noticed, and their recognition as being SO AWESOME eventually builds up on me and makes me fume. What chaps my hide more than anything else are the blogs that are included in Top Ten or Top 50 lists that are not well written! That contain grammatical or spelling errors or (gasp) both on the home pages in the top posts for God’s sake. That devote 1/4 of the page to content and the rest to ads or self-aggrandizing awards badges or the ones that say “I’m speaking at this conference even though I’ve only been blogging for a week and you’re not, old lady.”
And then there are the “literary” blogs that contain poetry, or word pictures, or fragments of memories, and they are held up to all as “art.” Or the “voice of the week” features that publish what in my opinion is sometimes unreadable trash. When I submit a well-written essay that contains no swearing or dangling participles, it’s considered “not the best writing on the internet.” And to that I say thank God this medium is subjective or where would my writerly self-esteem be now?
Jealous much? Hell yeah, I’m jealous. For the most part I’ve kept my nose to the ground and focused on making sure I write the kind of posts I would read and that they don’t have any spelling errors, and that I put in deep links to other bloggers if I cite them and that my photos are original or at least attributed and that my content is the star and not my ads (which is funny, since I only have the one ad from BlogHer Publishing Network, and even that makes me mad because one of the only reasons I signed up for it in the first place was to get my headline in the rotation, and they took me out of the good rotation and put me into one that gets me a fraction of the traffic. WTF?). And while that has gotten me LOTS of great things for which I am incredibly grateful, don’t get me wrong, when I see Nancy New Blogger and her 78 comments per post about how her kids make homemade notecards using soy ink paint and potato stamps and how she has heard a calling from God to make oatmeal from scratch for her 3-year-old and that this venture will be featured on CNN, I want to puke.
And that’s when I turn off the computer.
These are all conflicting feelings. I was once a new blogger. It was fun and exciting and there weren’t as many standards of quality so it was easy for a good writer to make a splash. Now a new blogger has this entire intimidating world to enter when she finally bites the bullet and hits publish on her first post. I can’t imagine what that’s like. I’ve learned what I know over seven years of blogging and troubleshooting and trial and error and homemade meals made for my more tech-experienced friends. It’s not something I would be able to jump into and figure out overnight. And when people come to me and say “How do I make a little extra money with a blog?” when they’ve never even read a blog I want to punch them in the face. But these people are usually friends of mine and I’d never punch a friend of mine in the face, so you can see the conflict.
I do love discovering new blogs that are awesome. When I stumble upon a blog with incredible writing I love to tell everyone about it, and that is one of my favorite things about my gig at ShePosts.com, where I can highlight bloggers who are doing wonderful work and creating content that makes me go back to the beginning and keep clicking on “newer post.” These are the blogs that tell stories, that keep me coming back to see what happens next, to learn what the writer thinks about what happens next. That is what I like to read, and it’s what I like to write.
I’m sure I lost you five paragraphs ago. I recently went to Hawaii on an expenses-paid press trip. Nintendo sends me packages of new video games on a regular basis. I have dozens of amazing friends I’ve met online or at blogger events. I got to interview Suze Orman. It’s a pretty great gig. If you’ve gotten this far, you’re thinking “Suck it, you’re such an ass.”
The thing is, I work hard. I’m good at this. I’ve never considered giving it up. It’s a part of me. But the landscape is so different now. “Success” in media has always required serious hustle and some kind of unidentifiable X factor. One can suggest that I adapt to keep up with the times, but I really don’t have a desire to change the format, or focus on a niche, or comment on 75 blogs a day, or attend every conference and give out my card and a piece of candy to everyone I see. I’m not going to quit drinking, or quit taking drugs, or describe my post partum depression or my divorce in great detail, or publish photographs of my vagina, or reveal that I am a man. The closest I ever came to a huge influx of readers was back in 2009 when Neil Gaiman tweeted a post of mine called “What Is Twitter?” (he only had 300,000 followers at the time) because he considered it quality content. I had thousands of readers a day for a little while, but then that traffic tapered off.
So, after almost seven years, if this blog hasn’t reached the tipping point yet, I guess it’s not gonna. House of Prince will probably flounder on in relative obscurity while New Blog of The Week gets a fucking 2-page spread in the New York Times Style section. I’m sure I’ll have even fewer readers after this post goes live. Or maybe nobody will read it. I have to be okay with those possibilities in order to continue to love what I’m doing.
My friend Lisa (whom I convinced to start her own blog, for the record) gave me a great new goal to focus on, like a mantra. One day I was bitching about all this to her and she said for the next 15 years while my kids are growing up, I should “Write well, do what you love, and raise well-adjusted children.” I guess that’s a better mantra than “Suck it, internet.” And since I’m all about embracing change and becoming a better person, I’m gonna go with Lisa’s idea.