I’m thinking out loud here. Bear with me.
Though I’m sure I have a more than a bit of it in me, I’m not a super competitive person. When I recognize it rearing its ugly head, I feel uncomfortable. It’s not me. I don’t like what it brings out in me. I know there is a healthy form of competitiveness and, to a certain extent, it drives us to do better, to be better. When I used to audition for acting roles, which is all about competition, I was excited and triumphant if I was cast in the part. But usually, I didn’t see my fellow auditioners, so I was only in competition with myself, if that makes sense. I did the best I could and hoped it was enough.
Blogging has changed a great deal since I first started this blog over five years ago. What used to be a more intimate community of people sharing thoughts and ideas is now a much more competitive arena. Everyone is trying to get sponsors, ad income, affiliate links, big stats numbers. Everywhere I turn there is advice as to how to grow your blog. I have benefited from some of that advice in the past. But now it’s all about numbers. How many visitors come to your blog, how long they stay, what other sites refer visitors to your blog, are you on google+ because you must be on google+, do the big bloggers consider you part of their pack, how much ad income do you generate, how many comments do you get, what’s your google ranking – the list is endless.
I’ve fallen prey to it in the past. I have to be honest about that. I took on ads because I needed the additional income. That income is very, very, very modest. I wanted bigger numbers because bigger numbers meant more ad income. I started posting every day because of it. (I’m glad I made that change – it’s a good discipline for me.) I looked at other blogs and wondered why they had such huge numbers. I still do. I felt a bit of resentment about the opportunities that seemed to come to younger bloggers and mommy bloggers but not to ‘seasoned bloggers’ as I call myself. I analyzed, assessed, compared and obsessed.
Then I turned a corner. The sheer abundance of blogs out there left me feeling overwhelmed. And underwhelmed by lots of repetitive content. I saw blogs that I used to really enjoy for their personal, heartwarming content change into what might as well be called websites, for want of a better word. Every post became a tout for their business. I’ve stopped reading them. I’ve watched other bloggers try to come up with a new project, a new idea, all the time – and it was too much. I was exhausted for them. After seeing the first few blog posts about chevrons and pallets and grain sacks and horizontal stripes on walls, my eyes glazed over. How many times can you reinvent the wheel? The need to keep up, to find something someone else hasn’t blogged about, to generate constant new projects to keep stat numbers high – Oy. I know that lots of bloggers want to generate a healthy income from their blogs. I totally understand that. And many bloggers are perfectly content in that business-like, competitive atmosphere; indeed, even thrive in it. More power to them. I really mean that.
There, I’ve admitted it. I simply don’t thrive in a competitive atmosphere. I don’t want to. That’s part of the reason I left acting behind and became a teacher and coach.
That little fact doesn’t make me better, or worse, than anybody else. I’m not. I’m not condemning anyone. I’m just speaking about a change that has happened to me, in reference to this little blogging world of mine. Listen, let’s be totally honest here. I’d love to generate more ad income than I do. I’d love to get a book deal. I’m a good writer – I’m proud of my writing. I’d love to be considered a top blogger. I’m just like anybody else. I’ve worked hard over the past 5 years to create a place on the web that I’m proud of. I worked very hard on this blog’s design. The quality of my photography and my content is very, very important to me. But all of that is to please my aesthetic, to keep this blog at a level that I can be proud of and that enables me to connect to you in a meaningful way. Sometimes I fail. Most of the time, writing this blog makes me very happy. And that, my friends, is what is important to me; not numbers, not stats, not the latest way to get my blog out there, whether it be Pinterest or Facebook or Instagram or whatever – not any of it. Yes, I appreciate the extra income, and would I like more of it? Of course. In the end, however, it’s all about joy. And I don’t get joy from numbers (which might be the reason we file an extension every year with the IRS.) Numbers don’t do it for me. Numbers take away the heart and soul of what I do.
I am withdrawing from all that. I no longer read my stats. I no longer read all the articles about growing your blog. I don’t really care what my Google ranking is and you can’t make me care, so there.
The blog isn’t changing. My priorities about what is important for this blog have been clarified and strengthened. You are important to me. The quality of my content is important to me, but not because of a competition. Because of me. Because of you.
It’s awfully freeing.