Lessons from a Year of Blogging
As I mentioned in my last post this blog celebrates its 1 year anniversary on Saturday. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the past year. The lessons range from the personal to things that are probably obvious to most bloggers.
- “If there’s something you want to hear, you can sing it yourself.” This pretty much sums up why I started the blog. I couldn’t find anyone talking about career planning and how it related to gender and race. When I decided to broaden the blog’s subject matter I realized it’d give me a chance to talk about more of the issues I cared about. I used to see an item in the news or pop culture and wish that someone else will write something about it, but I couldn’t count on that happening.
- Self-doubt is my #1 enemy. This ties in with the first lesson. Every once in a while there’s this nagging voice inside me saying there’s no point to me doing this, that no one who reads the blog likes it, that it’s not getting me anywhere, that no one would care if I stopped. Luckily the point wasn’t to become a world-famous writer or make money. The point was to express myself and spark discussion, and while I’d always like more feedback than I get, I think I continue to succeed on that front. When I think back on the last year I’m proud of myself for standing up and saying I’m a feminist and I’m not ashamed of it.
- It’s really hard to predict what posts will get more hits than others. E. Cain’s post on American Apparel has far and away the most hits on the site. The day it was posted it got over 5,000 hits, beating the blog’s best day by almost 5 times. I think it’s a great post but I honestly wasn’t expecting it. Given that there’s been a lot written about American Apparel’s sexist advertising on other feminist blogs, I thought we’d get a response more in line with our average hits per post.
- Blogging can affect your friendships. Most of my friends know I’m a feminist because I took Women’s Studies in University and was heavily involved in the Women’s Rights Committee of the BC NDP, so I wasn’t expecting much to change now that I was writing more publicly about my opinions. I was mostly right: the majority of my friends who disagreed with me on feminist issues in the past just steered clear of the blog or were supportive of me expressing myself, even if they didn’t agree with the ideas. Unfortunately I did have one friend for whom me writing the blog seemed to exacerbate long-standing political disagreements that I thought we had both let slide. Her point was that me putting my opinions out in public meant that I had to be more willing to defend them to her. I can see that my writing the blog made her feel more confronted with my views, but it was also difficult for me to accept that my best friend had become my biggest critic.
- Trust your readers. This is something Linda Solomon, Editor of the Vancouver Observer, told me when I was upset about some racist comments I’d received on a column I’d written about the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. Linda said I could take them down, but she believed it was better to trust that the majority of your readers are able to read your piece and the comments and realize on their own that the comments are offensive. The aforementioned American Apparel post also received some offensive comments, including referring to the author as an “uptight prude” and telling “you feminists” to “shut up and get back in the kitchen.” At first I was worried, but it was great to see how a bunch of readers we’d never seen or heard from before took on the trolls and their sexist language.
- Quantity is as important as quality. This is one of the things that’s both good and bad about blogging. Of course it’d be nicer for us writers if people just expected one amazing piece every once in a while, but the truth is no one’s going to keep checking your blog if you only post once a month. So since this January I’ve tried very hard to post 2-3 times a week minimum, with the help of some awesome contributors.
- Contributors are a blessing and a challenge. The challenge to me is knowing what types of edits I should offer. Luckily no one has submitted anything containing sexist or racist language, because I make it clear in the submission guidelines that oppressive content is not acceptable. I brought on contributors to help keep up with the new posts I felt were required on a regular basis, and to meet a feminist commitment to ensuring diverse perspectives were represented. For that reason and because I think they’re awesome, I make it a rule not to make changes to contributions except to grammar, spelling, and tone. Sometimes I will point out what I think are some questions they’re leaving unanswered. But overall I find it challenging to decide if I should give more feedback, since I’m the editor and could be seen as endorsing everything my contributors say. Right now I hope readers will understand that publishing someone else’s piece says that I think their perspective is valid and arguable, and that I like their writing style. It doesn’t necessarily mean I have the exact same opinion. Feminism isn’t monolithic so I think having a range of opinions is a positive thing.
- Write down any ideas you have for posts, even if you aren’t going to post them right away. It’ll help you through the dry spells when you can’t think of anything new.
I’m sure I’ll think of more over the next year and in the meantime I’d love to hear from readers about what you liked and didn’t like, and what you’d like to see more of.
“Still and all, why bother? Here’s my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'” – Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake.