I will attempt to answer a question that burns fear into my soul - Is personal blogging self-indulgent, or is there an art to writing a personal blog?
Is Personal Blogging Self-Indulgent?
I have been struggling a little since starting this blog. I'm not quite sure what I'm writing about, or who I am writing for. Perhaps because the uneasy answer to both of these questions - is me?
Initially I wanted a portfolio website where I could summarise what I do professionally, display some examples, and describe the services I offer. That got a bit tricky though, because there are many creative facets to me and nobody puts baby in a corner!
Needless to say, my portfolio soon became a hot mess - I was a writer, an illustrator, a pet portrait artist, a jewellery-maker, a craftsperson... I had Etsy shops coming out of my ears and links to blogs all over the place. So I scrapped the whole thing and buried my head in the sand.
This meant that my beautiful domain name (that I had paid for!) was going to waste. My empty website was a blank canvas of possibility, but there were just too many possibilities. I hate waste though. So recently, I made the decision to relaunch my website and turn it into a blog.
Yes, another blog. I have a habit of starting blogs. My other blogs make sense though, they have their audiences. This blog is a problem. There is no niche, it's basically just about me. You are not a niche Zara!
Do you see my dilemma? Is personal blogging self-indulgent? So far, it feels like it.
Thankfully, I came across a post on Copyblogger that does a good job of stating that there is a difference, but "the tricky part is that there’s a fine line between 'personal' and 'self-indulgent.'"
Stefanie Flaxman, in her post on Copyblogger, says that "personal narratives can form connections with strangers almost magically, but self-indulgent writing has the opposite effect." She offers the advice; "Your goal is to show the people who you want to be a part of your community that they’re in the right place."
So if you want your blog to be a success, what Stefanie is saying, is that you should be authentic and offer value; "It’s valuable when you explain how you got to where you are today and your motivations for sharing your knowledge. Why do you want to teach what you’ve learned?"
Okay, I think I'm on the right track then, phew. I am sharing my story in the hope that it will inspire and motivate others to follow their dreams too, and succeed against all odds! Because that is what I am in the process of doing myself, and I want to connect with people on my own journey. Yay - I'm not just self-obsessed, my blog has a purpose!
I absolutely loved the Cohen quote that Stefanie pulled and put at the top of her post.
"The more personal you get, the more universal the application" - Leonard Cohen.
It hits the nail on the head to describe what I'm trying to achieve. I am always conscious of over-sharing, but I think Cohen is right, sometimes over-sharing is a good thing.
I am a storyteller at heart, and they say you should write about what you know. Maybe that is why I am drawn to the idea of personal blogging. I'd also love to write a memoir one day. My favourite types of books to read and films to watch are the ones based on real people's stories. Ordinary people can have extraordinary stories to tell.
Have you read my recent book review? It was a lovely memoir, I really enjoyed it.
Similarities Between Memoir And Personal Blogging
Jerry Waxler's post title; "Memoirs – self-indulgent or connection to the world?" neatly highlights what I want to achieve with my personal writing. I don't think that writing should just be an opportunity to rant or offload. Your writing should have a bigger purpose.
By the time I have finished writing a blog post, or a chapter to a memoir I might be attempting to write, I have usually edited it to within an inch of it's life, because I want to get rid of all that personal fluff and make sure that my writing is meaningful to someone else, and not just satisfactory for me.
Someone I knew used to have a very irritating habit of sending long text messages that listed everything they had done during the day. I hated reading them. I couldn't care less about the fact that they had "had shower, hoovered. Put cake in microwave. Off to pub for bottomless coffee..."I don't think they understood that texting is a form of communication, in which two people are meant to be present. It baffled me how they could send text after text listing their mundane activities, and not once engage me in conversation, ask me what I have been up to or how I was feeling. I sincerely hope that my blog posts never sound like that.
Jerry describes blogging as a "modern form of intimacy". I love that! He says, "Blogs are good practice, to help me learn the art of talking about myself in a way that is useful and interesting to others."
How To Make Your Personal Blog Relevant
I have come to the conclusion that my blog is fine. It's not all about me. Well it is, but I'm trying to be careful not to exclude the reader by avoiding long-winded self-important musings or tirades.
I believe that the best way of sorting through a blog post to get rid of everything that is just not relevant to your audience, is to take a leaf out of a minimalist's book. Who better to turn to for advice then, than one of my favourite blogs - The Minimalists - They have 20 blogging tips, which you can read for yourself by going to their website. I have pulled a few of my favourites, and added a few of my own thoughts.
Find your niche (Or don't!) - They say that it helps to have one, and it certainly does, but don't think that you can't just write about your own life and your own thoughts. They are just as interesting and valuable, as long you are providing value in your content and not indulging in selfish waffle.
Define your ideal readers - If you don't have a well-defined niche, then it can help to at least have some idea of who you are talking to when you write your blog posts, because this will create a sense of consistency. I like to think that I am having an ongoing conversation with friends, who are maybe on a similar journey to me, or who have at least relate to my journey in some way.
Add value - Ask yourself one question - What is the point I am trying to make? If there isn't a point, you might want to create one, before you lose your audience's attention. And don't forget to keep coming back to that point to stop yourself from getting lost in the woods.
Be Yourself - This is my favourite one. If you stay true to who you are, what you think and feel, and what you want to achieve, the authenticity will shine through and be sure to inspire people.
The Minimalists mention the famous Ghandi quote; "Be the change you want to see in the world," and they say, "Perhaps bloggers should build the blog they want to write for the world." I think that the best way to avoid self-indulgent writing is to look at your content and decide whether you are just writing about yourself, or whether you are writing about yourself, but also about something bigger than yourself. Is there universal value?
If you enjoyed reading my post please take the time to share it, and subscribe to my blog for the next one! Let's start a conversation in the comments - Share something of value that you got from listening to someone else's story recently.