Maybe a Little. Self-Indulgent…

Let’s do a word association this morning.

Clear your mind and think about the word blogging.

What’s the first word that bubbles up for you?

My word is self-indulgent.

The runners-up are pathetic, whiny, shameless self-promotion, trite, over sharing, hobby, and bored housewife.

Not very nice inner critic. Maybe a little true, but not very nice at all.

Somewhere in the back of my mind are the words platform, marketing, brand building, relationships (that I really enjoy), networking, and practice.

A big hurdle for people who have writing aspirations is to shut that first group of words out and just start writing.  And at first, everything you put down is going to be self-indulgent. Before the market demanded that everyone ready to start sending queries for their work should also bring a slew of blog readers and contacts to the table, the novice writer could flail and be self-indulgent in private. Those sound like happier times.

The act of blogging is undeniably self-indulgent, and anyone with an internet connection can start a blog. You are the master of your own domain; you display your content, your opinions, your life, your interests–edited only by you and your fear of judgement from the people with whom you have shared your blog.

But I’ll be honest and admit that I fear the label self-indulgent when it comes to my writing. It’s the main reason I don’t share my posts on Facebook with every friend I’ve ever had. The fear that they will be offended or hate everything I have to say is surpassed only by my fear that they will think I am a self-absorbed ass or that they really don’t give a shit.

And most of them don’t. It screams in my mind every time I sit down to write a post–no one wants to read your shitty blog.

It’s not that people are cruel or are rejecting you–they are busy. This blog will never mean as much to anyone else as it does to me.

Fact.

But thinking about this got me curious about what people consider self-indulgent and what topics, if any, other writers avoid to side-step this criticism. Or if they even think about it as much as I do.

Here’s a list of topics that I would consider self-indulgent:

  1. Tim Riggins…enough said. credit: fanpop.com

    High School Glory Days: You remember back when I was in high school and our football team won back-to-back state championships? And I cheered on the sidelines at Texas Stadium? Wait? You’ve never heard of the Yellow Jackets? Coach Briles? Can Fans? Shit-kicker Texas in 1993-1995. I find that hard to believe. Seriously, unless it’s Friday Night Lights and you get to ogle Tim Riggins, fall in love with Coach Taylor, and feel all of your teenage angst again in a nostalgic way, no one really cares. Until I can re-tell this experience in a way that takes you back to the best parts of your high school days it’s pretty much off-limits on my non-joking, topic list, and anything I could say about it would reek of FNL derivative anyway. The only thing I would do differently than the writers of Friday Night Lights would be to not pull East Dillon High out of my ass in season four. The rough part of town and a school that the Panthers never played or mentioned in earlier seasons. You can’t just turn Podunk, Texas into Houston, Texas. And no, I do not want to go to Applebee’s.

  2. My Life Story Womb to Tomb: Complete with a eulogy written by me, about me, filled with things I hope someone would say about me when I die. I’m sure it’s a good exercise, but would anyone read it other than my Mom?
  3. My Lost Virginity: I read somewhere that beginning writers always want to capture the story of losing their virginity. I can’t remember where I heard that, but I’ve seen it, and it’s not a story I’m particularly interested in sharing. Cherry popped, heart broken. That’s the whole story.
  4. Everyone Sucks and I Hate Them All: I’m all for the occasional rant about stupidity. I just don’t want to do it every day.
  5. Overcoming Something Insignificant to go on to Greater Insignificance: I got a paper cut today. It really hurt. Life is hard.
  6. This is How my Parents/Life Screwed me Up: How I think I’m over it, but I’m never really going to get over it.
  7. My Opinions and Why Everyone Who Doesn’t Agree With Me Is Stupid: Fun for everyone.
  8. My Dirty Laundry: Every complaint about my life I’ve ever had, and passive aggressive criticism of my loved ones.

I don’t really think any of these topics are off-limits and I’ve put up posts that contained portions of all of the above, but if you want anyone to care about them, you need to write them in a way that people can relate to. In a way that is respectful of the people who shared those experiences. In a way that brings up memories of someone else’s life. In a way that strikes a chord with someone and reminds us of the shared, life experience and the human condition.

Thanks, Captain Obvious.

Consider your audience (even if it is an audience of one).

I try to ask these questions before I publish a post:

  1. Is it funny?
  2. Does it ask a question that someone else might have?
  3. Is it informative? Does it pass along a tip I found helpful?
  4. Is it inspiring?
  5. Does it evoke any emotion or is it filler?

If my post doesn’t offer any of these things to any one, then it’s probably a little self-indulgent, and I usually know it before I post it. Then my stats confirm it.

I’m trying to learn how to tweak the writing so that it offers value to others.

I’m also trying to ignore the self-indulgent label. Everything about online communities is self-serving. I have a whole website dedicated to my Face. You probably do too. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t blog or write about your life if you want to.

That’s all.

And if you think this post is self-indulgent, you should have seen the first draft.

Do you have any topics that are off-limits or that annoy you when you see post after post about them?

I really want to know.

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25 thoughts on “Maybe a Little. Self-Indulgent…

  1. I really love reading your blog, and I don’t find you self-indulgent. I find you crass, hilarious, witty and I love your perspective on stuff. I think your most inspiring post–for me–was the one about how men and women communicate differently (you used a chart that made me laugh). *And this post pointed out to me that my blog is completely self-indulgent, but I’ve decided that’s okay. I need a place to do that so that the people who deal with me in my “real” life don’t have to roll their eyes every five seconds.

    • I think it’s okay–there is really no way to avoid it if you are writing, but I hate the way the word makes me feel! I appreciate the encouragement and know that I really enjoy your blog and I bookmark your recipes and even use them sometimes! In fact, I think we will be making playdough with koolaid tomorrow :)

  2. I think that writers and bloggers as a group tend to be self indulgent, and long before the internet, some of the greatest writers have had huge egos, and a large measure of self fascination. Norman Mailer and Ernest Hemingway quickly come to mind. BUT… I tend to take self indulgence in myself and other writers as a given, and judge the writing by whether or not it takes me somewhere worth the effort it took to read it.

    I think that your writing always takes me somewhere worth making the trip, with your skillfully worded descriptions of real and raw emotional experiences and memories, in combination with your ability to find humor in almost any situation.

    It’s looking like WP has a huge drop off in both blogging and reading posts during the summer, so don’t take those summer stats too seriously.

    • I agree completely. If artists/writers/creative types were not self-indulgent there would be no books, or art, or movies. If the person writing doesn’t have any ego, some measure of self-awareness, or at least a powerful eye for observation then the writing would never happen at all.
      I just hate the word association I guess, and hope that I can get better at taking people into an enjoyable, or funny, or painfully awkward story that they can relate to in some way.
      I’m glad you’ve been out enjoying the summer life!

  3. I think you’re spot on–to avoid being too self-indulgent, the post needs to have something of relevance to the readers. If it is about one’s personal life, than it should be written in a way that others can relate to. And if they can’t relate, then it should contain a new snippet of knowledge for them, whether it’s useful knowledge or not. :) I doubt I accomplish these things with all of my posts, but I think at least being aware of it, as you are, is the first step.

    Nice post on a topic I haven’t seen addressed yet.

    • No matter what, haters are gonna hate! This criticism is one I see over and over again though, and it gets under my skin. So I have to step back and consider the validity of it I suppose.
      I think you accomplish value added with your stories and posts. I can’t think of a single one where I didn’t walk away reading a new blog, learning a new phrase, or thinking about Amish neighbors watching me dance in the bathroom! You also happen to be one of the best on this blog host at making friends and encouraging people. Pretty awesome.

      • Thank you! That’s really nice of you to say, and now you’ve made my weekend. Now go dance naked and see who’s watching. :)

  4. Ummmm… you’re channeling me AGAIN. Or did you read my book/self-indulgent/piece of dog-doo-doo memoir? Man, woman, you are one tough cookie!
    Yes, I confess, I walked the 8 steps of self-indulgence. You make me want to cry in shame!
    Nasty woman! See, you’ve unhinged me now!
    But really, do it naked on a tightrope and you might get some readers.
    Glad to have been channeled,
    Vince

    • Oh Vince, trust that it was not my intent to channel or shame anyone! I have effectively unhinged myself by writing this too.
      This is an inner dialogue I have all the time. It is self-criticism and fear that prevents me from getting much serious writing done at all.
      In fact, many of your posts on our selfishness, ego, and pride inspired the this thought to its self-indulgent conclusion.
      I read memoirs all the time; I actually enjoy them, I’m just not sure there are enough interesting stories from my own life to sustain one.
      There is great healing and power in writing all the things I listed above. Maybe that’s what scares me most about it.
      You are right about being naked on a tight rope though–that would probably gain some readers.

      • I know… I was just having a little fun, but perhaps hiding some of my own insecurities. The tension makes it real and makes it worthwhile. I think we are both on the right track if we ask and at least try to answer the hard questions.

      • Whew! I was afraid I had offended you.
        Self-indulgence is a word that carries a lot of weight, but it could basically be a tag-line for life. Indulge yourself, your passions, desires, and whims–the problem is in the last part. Without restraint.
        Keep up the good work. Your posts make me ask questions that are much easier not to think about. And that’s why I enjoy them–they challenge me.

  5. I don’t think you come across as self indulgent at all. I feel that way too sometimes and it’s something I have to work to control. Before I post, I try to imagine how I would feel if someone else had written it and I was the reader. That usually results in my deleting everything I just wrote.

    I generally try to be open minded when reading others’ blogs since everyone should be able tp write what they want, but the one thing that drives me crazy is when people write a whole post about how they have writer’s block. Especially when you think they’re eventually going to say something worthwhile and they don’t. Time is precious and when my inbox is full of new posts to read through, that’s a complete waste of my time.

    • I probably need to do better about reading back and thinking how other people will feel about what I’ve said!
      I’d have a lot of deleted posts that way too.
      I agree on the writer’s block posts–maybe a disclaimer in the title (I have writer’s block and no solution other than lamenting about my blockage).

      • I’m just going to cut to the chase and say the only thing I get tired of reading from anyone are unending glories of motherhood. I am a mom, too, and while I relish how American culture has begun to give well earned respect to moms and soldiers… I tire of endless back patting prattering about the heroics of everyday parenting. Save the stories about how you ( not you), spent your day zooming about in the minivan being capt. Multitask and how amazing YOU are because you can pull it all off. Yay, you. Some of us don’t have custody, some of us are single moms, single dads, unable to have children, or had crappy childhoods, which is not the writer’s problem but just saying if you’re going to do the adventures in parenting blog, do it celebrating your KIDS, and write it well.

  6. This is actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately — thanks for the awesome and relatable post! It’s interesting how you talk about writing for your audience, because while I completely agree, I find that personally I get more likes and views on posts that I feel are more “self-indulgant” than I do on posts that I write with my audience more in mind and try to write what I think people will want to read.

    • That is definitely true for me as well. It is hard to find the line between writing what you know (your passions, your stories, yourself), and not being self-indulgent. It’s even hard for me to pin down when I’m reacting to something that I think is self-indulgent. I think we all have stories that are relatable in some way and that give value to our readers. It’s just something I worry about–probably too much. I’m glad you could relate to the post though, and that you took the time to tell me that!

  7. Pingback: Just to be Understood « A Solitary Ramble

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