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.
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:
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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- Overcoming Something Insignificant to go on to Greater Insignificance: I got a paper cut today. It really hurt. Life is hard.
- 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.
- My Opinions and Why Everyone Who Doesn’t Agree With Me Is Stupid: Fun for everyone.
- 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:
- Is it funny?
- Does it ask a question that someone else might have?
- Is it informative? Does it pass along a tip I found helpful?
- Is it inspiring?
- 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.
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.