Sunday, June 7, 2009

Having a blogging crisis

Yesterday I was privileged to be a member of a blogging panel at the Reality Bites writing festival. In the morning I joined experienced and successful bloggers Matthew Cashmore and Rhonda Hetzel to talk in general terms about blogging. And in the afternoon I led a blogging workshop in a computer laboratory.

Reflecting about blogging
I had a thoroughly enjoyable time and especially enjoyed talking to Matthew who has been blogging for many years and is a social media expert working at Lonely Planet. Our discussions coupled with the fact I am approaching my 2nd year of blogging anniversary has left me to reflect on this blog and ask myself if I am achieving what I set to achieve?

Is this blog meeting my needs and my audience? How can I attract a bigger audience? Now that I am about to become unemployed and consequently beholden to no particular employer or organisation, can I cut loose and write more personal posts? Should I be keeping a personal blog as well as a professional blog? Does this professional blog meet my needs as I start to think about my future direction in terms of employment? If I have a personal blog, do I write it as 'Sarah Stewart'? If I do, how will that impact on my professional identity?

All this reflection has led to the blogging equivalent of a mid life crisis!

I'm bored with my blog
At the moment this blog is boring me. It is dense with professional information and somewhere along the line I have lost a sense of 'me' in it. Now, that has a lot to do with my real life. I have been extremely busy with the eMentoring and Second Life midwifery education projects and have had little time to think about my personal life, let alone write about it. Actually, truth be told, for the last two months I haven't had a personal life. This weekend is the first time I have had a complete break from either project.

Suffering blog envy
I have always insisted that this blog is about my personal learning and I do not particularly want a blog that panders to a certain audience. If I wanted to do that, my blog would be targeted at pregnant women or people interested in clinical midwifery. At the same time, it would be great to reach a wider audience than I am at the moment. This is especially true as I start to look for another job, and think about the future direction of my career.

I guess the bottom line is that I have been afflicted with a major case of blog envy. I want a blog like Rhonda's. But at the same time, if I try to promote a more personal blog, how effective would that be in attracting a widespread audience unless I have something to 'sell'?

Getting back to my roots
I have dug out a post I wrote at the beginning of 2008 that hopefully will help me to refocus called My blog goals for 2008. My goals were:
  • use my blog for my own personal and professional learning;
  • role model blogging and social networking to midiwves;
  • build a midwifery community that goes on to meet via virtual meetings and conferences.
I have achieved all those goals - indeed, they are ongoing. So maybe the issue isn't so much my blog, but rather my life style. Maybe, I need to manage my time more effectively so that a. I have a personal life, and b. I find time to blog about it.

Where does Twitter fit into this?
In one sense, Twitter has taken over the role of personal blogging. Whilst I have been writing very few personal blog posts, I have been putting out a lots of personal thoughts and maintaining personal connections on Twitter. So maybe, the option for me is to concentrate on building my blog as a professional space, and using Twitter for making and keeping personal connections?

So you can see, I'm in a right old tiss and would love to hear your feedback. Should I have a personal blog as well as this professional blog? How can I make this professional blog more engaging and attract a wider audience? What do you think?

Image: 'It's the hard knock life!' Ruben Bos


artandmylife said...

Since I've been twittering my blog has taken a dive. Also my blog has a loose topic and I keep wanting to write about other subjects. I am too busy to have multiple blogs.

No answers sorry

pamdh said...

Ok, I think it doesn't matter what you post where, for instance when I googled my name I find that many of the twitter comments I've made show up under my name. So if an employer was that concerned then they would use that to find out what you write about.

I am fascinated with the comment you are bored with your blog which has to be your main drive for change. So just reviewing what you get out of blogging and what you wish to achieve with blogging is worth listing once again.
Also I am interested to hear what it is you are envious of in regards other blogs. I think this will give you a start.

Personally I have been through the anguish of 'what audience am I aiming at?' to then realise I am not a marketer, I just blog for me and so I can only blog what I feel and what I find interesting and as my personality is that can be very diverse from day to day. Hence just meeting a target audience doesn't meet my needs. So I am a selfish blogger and blog for me!

DaveB said...

Where does twitter fit? My 2c is:

In a little box off to the side.

I've always thought it a mistake to call twitter a "micro-blog". It isn't. And calling it that just makes people confused and try to treat it as a blog.

Twitter is like a broadcast instant messenger (msn, irc, etc).
Blogs are as different from blogs as any IM is.

I use twitter to feed an object on my blog, it feeds facebook, and used to change my status on msn. I wish it would change my linkedin status (they're slack). Oh - and some people read my twitters directly.

But it's not a blog, or a substitute for one. It's closest relation is as a way of announcing blog updates.

Sue Waters said...

Blogging should always be about posts you want to write, and what you want to learn, as opposed to those that your think your audience wants to read.

If you enjoy what you write so will your audience. As a person with too many blogs I would strongly caution against setting up separate blogs unless you really have to.

Honestly the rivalry that happens between the blogs can get nasty. The blogs fight with each other, get offended when one is recognized more than the other and to make matters worse your audience begins to suffer from which blog are you.

But on a cheekier note I still argue for the long term you are better on a WordPress powered blog (mmm have we had this discussion before?).

keb said...

Well, what can I say!?? Great post! Love reading your topics and they are really helpful. Hope to read more from you soon! :lol: :lol: Keep posting, I really appreciate your posts! By the way, I am new here on your blog but I can't help but stay here!By the way, I am Keb, from the Philippines. Check out my blog and I would really appreciate comments! Cheers!

Dot said...

Very selfishly, I would love it if you did more personal blogging (and also more baby-related blogging, as my life is very baby-centered!), and I'm not on twitter as I waste quite enough time on facebook...

Seriously, I'll echo what others have said here: the first person who has to enjoy your blog is you. How useful a learning tool is it if it depresses or bores you?

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks everyone for your comments and support. Reviewing my blog and taking some time out to think about it. Ultimately I think my frustrations has been about my workload, not necessarily this blog.

I have looked back over my posts and realise that this is a theme. The conclusion I always come back to is that I cannot be bothered with two blogs so will continue to write personal stuff here. I do not see (and never have done) Twitter as another way of blogging, but rather connecting with people.

artandmylife; I am glad to have Twitter - if I didn't, I would barely connect with people at all.

pamdh: It was good for me to have this rant because I have come full circle and got 'blog envy' out of my system. I needed to confirm for myself that my blog is ultimately about me and my desire to 'role model' and pass on information about using technology. Yes, I'd love to be world famous but am never going to achieve a readership of thousands, and that is OK.

DaveB: Twitter keeps me going in the week until I can get to blog when I have time in the weekends. If nothing else, it helps me feel less isolated.

keb: thanks for your comment.

Suewaters: I just needed to get my blogging mojo back and I think all I needed was some time to reflect and re-group. Thanks for your suggestion about wordpress LOL. I'm still resisting :)

Dot: hey; how's it going?! I have moved away from pregnancy 'stuff' because of my current job. But if my next job moves me back into clinical work (which I think it will as I am looking at doing some locum work) I'm sure you'll see more baby-related things. But you're right - I've lost the personal element which I need to do more of.

Leigh Blackall said...

Sunshine recently Google searched "midwife in dunedin" and you came up as the first individual in the list. Wasn't your blog though.. and your blog isn't linked to the College profile page that came up.. still some connecting needed I think

Sarah Stewart said...

The snag is, Leigh, is that I don;t know if I want to be found as "a midwife in Dunedin" because I am not practising as a midwife in Dunedin, if you see what I mean.

Mike Bogle said...

Hi Sarah!

I'm a bit late in the discussion here, but I identified a lot with the theme of a blog crisis.

I experience these funks myself from time to time. In almost all cases the key symptom is I start to over think the situation. I'll spend more and more time analysing what I should be or shouldn't be blogging about, or what other people think of my blog, than just blogging. Another dead give-away of blog burnout for me is to start focusing obsessively on themes, plugins, and other aesthetic elements rather than ideas, concepts or bursts of inspiration.

It's almost as if my blogging starts to become contrived and forced rather than inspired.

Typically at this point I try to take a mental break from blogging and focus on other things for a while - sometimes it's a break from all technology actually.

Joni Mitchell said she would sometimes get tapped out musically and would focus intensely on painting for a while instead - change mediums. It's the same sort of thing with blogging I think. For me I find I can use up my blogging brain over time and need to allow time to let the well-spring replenish.

I find turning to the work of others tends to help - such as reading books or watching movies (of completely different subject matter). It's almost as if witnessing someone elses enthusiasm or imagination for a while can put things back into perspective.

I find the times I feel I absolutely must "fix" my blog issues are the times I need to just step back and breathe. Blogging for me is meant to be fun and rewarding, if it's starting to feel like work and worry then I need a break - once I become willing to do this it's amazing how quickly you get back on track in the blog.

Not sure if this helps at all, but I hope so.



Carolyn said...

Might be being a tiny wee bit cynical here but I have to ask, does it really matter? Is it a major importance that we all blog, or that you blog? If you do blog do you need to do it all the time? Is it an addiction that needs to be addressed? Is it something that is going to change the world?
It is a great to have an online profile and be known but ultimately I think the posts need to be about something that you care about. I would agree with Pam that it probably doesn't matter what that something is as long as it is something which stirs you into action and that passion will carry you along.
To me you are still the blogging star:)

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks so much, Mike and Carolyn for your thoughts. Just having this conversation with you all has been 'fun' and reminded me what blogging is all about.

Carolyn: you are so right about blogging being for oneself. I made the mistake of comparing myself with professional bloggers which is a different ball game from being an educational blogger. It's been so good to remind myself that blogging is fun - I have just had to remind myself of that.