Who is making these blogging rules up, anyway?
I've been a bit angry with the internet this week. An anger that I just could not put my finger on.
Then, when I was chatting to an online friend yesterday, I gained a bit of clarity.
See, my friend was asking about 'adding value' to her blog posts. How, before she presses publish she checks to make sure she has provided value to the reader because that's what she has read we must do, as bloggers.
And I was a bit stumped. Because, in the things I check before I press publish: story, spellings, grammar, a beginning, middle and end...I have never thought 'have I provided value'.
A quick Google and search on Pinterest however, shows me hundreds of blog posts all saying similar things: 'why you should add value to your content', 'how to add value', 'how to craft value-added blog content', 'what is value and how to add it'.
Seriously, it makes me want to scream. (Incidentally I told my friend who I mentioned above that she'd inspired me to write this but it was getting a bit 'ranty' and that I should tone it down a bit. She laughed and said 'don't'. So this is it in all its ranty glory. I should also add that I'm very grateful for her enthusiasm for writing this and it is in no way aimed at her because she's amazing.)
I blog to write. I want to share my stories, recommend books, share an opinion (not always, but occasionally, like today). If people like it then great. If people don't then I'm still going to write it. I'm still going to share my stories because I want to write. So it never occurs to me when I press publish if I provide value to my readers (no disrespect to you by the way). I do hope someone likes or relates to something I've written. Because that makes me feel good. And if I'm feeling it, chances are, someone else is, too.
This is something that has come about through experience, however. Last year when I created a second website and called it Bookish Marketing I lost my love of writing. I was trying to write what I thought the reader wanted to know or ought to know. And I hated it. Really, really hated it.
I was following the 'blogging rules'. I had niched. I had written a free download to grow my email list. I had rearranged my Pinterest boards so they were what my audience wanted to see rather than what I wanted to. And it sucked the life and soul out of my writing and blogging. I'd lost myself along the way.
I have an issue with rules. I think they make our writing formulaic. I think they make us Instagram clones of each other. It stops us from standing out and having a personality. Because we're scared of scaring off our ideal reader. We're scared of losing readers.
People talk about blogging dying or not getting as much engagement on Instagram. Is this because readers are getting fed up of seeing the same thing and reading the same type of content all the time?
If someone has had success with their blog people want to know how they've done it. So they try and quantify it. Other people try and replicate it.
And by replicating it they strip it back to the bare bones and make it sterile. And when the readers don't come we think we're not following the rules properly and research more rules to follow.
We are so busy crafting blog posts that we think a reader is searching for...but what if the reader doesn't know what she's searching for?
I'm constantly looking for more blogs to read. I'll read a blog post over a magazine article anyday if it's relatable or inspiring. I've recently discovered a blogger called Amber McNaught. She blogs about beauty and fashion and more recently new motherhood - I've never been interested in reading about beauty or fashion and new motherhood is well behind me now. However, I do love the way Amber writes. I could read anything she writes for hours. But I won't find that through the search bar and a Pin on Pinterest.
I didn't even know I was looking for her writing before I found it.
Are we so obsessed with 'making it' we don't stop to question the rules? That we scrub out our own personalities in order to gain a bigger following?
When I saw a counsellor a few years ago we discovered I had all these self-imposed rules in my head that were contributing to a downturn in my mental health. For example 'I must make a homemade cake when someone is coming to visit even if I was dog-tired'. Small rules that I'd self-imposed. That I couldn't veer away from. Handfuls of them that were affecting my life, crushing me down, destroying my personality.
And I see rules affecting bloggers and online creatives, destroying their online personalities and making their online life frustrating and unenjoyable. And it makes me so cross that someone, in the depths of internet history, listed these rules for us to blindly follow and never question.