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Blog,  Writing

Why Is Blogging No Fun Anymore?

I’ve known for a while this blog is ill – sick in the worst kind of way. The kind where you can’t see it happening but like the hour hand of a clock you know it’s moving steadily and inexorably towards the close of day. Choked by expectation, dissected alive by Statistics, Rankings, and SEO scores, it’s become sterile, frozen in a kind of death-bed rictus. You’re probably thinking I’m about to call it a day and declare it clinically dead but that’s not going to happen, and here’s why.

Like the birthday orchid my friend gave me that I knew would die a slow death despite all my best efforts, I’ve felt the awful responsibility for my ailing blog for some time. But no matter how I tried I couldn’t recapture the simple joy of posting I felt in the early days when all manner of everyday stuff demanded I write about it and my poor husband was left alone on the sofa while I bled pure enthusiasm onto my keyboard in the adjoining room. You see, these days my blog posts have to be insightful and watertight; it’s not enough to have an opinion, I have to know what I’m talking about. There must be keywords, a solid SEO strategy, and correctly spaced sub-headings to optimise the readability score. My blog has become a carefully constructed platform to project from instead of the place to show and share it once was. But what do I want to project? Where do I want it to take me?

I didn’t have answers to these questions and that made me feel amateurish and naïve so, to compensate, I had to make my posts extra special. My writing had to be amazing enough to distract you from seeing that I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. Pushing myself to write my best was a worthy aspiration, but one better focused on my ‘commercial’ writing than something that began as a place to hang out in sweatpants and share new experiences with friends. My high ideals made blogging a trial and a chore. It’s six years since Expatlog was born but for the past three my productivity has dropped steadily from two or three posts a week to two or three a month, then once a month and less. So far this year I’ve written a grand total of one and we’re halfway through March already.

This weekend I was at a workshop given by Kerry Clare, a writer and editor who teaches The Art of Blogging at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. I’ll confess, I had some qualms going in. I didn’t want to hear about platforms and content and reach. I was looking for a revised definition of blogging that embraced self-expression and authenticity, something that jived with the kernel of an idea that’s been unfolding in my mind for a few months now.
Happily, that’s exactly what I got.

In a room filled with jaded extant and timorous would-be bloggers, Kerry spoke of the importance of blogging like no one is reading, just like I did in the good old days when I was talking to friends or writing for the sheer buzz of creating something. She shared a favourite quote: “a blog should take the reader by the hand and show him what you love.” Show, not tell. Less of “This is what I think” and more “Take a look at this!”

“A blog needs room to grow and space to wander” she said, and I was reminded how mine had seen me revise opinions and share conflicting ideas as I was reshaped by expatriation, diagnosis and changing perspectives. A good blog is all about process. It’s a messy, moving, changing thing, not a tool or a means to an end but a thing in and of itself. In a world where digital information is currency and that free subscription always has a price tag, people come to blogs for a human voice – something unpolished, raw and wild. It’s about connection and storytelling and being reminded that we’re all flawed, that a capacity for error and limitation and a tendency to go off-key is utterly natural, and utterly necessary.

So it’s time to strip this blog, and my voice, back to its bare essentials. As Kerry spoke I thought to myself  ‘your blog should be like the art you buy: you have it because you like it and find it meaningful, not because it’s cool or popular’.

Lately, I’ve been much enamoured with Virginia Woolf. I met Mrs Dalloway years ago and she left me cold (perhaps it’s time I got reacquainted) but I recently read To The Lighthouse and was mesmerised by Woolf’s ability to break down and record the lightning-quick thought processes and complex emotional meandering of her characters. I wanted this blog to be, in a sense, my Room Of One’s Own – a space where I can revel in creativity for its own sake, test out new ideas, examine the undercurrents and motivations of my drive to write, and try to understand on a deeper level where it’s taking me and how I can use it to more fully inhabit my writing, to hone it for a smoother, more incisive stroke.

So here’s to a return to blog posts written in a snatched hour or two, the excitement of sharing, and the triumph of curiosity over fear (I’m already over time with this one, but it’s less than a day and right now that’s improvement enough for me). Here’s to keeping it real.

 

 

12 Comments

  • drsohail

    Enjoyed your Blog. Are you saying Bloggers write for themselves not for others. Million dollar question is: why would anybody, who is not a friend, read somebody’s else’s blog? As a writer I believe that creative expression [for oneself] is different than creative communication[for others]. For me a creation builds a bridge between the writer and the reader. Some bridges are strong others weak. Finding one’s voice is one of the biggest accomplishment of any writer. Finding strangers who look forward to reading some writer’s creation is another accomplishment as a writer. Keep writing and sharing. I look forward to reading your blogs.

    • Aisha Ashraf

      Thanks for commenting. You made me wonder if I believed I needed to write differently when intending to share my writing. At first I thought, “Well, yes. The tangle of words I scribble down in my notebook when I’m trying to figure something out needs some work to make it more comprehensible to someone else.” Then, “But where the blog’s concerned it’s about sharing – process and all – rather than sanitising it for external consumption.” I think that was my problem – my posts became too heavily engineered and the personality in the writing was being squeezed out. I came to think of my blog more as a commodity, or platform for a commodity, than a place to share.

      I don’t see any reason why creative expression for oneself can’t also be a means of communication with others – many times I’ve admired someone else’s very individual manner of expressing a universal experience. I read blogs because I enjoy discovering other people’s thought processes, not because I’m obliged to by friendship. When I sense an agenda in someone’s writing it makes me mistrustful as a reader unless the agenda is what drew me in the first place.
      Like you, I think ‘voice’ is the crux. A genuine voice communicating authentically is a rare and powerful thing, and that’s why it’s so attractive, and sometimes, to achieve it, you have to write as if no one will read it.
      Thanks for your insight and encouragement, and I’m flattered you look forward to reading my blogs.

    • Sean Boucher

      Keep it up Aisha!
      I’ve never met Aisha (at least not that I know of!) and I’m glad she’s going to revive her blog. If I’m honest I reckon I’ll agree with some of what she writes and the rest will leave me wondering why I disagree or whether I disagree or even (shock horror!) It might even move my thinking towards agreement. That’ll be cool.
      It’s the fact that she writes whatever she thinks that does this for me, a reality check in my politically correct world; a haven of un-safetyness in my safe world.

  • Sue

    Isn’t it funny how the more professional blogs have got since their heady beginnings, the more dull they’ve got? I guess it’s not surprising now the net has become monetised and the money out in the real world harder to come by. So I am awfully pleased to read this post. I want to read old-school. Like you said, passionate people who aren’t trying to sell something. Just the pure seeming-ramblings from one person riding it wherever it goes without wondering about the SEO.

    I’ve got ongoing health issues and they’ve been worse in recent years, to the extent that i dropped off blogging in order to focus my very limited energy on trying to write to further my career and maybe even earn money. I’ve had a limited amount of success with that – the amount I’ve earned in the last few years from writing has been enough to, oh, say, pay a week’s worth of rent or two weeks of food shopping. I just haven’t been well enough to make better strides than that – even though a bunch of encouraging rejection slips is much more encouraging than it sounds.

    Things are on the improve healthwise a little, and I was initially surprised at myself that one of the first things I’ve wanted to do with some of this precious new energy is to return to blogging. But it makes total sense, really. If you can get in the right headspace with it, get playful, not worry about whether you’re writing “to the market” but just for the pure pleasure – well, it becomes quite luxurious then, doesn’t it?

    I look forward to continuing to read your posts … but don’t let that expectation dampen your fire 🙂

    • Aisha Ashraf

      Hi Sue, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m so glad there are others out there who still want to read creatively motivated musings with no particular destination in mind. Having found a like-minded soul I had to go have a look at your blog, and that wry sense of humour and sprinkling of singular metaphors was just the kind of thing I want to read in a spare five minutes when everyone else is off monetising the the hell out of themselves. Love finding a new read! You’re right, blogging is a beautifully low-key public space to experiment and flex creative muscles – I’d just completely lost sight of what it was that got me started in the first place. Need to remember it’s a playground not a freaking career ladder!
      Glad to know you’re out there listening.

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