Blogging is a commitment… it takes time, energy and work to produce a respectable blog. What starts as a free site often begins to cost money and, every so often, you will wonder whether or not the returns are worth the effort.
A lot depends upon what you want from blogging. It may simply be a place to air your personal views, share your creative work. You may want to make money from blogging and have found that is not as easy as it may seem. It may be an author platform where you can engage with readers, or it may support a cause. What ‘returns’ might you get from blogging, and are they really worth the effort?
Eight years ago, I tentatively set up a WordPress blog, just to see if I could work out how to do it. I had no idea what blogging was about… or why anyone blogged. In fact, I’m not at all sure what I expected to do with a blog, except that the social media platforms at the time didn’t seem like the best place to write.
However, I wouldn’t have called myself a writer then either. There were things I cared about and wanted to highlight. I did have the bare bones of a book, started years before but still loitering, half-finished. I was helping a friend with his book… mainly as a sounding-board at the time. I’d won an international poetry prize… but never really understood how. Me? I wasn’t a writer. That was something other people could be. I just wrote stuff.
That first year of blogging, I published three posts and got six whole views! Some of them from people I didn’t even know; I can still remember how amazed I was at that. There was an incredible buzz realising that total strangers might read, even like, something I had written!
A year later, I started blogging a little more consistently. There was stuff to talk about; Steve had brought me on board as the Silent Eye came into being, even though it would not officially be launched until the following April. That year, the blog had over five thousand views!
I could not believe it. People were not only reading, they were engaging with what was written, as well as following our journey to the birth of the school. When we launched that April with the Song of the Troubadour, we carried with us good wishes from all over the world.
Over five thousand views. That was mind-boggling. I could never take that figure lightly… it was just amazing. I was so grateful to everyone who had journeyed with us that year and there was no way it could ever get any better than that… No, not even if the blog had twice as many views!
The following year, it had ten times that. Not only was the Silent Eye now a major factor in my life and work, but it had brought Stuart and I to the start of our adventures together too. We wrote about the school and shared accounts of the workshops. We wrote about the land and the ancient places we love, about the standing stones and medieval churches and the mysteries we found there. Even the dog got in on the act…
We found ourselves with a growing shelf-full of books. That long-forgotten novel was out, the book I had begun just helping with ended up being published with my name also on the cover. Stuart and I had an incredible year and the books just kept on coming. Even the dog… and she still likes to point out that she sells more books than the rest of us…
And somehow or other, the blog views crept steadily up. One year, incredibly, there were a hundred thousand views, then a gob-smacking quarter of a million… Yesterday, thanks to readers in a hundred and ninety-five countries, the Daily Echo passed a million views. Me… a mind-boggled ‘millionaire’!
Now, let’s be very clear… I’m under no illusions. A million views makes the Daily Echo still just a very small fish in the big blogging pond. And, if I were to weigh, for instance, effort and expenditure against, say, book sales or generated income, there would be a definite deficit on the blogging side. But that is not the most important factor for me.
What matters is the effects blogging has had on my life and work. I have found confidence as a writer…and in myself. Even being able to call myself a writer was a huge leap for me, given my complete lack of self-belief when I wrote that first post.
I have learned a good deal about writing simply by writing every day. About the technical side of publishing, editing and design. About the art of formulating vague and abstract thoughts into coherent paragraphs. My photography has improved. Through researching for posts and books, my knowledge of history, mythology and symbolism has expanded. My world is bigger for blogging.
I have found the courage to write from the heart and to speak my mind. I may be wrong about many things… but I do not have to write to please, or for some mythical majority. I can exercise discretion and choose my soap-boxes… not everything has to be posted online. I can be me… and that courage and confidence filters through into my daily life.
Through blogging, I have made friends both online and off. Through reading the work of other bloggers, I have learned about places, lives and stories that would otherwise have passed me by. My mind travels to places my body will never go. I have learned that what I always believed was actually true… that people are people the world over. The barriers that are created by such labels as age, gender, ethnicity or religion have no meaning when you speak to someone heart to heart. And when the blogging community closes around you in times of trouble, or joins with you to share joy, there is no more supportive community.
Do the returns match the effort? That depends on your definitions. In spite of the liberal sprinkling of ‘I’, me’ and ‘mine’ throughout this post, I believe that any manifestation of success, however you define it, belongs to no one person. If I thought this blog was ‘mine’ when I started writing, I soon learned otherwise… the act of writing may teach the writer a great deal more than he or she realises, but the written word does not come to life until it is read.
I may still be your typical ‘starving artist’, but I am am definitely richer for blogging. Not only have my horizons expanded, but I feel that I too have grown. That is not a bad return for doing something I love.