Monday, October 24, 2011

On My 4th Blogging Anniversary

Last week was my blogging anniversary. Four years. Amazing. Four years! I made a little cupcake for myself, and blew out the candle. Then, between bites of decadent chocolate and double chocolate frosting, along with a glass of ice cold milk, I thought about things I have learned since I started blogging. The mistakes I made. In other words, the good, the bad and the ugly.

If I had to do it again, I would have never used my name. I thought by using my real name, Susan, I was ok, because I didn't mention my surname. I kept that hidden and only told a few people I trusted online with it. So far so good. Then I made a mistake. A huge one. On the advise of a fellow blogger who encouraged me to open a Facebook account, I linked my blog to my profile. Only my profile had my name on it. My real surname. I didn't catch it for several months, but by then, the damage was done. Quick readers who followed me onto Facebook now knew my surname. And even though I have a very common name in the NYC Tri-State area, people found me. People I didn't want to find me, like state workers, local hospitals, and local doctors. Not to mention my family. Now it seemed that everyone knew me. Again, I didn't think this was a bad thing, until I quit my psychiatrist that I had since 1999 back in 2007. When I was shopping around for a p-doc, none of the ones I contacted would touch me. Why? Because a quick Google search with my name brought up this blog, and none of them wanted me as a client. I can't say I blame them. But it was a huge error on my part.

Even worse was my candor. When I started blogging, I had several friends, other bloggers who were encouraging me to write my thoughts while I was dealing with a very bad break up. "Write like therapy" they all said in so many different words. "You can really write. Do it".
So I did. I was open and honest. I looked around at other bloggers and noticed one thing. There was a dearth of 40 something bloggers who had been in the system for twenty years or more. More than half their lives! Most of the bloggers seemed to be newly diagnosed, or parents of a child that was diagnosed. Or they were former/active journalists writing objectively on the industry.

I figured I would write that blog- imagine a "Bell Jar" written by a woman in her mid forties who has been living with everything for over twenty years. That was my goal. To some degree, I think I succeeded, and in other words I failed. Some people told me I was such a good writer they found it hard to read me without Cliff notes! Others told me, I was pulling a James Frey on them-I couldn't have lived what I was writing about. No- everything was true- only the names were changed to protect the innocent, as they say in "Dragnet".

I made a mistake in thinking I needed to blog every day, or every other day. When one piece was brilliant, I made a fluff piece if I felt I had to keep up. The fluff pieces hurt me.

I also made a mistake in writing about NJ health issues. They have a place. What I need to do is fix my blog so one part will just be my biographical stories, one part will be on taking care of yourself and healing , and another news stories. I need to make tabs. The way my blog is now- everything is a mis mash. I really need to learn tools to clean it up. So it's not a mistake- it's just something I don't know about and need to fix so I don't confuse readers, or people who stumble in. Right now, when you visit, you don't know if you are going to get a bio piece, or a news piece. It has to be clearer.

I think one of the biggest mistakes I made was with my writing, period. When I first started blogging, I was writing for myself. I didn't know who was reading me. Along the way, I got into thinking- "I gotta have good stats. I have to have a lot of followers. I want to be the best blog out there". It made me loose my focus. I became overwhelmed with stats, and wondering what I should write to please people. There was a mistake. I wasn't writing for myself anymore. All of a sudden, hits disappeared. Comments were few. I didn't know what I was doing. I had lost *me*.

If you are a new blogger, the biggest advise I can give you is don't compare yourself to others. You are unique. So is your blog. Just like there will always be someone who is prettier than you, smarter than you, richer than you, thinner than you- the same rules apply for blogs. There will always be a blog that is better than yours. Do you like your blog? That's all that matters. If you see a layout on someone elses blog, copy it. I would love to have a blog with three columns instead of two, and tabs in the front. I don't know how to do it, but I am willing to learn. Always be willing to learn. A blog is a living thing, a work in progress.

Read other people's blogs. I love reading blogs that are from people I agree with, but the ones I get more from are the ones from people I disagree with. I learn from those.

I'm still learning. I'm still trying to write. It's harder now than when I first started, because in the last year my physical health really took a tumble. I do write, but I carefully edit. I have pages and pages of blog entries, all half written, all not good enough to post. I'm working on quality not quantity right now. I'm trying to get some work as a writer. It doesn't have to pay, I just want to get my chops back and gather a portfolio. Mine is years out of date.

My goal for the next year- keep writing. Keep learning from others. Don't stop. Don't let the little things bother you, and don't compare myself to others. There is only one me. I want to think I am like a fine wine- I am getting better with age.

I look forward to another year with all of you. Thank you to those who regular read me, and those who pop in once, read a few pieces and leave. I am grateful for each and every one of you. I may not be a great correspondent, but you can always reach me, (and the cat) at Hollythecat at Gmail.

20 comments:

Annapurna Moffatt said...

Happy Blogiversary!

Re: changing columns in your layout: Go to your dashboard (what comes up when you log in), click on Design, then click on Layout (in the list in the upper-left-hand part of the browser window). It'll give you several options for the body and the footer, and you can toggle between them to see how the layout will look.

Mike Golch said...

blogging everything can couse you some grief,I found that out the hard way.when some family members pulled a stunt that I did not like I posted about it. and thaty got me in hot water,mind you I was the offended party and they took pffence to me posting about the snub.well needless to say I have been told never to contact some people ever again. well so be it.their loss not mine.Now what I post I post and to hell with what other's think of me.

Sallyo said...

Happy Anniversary! Your blog was one of the first that I found when searching for information about bipolar. I'm following in your footsteps. I, too, wondered about connecting it to facebook, and so far, so good, but I wonder sometimes . . .
I hope this next year will be a happy one for you. Keep writing!

The Blue Morpho said...

Congrats on four years! Writing and reading blogs has been one of my favorite things ...

I can't believe that pdocs wouldn't take you after you started a blog. That does not make sense to me. A blog is a good coping tool, and you'd think the pdocs would want to see a sign that patients were invested in their own healing. Definitely does not make sense.

The main reason I don't connect my name with my blog is that I will occasionally talk smack about my parents. I don't speak with them, but neither do I want to have to deal with some kind of libel case if they decide I've hurt their reputations (as my dad pushes 80). Otherwise, my family, friends, and most of my colleagues know about my anxiety issues, even if they don't really 'get' it.

Keep on bloggin!

tinkerbell the bipolar faerie said...

Happy 4th blogiversary!

You hit on one of the problems of blogging. The more popular we get, the less we can write personal, private stuff ....

Deputy's Wife said...

So glad you're here! I've learned so much from you, and I often think of how you & Holly are doing. It never occured to me that PDocs would do a google search on new patients...that's crazy to me. Thanks for what you do write and post, I read every single one! :)

Spanner said...

Things are only mistakes in hindsight. We all use the knowledge and information to hand at the time, to make and base our decisions on.
Sometimes we get it right most times we don't.
I enjoy your writing and not knowing what I'm going to find. Make another cup cake and this time enjoy all that's good all that went well and how your work has helped and been enjoyed by people like me :-)

Mark p.s.2 said...

Happy Blog Anniversary!

Mary LA said...

Happy 4th anniversary for the blog! I agree that we need to write for ourselves first and not for readers. That way we keep our own voice and passion for what we choose to write about. We don't censor ourselves or try to please imaginary others.

I think all of us are on a learning curve when it comes to issues of privacy and anonymity.

Keep blogging, my sweet friend.

Neil | Butterfield said...

There are no mistakes,only useful feedback. I applaud you on your candor. I wish you well on your next four blogging years.

Jen Daisybee said...

Hi Susan and Holly,

Congrats on four years! I think it's wonderful how long you have been blogging and your blog is very well-written, which is why it is so popular. I have been one of your fans for a long time. I know what you mean, a person should blog for themselves, not just for stats. Very true.

Adam Glenn said...

Happy blog anniversary!

love?! said...

Congrats!!! :)

http://themayhemoflove.blogspot.com/

Survivor said...

God has used you. I used to work in the Clinton administration and I know u are appreciated.

In the past couple of years I had a complete nervous breakdown and you helped save my life.

Your writing mirrored me and my isolation...I wasn't alone.

Much love to you.

Liqouricelady said...

Hi, this post is really useful for me, as I have just started blogging, good advice, thankyou

noch said...

happy anniversary - and thanks for the encouragement. i think i'm at that juncture you had about "how many followers do i have" and losing focus.. so its good advice to stumble across. my blog is only one year old,and recently i keep thinking, oh what do people want to read? whereas i started it to confront my thoughts and as a kind of therapy for myself... so now i'm repositioning my blog and redesigning

thanks for the advice - though i'm not sure i understand why it's not a good thing to use your real name? i appreciate the candor and honesty and a lot of my readers / friends have told me so.... so i would think that it's a good point to be your real self?

take care and happy blogging

cheers
noch

SMH said...

Yes happy blogaversary! I think your blog is great you are such a good writer. You are absolutely right about writing from the heart, I try to keep mine true to myself and my personality but I sometimes wish I'd stayed anonymous, although on the plus side most of my close family now know about and read my blog and it's been a positive thing bringing us closer in some ways.

Red Pill Junkie said...

Feliz aniversario! :)

We all learn by our mistakes. And if you hadn't made any mistakes you regret, you're probably not trying hard enough.

Re. the candor and honesty on blogs -- one of my favorite '2012' end of the world scenarios is that one day we'll wake up and discover we can 'read' other people thoughts, and they can read ours. Now THAT would truly be the end of the world as we know it!! ;)

Kass said...

Congratulations, Susan! I agree with you on the "fluff" pieces. It's one of the reasons I stopped updating depression introspection. It was too time-consuming and difficult.

xo

DPVA94 said...

Thank you for writing what you do - it is appreciated.

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