A Misfit’s Guide to Mediocre Blogging

blogging

Multi-tasking.

“I’m tired.”

Just now, after spending about thirty minutes getting Julian to fall asleep for the night, I turned on the kettle to make some tea, sat down on the couch, and typed those two words.

“I’m tired.”

Then, right on cue, as if he could sense that I was on the verge of productivity, Julian started crying, and I went back in to soothe him to sleep again.

What a perfect little microcosm of what my life is like at the moment. I’m all over the place. If writing happens at all, it happens in fragments between the napping and feeding and cleaning and folding and diapering and bathing and baby-entertaining.

This post, in fact, is emerging from the primordial ooze of notes that I tapped out one-handed on my iPhone in the dark with a half-asleep baby suctioned on one boob. That is what writing looks like for me these days. That is what life looks like.

My college roommate used to give me grief about being an “overachiever,” an accusation that rankled me at the time, but I’ve recently realized that she was totally right. She had me pegged. I’m an overachiever – a condition that is fundamentally at odds with the reality of parenthood.

I’ve been running myself into the ground the past few weeks, trying and mostly failing to do dozens of things at once — to be, simultaneously, a stellar mama/writer/wife/professor/blogger/homemaker. I’m in the throes of my second head cold in only two weeks. My left eyelid has been twitching for three days straight. I’m ragged.

Ergo, I’ve decided to make some changes. First, I’m going to train my hair to go several days between washes, so it will hopefully be less obvious when I don’t have time to shower. And, second: I’m going to become a mediocre blogger. On purpose.

By that I mean that I’m no longer going to painstakingly follow the 10 Commandments of Successful Blogging (of which there are only, actually, 5).

Commandments #1 and #2: Post 2-3 times a week. Post only on weekday mornings.* 

(*Because apparently only weirdos like me do most of their online reading on nights and weekends.)

This is probably my one chance in life to be a despot, so I might as well take it. Instead of holding myself to a specific number of posts for week, or specific topics, I’m going to write whatever I want to write, whenever I feel like writing it.

I can’t post 2-3 times a week. Let’s be real. My life is too unpredictable and chaotic. And sometimes, when I actually get a baby-free, work-free moment, I don’t feel like writing. Instead, I might feel like watching British crime drama from the 90s, courtesy of Netflix. (Plots were so much more thrilling when no one had a cell phone and everyone had a terrible haircut.)

No blogging schedule for me. I want to write when inspired, and when I have the time and energy to craft something meaningful. I need to give myself permission to take breaks from the blog when I need to, when life demands it of me, without feeling guilty or panicked that my readership will suddenly disappear.

Commandment #3: Find your “niche” and stick with it.

Ugh, the dreaded niche.

If a wry mommy blog married an ambivalent feminist blog in a Quaker church with an irreverent priest officiating, and a scattering of academics and celebrity gossip columnists in attendance, this blog would be the strange progeny of that union.

I used to worry a lot about this niche thing. When I wrote about being a mama, I worried that I’d alienate my readers who aren’t parents. When I wrote about feminism, I’d worry that I’d alienate the mommy crowd. When I wrote about faith, I worried that I’d alienate the feminists. And so on.

So I guess my niche is not having a niche. My blog is all over the map, because I am all over the map. I don’t feel like I belong to any one camp. None of the labels quite fit. But you know what I’ve realized? That’s probably true for many of my readers. Here we are, wandering through life, never feeling like we quite belong anywhere, and the irony is that the people around us, the ones who seem so secure in their identities and tribal affiliations — well, they probably feel like misfits, too.

I am a misfit. This is a misfit blog. The misfit blog of a despot who will write about whatever she wants and post on a Sunday evening if she feels like it.

I might write about baby poop. I might write about sexism. I might write about how depressing it is to shop for a swimsuit after having a baby. I might write about how The Bachelor is weirdly like a modern retelling of the biblical book of Esther. I might write about how I used to love my cats, but now they mostly annoy me, because my house feels like it’s teeming with whiny creatures who NEED something from me ALL THE TIME.

This is Mama Unabridged, right? Time to un-abridge myself.

Commandment #4: Promote your blog on social media.

Bleccch. This is the worst rule. The most effective, I’ll admit, but also the most soul-killing. My relationship with social media is truly love/hate. I love that it enables me to connect with interesting people and ideas, but I hate that it makes me feel like I’m in junior high again, awakening long-dormant anxieties about popularity and appearance and achievements and being part of the “in” crowd.

I have a Facebook page for this blog, and I occasionally post interesting links or anecdotes on there, but I honestly don’t do much, because I don’t want to be annoying. I know the Blogging Commandments say I should be blowing up your newsfeed with awesomeness multiple times a day, but, well, I’m too busy trying to find time to drink the cup of coffee that I have now reheated NINE TIMES since this morning. So…

Twitter is the worst. Most of the time on Twitter, I feel like I’m talking to myself in a crowded restaurant. Sometimes Twitter is interesting and useful. Sometimes it just triggers my outsider complex, which is why it can be helpful to buffer my tweets. (If you don’t know what that means, buy yourself a congratulatory drink and vow NEVER TO FIND OUT – just rest assured it is not something dirty, even though it sounds vaguely like Scottish sexual harassment. “Come on, luv, let ol’ Seamus buffer your tweets…”)

Long story short: I’ll keep using social media, but in sporadic intervals, with regular Sabbaths in between. I’ll do cameos. I’ll be that unpredictable sitcom neighbor who might burst through the door at any time, make a few wisecracks, and then disappear again.

Commandment #5: Write well.

I’m going to break all the other rules, but this one I’ll just bend. Being a mediocre blogger doesn’t mean I can’t be a good writer. I’ll keep the goal of writing well, with the caveat that sometimes I won’t. Sometimes, like right now, I’m just going to write crap and then post it. There is no muse here. There is only mucus and toilet paper – because, yes, I’m one of those people who views actual Kleenex as an extravagance.

But, in all seriousness, this is the only rule I care about. What I love about blogging is that it keeps me writing regularly, and it enables me to connect, even momentarily, with all sorts of people who—for whatever reason—resonate with what I write. That’s pretty cool. So, I’ll try to write interesting things for you to read. And sometimes I’ll succeed.

And now I’m going to break one last commandment by refusing to end this post with anything inspiring or poignant. Instead, I’m just going to end with a video of my baby laughing because his dad is waving dirty socks in his face. You’re welcome.

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19 comments

  1. Steve Sherwood

    I like this. It all makes good sense, perhaps not toward being the “it” blogger of the moment, but toward being a healthy human being. I also like that you posted it during, what I believe you declared on Friday on Facebook, was going to be a social media fast. 🙂

    • Abigail

      Thanks, Steve. Yeah, I’ve found it helpful to take little “fasts” for 2-3 days here and there. I think frequent short breaks are better than infrequent long breaks, at least for me. Except maybe from Twitter. I haven’t been on there since Friday, and it feels gooooood.

  2. Anonymous

    I think you hit on the greatest truth when you noted that we are all just wandering through life feeling like we don’t quite belong anywhere…thanks for your honesty that helps the rest of us feel like maybe we do belong…somewhere!

  3. inthoseshoes

    Thanks for being honest. Know the feeling. Kids are older and the distractions change but the desire to write stays strong. I aim to just be me, write when I want to about what I want to. To me, it’s not so much messy as authentic.

  4. Caroline

    Great that you’re slowing down! One good trick if you want to train your hair to remain clean for longer than 12 hours is to powder it with baking soda before getting into the shower (and then rinse it but no shampoo). It keeps your hair clean while you’re scalp is getting used to less frequent shampoo treatments.

  5. The Waiting

    Blogging should never feel like work. When it becomes that, or when you feel like you have to fulfill an arbitrary set of rules to keep doing it “right”, then it’s time to reevaluate things. Your guidelines are wonderful, and people (ie, me) will continue to read because your writing and experience is so real and pure.

    • Abigail

      Thanks so much. And I totally agree — blogging was starting to feel like work, and then I realized it was because of these arbitrary standards I’d placed on myself. The lovely thing about blogging is that I can completely make up my own rules here; it just took a little while for me to actually realize that.

  6. Déjà

    As usual, I feel as if I could have written this post. Much the same in my neck of blogging. I’m just glad you’re here. And I hope you feel much better soon.

  7. The Travelling Chopsticks

    I agree with the comments above – rules are meant to be broken so don’t get caught up on them!! The minute blogging is no longer enjoyable, what is the point?! You can write about whatever you want, when ever you want…and you will still have a loyal following, why? becuase you write well – in the end that is why we read blogs! So I look forward to your next post – whenever that may be, and on what ever topic 🙂

  8. Sara Keeth (@KeethInk)

    Thank you for your honesty – I found you via an Atlantic article via Karen Swallow Prior. I added you to my Feedly so I could read more, whenever you can/do blog. Cheers to a fellow academic/mama/thinker/writer/believer.

  9. Sarah Shipman

    I would make a comment like “excellent” or “brilliant” but that might put too much pressure on you. Let’s just say, people who are clever most of the time are the ones we more readily forgive when the put out mediocre work occasionally. And by the way, I’m reading this on a Tuesday night!

  10. divinemo

    Told like a dying woman. With all the million and one things one does;work,wife,mother,home keeper,business,blogging,blah,blah,blah.I feel like I’m at my wits’ end.You articulated my thoughts exactly.Beautiful and honest piece as usual.

  11. Krista (@marriedlife)

    Baby giggles are the best, they are so contagious! I’m glad I’ve got some around!
    This post made me laugh out loud and nod my head in agreement (and yes, I had to look up buffering your tweets… I probably maybe should do that).
    I’ve had my blog since 2005 and still don’t have a niche (unless you count mothers and mothers-in-law and that crowd is pretty small) and I’ve more or less come to be okay with where I’m at. Although I do still feel at times like I’m on the outside of the middle school popularity crowd. (been there) So I try to remember that it’s not who’s out there that’s really important after all. Some days are easier than others.
    Also, the overachiever thing, does that come with a side of perfectionism? 😉
    Here’s your late night/weekend blog reader right here! The rest of them apparently don’t have kids…