I’m hosting a Blogging Alliance at my school this year, and by way of introduction, I promised to make my “history” with blogging available to the community, “warts and all” – so here goes! Read ONLY if you think it might help you to hear about someone who wasn’t “perfect blogger” at the outset, and had lots of reservations, but eventually found the “just right” level of blogging for me. I continue to be imperfect, always learning, and still deriving both pleasure and value from my blogs and the connections they have formed:
I started blogging around 2004 when my friends started online journaling on a platform called “LiveJournal.” This was my first exposure to social media and I liked the idea of being able to share things with friends, and keep up with them when we couldn’t see each other every day. It was like a daily diary entry, and I started tentatively posting a few of my daily thoughts, although I wasn’t comfortable sharing too much with others online. I don’t think you could even comment on the initial platform, so it really was a pretty one-sided conversation. It felt strange. I didn’t like being “out there,” even though all of the other people reading my blog were my friends.
Every day I’d get a running list of the posts of all of my friends. I had about 20 who were also blogging. They were very prolific and sometimes wrote pages and pages. I found myself spending up to an hour a day reading through all their posts. I felt guilty if I didn’t read all of them, like I was not a good friend. I’m also a little OCD that way – I felt like I had to read not only their current posts but all their previous posts. So it took me a while. As I got busier, I didn’t get through friend’s journals on a daily basis. I stopped posting myself too – work got busy, and I couldn’t face logging on and seeing all of the posts that just kept piling up unread. I started running into friends and saying “What’s been going on?” and they would answer “Have you read my blog?” which then would make me feel guiltier, like there was some kind of expectation that I would read every detail of their lives! (By the way, that expectation came from me, not my friends – they were just trying to find out if they were about to repeat themselves!) Finally, I deleted my account completely, because I was so overwhelmed and was sure that this was completely wrong for me. My friends were puzzled, but supportive.
When Facebook came out a little while later, I became intrigued by the idea of brief bursts of information – “status updates” from my friends. Suddenly, I didn’t have to read pages and pages to keep up with my friends, but I could just hear what they were doing and respond in equally short bursts of information. Facebook, Twitter, and the like has been referred to as “microblogging.” That, I could do. That, I had time for.
Fast forward to 2007. I was doing a lot of gardening, knitting and crafting in general, and my family and friends wanted to see pictures. I started a Blogger account to just post the pictures and little captions under them. Then, I started writing about little funny things that happened in the garden. Uploading the photos had a bit of a learning curve to it, but once in the habit, I was doing this pretty regularly.
I had just started working at Friends. I had a lot of ideas, but felt very inarticulate about expressing them. I have always been a better “writer” than a “talk on my feet-er,” and I have always needed some down time to reflect and even write out my ideas before I speak. But I wanted to be a better speaker. I needed to be, in order to get my point across in meetings, and to do the job I’d been hired to do. I had been reading professional blogs from other teacher librarians and felt like I had something to contribute to that community as well. But I could see that I was not anywhere near as advanced in blogging as those “superstars of library science” (and by the way, learned the hard way that you should never compare your early efforts to those who have mastered the art, so to speak!). I started to comment on these blogs, and got more comfortable writing about my ideas. I eventually decided to start a professional blog of my own to write down some of the things I’d been trying to express at work.
Right about then, I read a blog called iLearnTechnology written by an amazing educator named Kelly Tenkely. She posted that she was interested in starting a Blogging Alliance where we would commit to reading each others’ blogs and commenting on one per day. I thought that sounded great, so I submitted myself to that group. Soon there were more than 100 members, including some from Spanish-speaking countries, which delighted me. I absolutely loved reading about what teachers were doing in classrooms all over the world. I started with a lot of enthusiasm, but very soon, for many of us, getting to comment once per day became difficult. I couldn’t put aside that time every day. I starting reading 15 minutes per day, twice per week. It was what I could manage.
My own posts were not exactly coming fast and furious. I spent so much time on them, almost as if I was submitting them for publication in a professional journal. My first post was so detailed and dry I’m sure that no one read it – even my mother! I kept posting, but wasn’t getting any comments, so I got discouraged. There was one exception: Kelly, who had started the Alliance, commented on every single one of my posts. She single-handedly kept me going for a while there when I was wondering if it was worth it or not. I read about tips for bloggers and they all said the same thing: keep it short and spontaneous. The thing that makes a blog post interesting is your take on an issue that everyone else can relate to. I stopped trying to write in the traditional, academic way I’d been taught and tried to be more myself. I started to find my voice. Writing a blog is not like writing for an academic publication – it’s a lot less formal and you really only have to please yourself.
The blog had interesting side-effects – I found myself more articulate at work, because I’d been trying things in class, and working them out in writing afterward, and gaining experiencing expressing my ideas. Now, I was still only getting about 10 hits with each new blog post (again, comparing yourself to established bloggers is fatal here), but I cared less about that because it was clear to me by then that I was getting so much out of it, and enjoying it. I would hear something on NPR and think – “That reminds me of X in class,” and then I’d blog about it. I’d see something happen in the Library, snap a picture, upload it and blog about it. It took less and less time, and didn’t feel like a chore at all. The comment issue took care of itself – people did find me the more regularly I started posting, and once I got the hang of tagging. And the pinnacle hit one day while at a school baseball game when I was introduced to a parent and she said “Hey! You’re “Reeled-in Research!” – I read your blog!” Wow, gotta say, that felt really good. But luckily, I didn’t need that as a motivator to keep going – because it has been so rewarding personally and professionally. I don’t blog every day, or even every week (although every week is a goal of mine for this year), but when I think of things, I don’t hesitate to post away.
I hope this has provided some encouragement and reassurance that there is no “right” way to blog. There are many reasons to blog, and finding the one for you is a journey, not a destination!