Calling all Blog Readers! Seeking Advice and a Giveaway for Readers

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I’m in a weird funk about my blog at the moment, but for odd jangle of reasons. I’m having difficulty writing or establishing a direction for my blog and yet I really want to blog. Below is a list of some situations impacting and influencing my blog writing.

Things that induce blog anxiety:

-Increased negative attention: Towards the end of last year I discovered that an individual (not a regular reader, but rather someone involved in my real-life life) was mining my blog and Twitter for negativity. We’re talking scrolling through weeks and weeks of posts and lifting a handful of sentences out of context. This led to much personal hell. On top of this I had a few headache inducing spots of antagonism: rando person bitching about pumpkin spice lattes, a few readers who decided to leave my blog due to my swearing (bye, Felicia), and the infamous news reporter’s boyfriend being a dick.

–Anomalous spikes in readership: If I blog about being fat, or raped, or mentally ill, I get LOADS of traffic. While I’m glad my personal life resonates deeply with other and it is empowering to write these posts, it takes a hell of a lot of effort and personal exposure. The sum of my existence is not that of a fat, sexual assault survivor, bipolar chick. I would say close to 90% of my blog reflects an existence rooted in exuberant joy: books, coffee, kids, fun dresses, more books. I do have steady and faithful readers who recognize that my blog is a patchwork quilt of my life: different colors, textures, and hues, but all the same quilt. But if you’ve started reading for the books and find me talking about rape or you’ve come for the mental illness discussion and find Ipsy bag reviews you may be confused and even put-off.

–Marketing shit:  I’ve started getting emails asking things like, “hey, you’re great! We’re a no-name car rental company. Blog about your favorite travel essentials and our social media team MAY look at it and USE it.” And use it how? Use it for free advertising? Do you even read my blog? With the exception of a single trip to Texas I am a broke-ass homebody. I will review books and products (anyone want to send me coffee?), but it is not the purpose of my blog and it has to be something I think is phenomenal and will use regularly. I’ve even gotten book stuff that asks me to blog about something that’s my favorite and they will share it. I’m not into advertising for free. Want me to write for you? Then you can pay me. Free blogging happens for charities and causes I think are worthy, not for cheap marketing hacks.

My Shiny Happy Blog Rainbow:

This is a case of the good greatly outweighing the bad.

-My Crew: Some of my closest friendships have been formed through blogging. I’m saving my shout-outs for BBAW, but I’ve had two separate blogger meet-ups last year (1,2) and it confirmed the importance of this community in my life. In addition to meeting folks in person, my book blogger friends have been there for me during my rough patch as much as my local friends. Cards, emails, Christmas goodies came regularly brighten my day and it made such a difference. Seriously, the love was radiating out of my computer and my mail box.

– Memories and growth: My courtship and marriage to Sam, all my babies growing up, the books read, the memories made. It is all here. I can look back at recipes and crafts. I marvel at how much I’ve grown and how much more I have to learn in this great bright world.

– Learning: Book recommendations, breastfeeding tips, recipes, strategies for life… I’ve learned so much from other bloggers and readers.

–Writing: I’m not going to spit out a novel or an award-winning essay, but good golly I love writing. My passion isn’t only for reading the words of others; I get a certain amount of personal understanding of self and  cathartic satisfaction from spilling my own words.

The Verdict:

If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m not leaving blogging. What I need to do is reach back to those writing basics and figure out my purpose and audience. My purpose is to write for myself and to connect with kindred spirits.

What this means:
I’m rejigging my blog post calendar and how I create posts. I’m going to move to more batch posting. I’ll be focusing on my right now and my future. I’ve decided to let some of the heavier posts take a back seat and instead write about how I’m coping, learning, and growing. My posts may be more of the brief and visual variety and I hope to begin posting with more regularity.
I will be writing about heavy life experiences, essays about motherhood, and exploring life’s complications, but I’m working on developing those pieces as essays for other blogs and writing ventures. I have a few leads on some posting opportunities and I may share some of these essays at Fig and Thistle, but mostly they will find homes with targeted audiences at other subject specific blogs and websites. My words and my story can help those who need to hear it, but it will allow Fig and Thistle to be a chronicle of living my life to the fullest.
Survey:
I was going to craft a reader survey because I really want to know what you all like about Fig and Thistle, but I decided to keep it here in a public space. It will be.like a nice chat. Are you a new reader? Have you been around for a while? Grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat. What drew you to Fig and Thistle? What types of posts do you like to read? And most importantly, let me know if and where you blog (or another form of social media) so we can connect. I’m all ears eyes and eager to get to know you all.
Giveaway:
Let’s make this even more fun. Leave a comment with your thoughts and you will be entered to win a box of Amanda-ness. Don’t worry, I’ve no plans to send you a severed ear. It will most likely contain some of my favorite coffee, a loved book, and a few other trinkets and treats. I’ll leave this post open for comments until Saturday, January 23rd at noon (EST). I’ll announce the winner in before January 31st.
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24 comments

  1. Um, hello. I am sad to say that I don’t know you very well at all and have not been a regular reader. But I know OF you via other wonderful bloggers – if that makes sense. And my own tendency to shrink and be extremely happy playing in my own tiny corner of the blogosphere writing my little blatherings and not really reaching out. at all. I, too, can say that I have made tremendous wonderful friendships due solely to book blogging and still wonder why these people can’t live in my neighborhood. Perhaps we have circulated in parallel universes that just haven’t happened to have much crossover. Until today. Huh.
    Of course, I’ve been doing my blog for years and don’t remember much sometimes.
    I would love to take your survey or just share my first-impression opinions based on layout/design, etc. And on that stress I feel exuding through the first paragraphs of this post about what comes across as your blog-duty…. Throw it out the window and do whatever the hell you want to do and write what you want. Change it up if it feels right to do so and if somebody doesn’t like it, who cares. They can go away or share it or blow it out their ear. I certainly offer my shared horror and fear at that stalking and abuse you have taken for not delivering what somebody else thinks you ‘should’. ugh. Be you and be brave (and maybe read Tiny Beautiful Things because I just did and it was heartfeltily amazing.) Heartfelt-ily is a word, yes? Heart-felt-ness?

    1. I think we are blog kindred spirits! I started tiny beautiful things and finished reading the “write like a motherfucker” letter. So inspiring! Thanks for all the encouragement and I’ll be round to check your little corner soon!

  2. I think you are a bad ass content creator, excellent writer, thoughtful human, and I’m not just saying that. As Care said, I think an audience really appreciates when a writer creates the content they feel good about. Do what feels right and is meaningful for you in that moment. I know when I start feeling flat and uninspired the content goes down. When I’m jazzed and writing what I want to write (no matter what it is, it seems), people respond to that. Maybe not with the biggest number of views, but with increased engagement, return visits, etc. I love the idea of batch posting. I tend to do that myself because if I’m on a roll mentally and I have the time away from kiddos, I better take advantage! Rock on, sister!

  3. I’m really glad you posted this! I agree with a lot of it, especially when people send me emails like “Hello Blogger, I’d love for you to feature this book you’ve never heard of on your blog,” which really annoys me because if they really had read over my blog to find out my name and my featuring policy, I would be much more open to helping people out! I’m really sorry someone was taking all your thoughts out of context to make you seem like a bad person! I hope you’re doing better now!

  4. Hi Amanda! I’m one of your real life acquaintances that found out you blog via FB. I really enjoy your book reviews, love the recent Bujo info, and really relate to you sharing all the parenting, “life” stuff. I find you very brave and witty and entertaining! Keep doing what you love!

  5. Hello Amanda! I hope I never have that kind of negative attention at my blog. Some people from my family and friends know I have been blogging for years, but I don’t think they really care or read my blog at all hehe.

    Anyway, I think you should blog about anything you want at the moment! I believe I discovered your blog because of some book, I don’t really remember. Maybe a bloggiesta? I don’t know, but I think it’s interesting to read about your life beside books.

  6. Amanda–

    I discovered your blog through a mutual acquaintance at the university. (I’m an alum.) You are a fantastic writer, and as a new reader I genuinely appreciate your blatant and unapologetic honesty. When I discovered your blog for the first time, I binge read back a year or two because I could relate to so much of your content. Your book reviews are always on point, but I especially love the day-to-day life content.

    As the earlier commenters suggested, do what feels right to you. The rest will fall into place.

  7. Sitting down with a cup of tea instead of coffee –

    I’m a regular reader, but I don’t comment often. I think I found your blog through a link on someone else’s, but I don’t really remember at this point.

    I enjoy the variety of your posts. You’ve definitely inspired me with both cooking and crafting – and the ginger molasses cookie ice cream 🙂 (And i finally tried Field Roast after reading one of your menu posts.) Our reading tastes overlap in some areas but I’ve also learned about new-to-me authors & books – which is one of my favorite parts of blogging.

    I’m glad that you’ve decided to keep blogging. I absolutely believe that blogging should be about what you want to do or say – and only as long as you want to do it. So I’m agreeing with what people have said above, especially “do what feels right to you.”

  8. I don’t remember how exactly we “met” in the blogging world, or how long we’ve known each other (a couple of years, at least), but I AM glad we met. 🙂 I agree with you… I’ve made some really great friends through blogging.

    I’ve always enjoyed personal posts because I love getting to know all my blogging people! I love posts about motherhood, family life, health and wellness, general daily life, etc. That’s kind of the direction my own blog took a couple of years ago… I shifted gears from mostly books to mostly my life. Anyway, just a few of my quick thoughts! I’ve always enjoyed your blog and the different and varying content you’ve posted!

  9. I am a sometimes reader of your blog usually via an alert on FB…that said, I applaud you for writing what feels right when it feels right…I am a big believer in expressing yourself in whatever creative way suits. You are a talented writer…keep on keeping on!

  10. To be honest, I read your blog because through it – and other media – I’ve gotten to know you. When you write, you write the same way you talk, and I can hear that come through. I don’t mind what you post, or how often, because I see your blog (and others’ blogs) as a way of forming and cementing friendships, and each post helps to get to know you better. Do I comment on all of them? Nah. Of course not. I don’t always have something to respond, and I’m not always in a place where I’m comfortable commenting anywhere online. You know how it goes. But I always read, and so I’m glad you’re planning to stay. Light posts, heavy posts, whatever – again, I’m happy with whatever you decide to share with us. Give as little or as much, as light or as heavy, as you want. As Andi always says, you do you. 🙂

  11. I echo what everyone else is saying here and encourage you to write what you feel. Sometimes I am feeling it, and my post emerges as something pretty good. Other times, I am feeling nothing at all but realize it’s been a week or so since I posted, and I like to use my blog as a journal so I just make myself sit down to write and see what happens — and even if it sucks, I have that recorded and it’s a continuous record.

    Spikes in readership are a double-edged sword. It’s nice to feel like you have someone listening on the other end, but they almost never fully understand what your blog is about until a few more weeks pass and then it might resonate with them or it could fall flat. I try and not obsess about how many followers I have or how many I lose here and there along the way. I remember that writing is for me first, and I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. For me, my one “viral” essay is actually far more detailed about a moment in my life that I really don’t talk all that much about – especially in that kind of emotional detail. I had a few followers leave a couple weeks after Scary Mommy ran my essay because I don’t write like that all the time. But I’m okay with it. I cannot recycle the same content all the time and my site is a varied mosaic of sorts because that is what my life is. I am a lot of things and I write a lot of things.

    All this to say, JUST KEEP WRITING. That’s what I tell myself. The benefit is in the process itself.

  12. I love the mom posts most!!! You are so honest about the good and the bad and I love these posts most because I’m right there with you. Love the book posts too but mostly they give me some serious book envy.

  13. Fuck readership and fuck negativity. I know, I know. Easier said than done. But one of the things I LOVE about your writing is how honest you are. It is truly your voice, not a mask you are putting out there to impress others. We get to see the real you, whether that you is in pain and suffer, basking in the love and joy that comes with family and friends, reveling in crafts, or contemplating books. I would hate for you to lose your voice in an effort to please an audience.

    I so admire the courage and strength you have shown as you struggle with mental illness, money issues, relationship strains, and the like. When so many others present what they want to be on social media, you are presenting who you really are. It is so refreshing and ultimately inspiring.

    Yes, I said inspiring. You are the reason why I have given up my policy of not swearing on my blog. I swear in real life like a sailor, but I always tamed my voice in writing. No more. I always made my reviews professional, agonizing over every single word. I would do the same about update posts, focusing on the pleasant and ignoring the rest because I was afraid to show that my life sometimes sucks. But if we met in real life, you would know that this isn’t me. I am the first one to tell it like it is, not shying away from the harsh realities of life.

    So, because of your courage to share your struggles with us, I have made a vow to stop stifling my own voice. To have the courage, like you, to tell it like it is – the good, the bad, the ugly.

    Whatever you ultimately decide though, know that I am not going anywhere. I love your voice and your writing and your unique outlook on the world. I look forward to seeing what you decide and in what direction your writing takes you!

  14. In whatever capacity you decide to continue this blog, I’ll be reading along. I’ve been following your posts for a couple of years now, and I agree with Michelle above — your unique voice and willingness to open yourself up to readers has made you one of my favorite bloggers. I hope you realize how rare you are, and how refreshing to see each time you pop up on my feed. 🙂

    Best of luck with your future endeavors. I’ll be following along, whatever you decide!

    1. Thanks so much for the feedback. BTW, you won my drawing for the giveaway! Email your mailing address to figandthistlebooks(at)gmail(dot)com and I will ship it out by the first week of February.

  15. I think my fear of the negative weirdos out there is one of the things that has kept me from publicly blogging *even though* I know they are the minority. That’s not the only thing, though. I just haven’t made time to figure it all out, and honestly, I’m just more of a reader than a writer. Which brings me back to the subject at hand. I’ll just echo the others, and say what I’ve said to other bloggers. Those of us who are regular readers are here because you already provide interesting content. I feel like I know you (and I do know you better than some of my neighbors on my street!), and I respect who you are and what you do. If there are parts of your life you don’t wish to share on your blog, then you absolutely shouldn’t. Don’t ever feel like you have to write to meet someone’s expectations (save that for when you write for a paycheck 😉 ). I probably originally found you from book-related chatter, but I also love your crafty side, your menu-planning, the family stories…okay, so I love it all. And I gotta say, nobody challenges me to be more organized and self-controlled with how I use my free time than you do — in a positive way. I just wish I could be more consistent in my commenting. Since pre-Christmas I’ve just been super distracted and I MISS my small online interactions. Here lately, I’ve been just wanting to get all the Texas bloggers together, pack them into my suburban and take a road trip east for a big meet-up with a bunch of bloggers like yourself that are closer to the east coast. It’s a pipe-dream for now, but it’s on my “one-of-these-days-I’d-like-to” wish list. 🙂
    Happy weekend to you – hopefully the snowpocolypse won’t affect y’all too adversely over there!

  16. Hear hear to all the above comments.

    This is your blog – do want you want, write what you want. Honesty and genuineness are always appreciated. Having said that, your blog is also in the public sphere and you are choosing to put it ‘out there’ which means that occasionally weirdos will find you. They find us all eventually. And it’s par for the course when in the public realm. The trick, I guess, is to build up an armour, have a plan B, know how to block or moderate, fight back or delete. Also call on the support of those around you who care in this diverse blogging community…just like you’ve done with this post.

    We’ve all had low points and questioned what we’re doing here and changed direction. That’s okay. Nothing stays the same. As long as you do what feels right to you, you won’t go wrong.

    I first found you because of books. I tend to stick to book blogs when I have the time to browse (like I do tonight) but I also like to get to know who’s doing the blogging. When I spotted your blogging angst header on feedly, I chose to click through because I’ve had some blogging angst myself last year and I was curious to see what issues were affecting you.

    If you find that you’re writing very different styles of posts you could create separate tabs or pages for say, books, parenting, journal….whatever. I ended up creating a second blog for my photography, health and travel stuff. I have a few bloggers who follow me on both, but quite a few who are particular to just one of the blogs.

    I tend to use twitter for talking books and readalongs and reading challenges and keep the personal stuff to a minimum….that’s where some real weirdos live and it’s very easy for comments to get taken out of context. But that’s just me.
    Instagram is about my photo challenges and travel stuff with the occasional bookish pic. Because my account is open to the public, I keep my family and friends out of the pics, esp the kids.
    I have a fb account that is just for my family and friends and a fb page for my blog. My family and friends see my fb blog stuff but my fb blog page doesn’t see my family and friends (unless my family and friends choose to enter my blog page – only about 5 of them choose to do this.)

    All these public spaces use the same name – Brona’s Books (Brona is one of my nicknames) – for consistency, but also to keep my online footprint to a minimum. Mr Books and I made a very conscious decision to keep the kids off our ‘open to the public’ pages. Now that they are old enough to decide for themselves, they are very clear about not wanting to be tagged or featured online in any way shape or form that identifies them.

    Sorry, I just realised this has become one of my online privacy rants, which is all about me and nothing to do with you or what you were talking about in your post. Ooops! I do that sometimes :-/

    Which simply takes me back to – do whatever the fuck suits you and yours.

  17. I came here via The Mighty and as a fellow serial blogger, I think that my advice is write for you. It’s great if other people enjoy reading it but ultimately it sounds like you’re one of those people who just has to write and for whom it is both pleasurable and helpful. I was glad to read that you’ve decided to continue as I’ve only just arrived and I like what I’ve found. But then, it’s not about me, it’s about you. Good luck xx

    1. Thanks so much! It is so nice to meet another Mighty writer. I think my writing is best when I write for myself and shake off all my worried about what people will think. Often my heartfelt writing is what rings true to others.

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