The Chicken and the Egg of the Blogosphere: Did You Read or Write First?

3 years ago

It's the blogging chicken-and-the-egg situation: Did reading blogs make you want to be blogger, or did you start your blog and then find other blogs to read in order to build connections with other bloggers?

I'm asking because I suspect the way you enter blogging shapes your blogging experience. Are you the egg, hatching the chicken, or are you the chicken laying the egg? While it doesn't really matter which version you believe comes first (unless, perhaps, you are deeply ensconced in the farming world), I think that your satisfaction with blogging is directly tied to how you entered the blogosphere.

Image: Woodleywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons license

Read Blogs Before Starting Your Own

Sometimes people read blogs for a while before starting their own. Maybe their friend starts a blog and they read it to be polite, and one things leads to another until their rss reader is filled with their favorite sites. Maybe they've even started commenting or becoming friends with bloggers via Facebook or Twitter. Then one day, they wake up feeling the itch to write, and they think, "Why not? Other people blog. Why don't I start one too?"

Advantages: You know the drill. You know what you like about blogs and what you don't like about blogs, and you come into the blogosphere already connected to people who will probably want to read your words in return. You get the importance of sharing your posts via social media, and you have people to ask when you can't figure out how to do something in your blogging software. People who read first tend to have a smoother entry to the blogosphere.

Drawbacks: You come in with expectations because you've been around the block and know what's out there in the blogosphere. Any good Buddhist will tell you that the root of a lot of our problems is in our expectations. If you expect the readers to come, the comments to pour in, free products on your doorstep, then you'll likely be disappointed in blogging.

The cure? Release your expectations and go back to that original reason you started your blog in the first place. Return to that "why not" attitude that provided the wonderful hubris to set your words and thoughts out there. Blog with the energy of someone who is sending her voice into the world just for the sake of getting the writing off her heart.

Start Writing a Blog and Then Find Others to Read

Listen, it's impossible to start a blog whole cloth without ever having seen or heard of a blog. But there are a lot of people who start writing their blog because someone suggests they should; only after they've already set up their Blogger or WordPress account do they seek out blogs to read in order to make some connections with like-minded people.

Advantages: It's easy to enter the blogsophere with a lot of energy and excitement because you are a tabula rasa, a clean slate. You don't care in the sense that you're doing it your way because you don't know any other way. You're not weighed down by the "shoulds," and you do what makes you happy because you have no comparison for your blog. Until your blog enters the equivalent of preschool, you have no clue whether you have a great blog or a mediocre one. You're just writing for writing's sake.

Drawbacks: Entering the blogosphere like this is akin to touching the elephant; you can't get a sense of what you're touching or how large it is because you're learning what the blogosphere is day-by-day as you move through it. And that can be very frustrating, especially when the noise clears and you start figuring things out and blogging starts to look like a clique that you're not a part of; one that has a cool kids' table and seemingly no room for yet another blogger. It can be discouraging to discover that it's not enough to just write your blog if you want people to find you. You have to plug your blog on social media sites, or read and comment on other people's blogs, so people discover that your blog exists. A lot of the effort you put out won't be rewarded.

The cure? Remember that confident, energetic person who dove into blogging head-first? Find her again, because she's buried somewhere inside of you, waiting to pop back out and say who cares to all the things outside her control. That's the person who writes because she loves writing. And the rest of the stuff that sometimes comes from blogging, that would be the icing on the cake. But hey, there's still the cake itself.

The Egg Carton

There is also a third kind of bird: the person who goes to the blogging conference to find out what blogging is all about and starts a blog when she gets home. I've met plenty of people at BlogHer each year who tell me that they're going to start reading and writing a blog when they get home from the conference. And those people are sort of the egg cartons of the blogosphere, holding the eggs (or the chicken? This analogy is getting a little messy). They have an interesting cushion in that they took in a lot of information about what blogging is and how it's done before they did a deep dive into either reading a lot of blogs or writing a blog. It's sort of like learning everything there is to know about food before you've eaten or cooked.

This is obviously an unusual route, up there with people who only observe and never participate in social media (yes, there are people who silently read Twitter without ever leaving a tweet), or those who write their blog without ever reading anyone else's site. And I kind of like that there are egg cartons out there, charting a very different path. They prove that there is no right or wrong way to blog.

Which way did you enter the blogoshere? Did you read a lot first, write primarily first, or are you that elusive egg carton who started your blog after learning about blogging at a conference?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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