Over the past year or so, I’ve been listening to the low, rolling hum around the Internet. It comes in as a wave on the shore of the cyber beach every few years, depositing questions and doubt like flotsam after a storm. You’ve heard it, too: the whispered rumor that blogging is dead.
It’s an important conversation for those of us who read and write blogs. It feels a little like that first time we watched The Sixth Sense – wait, he was dead the whole time? How did I not see that?! There’s a little niggling in the back of my mind – Does all this still matter?
Though I know people have been asking the question for years now, 2014 was the first year I began to wonder if they were right. Is it over? Have we been dumped for Instagram and are too stubborn to admit it?
As I’ve been working on this post for over a week now (does that tell you anything about my process? I need blog writing to stay alive! I can’t think fast enough for anything else!) I saw a post Tsh wrote on this very subject in her state of the blog address. I almost considered scratching this half-written post and just telling you to read hers because she says everything so well.
Instead, I will tell you to read hers and read mine, too.
I needed to take the time to work through this in my own way. So I did the opposite of the Internet and took a walk on New Year’s Day, looked up and down and all around and thought about some of these things.
Now I want to think through them with you, okay? Okay.
Regardless of what changes, grievances, or transitions we might need to make, here are some things I know for sure about us (and by us I mean you and me):
We want more connecting and less competing.
We want more laughter and less shame.
We want more love and less fear.
Did I get that right so far?
This January marks the nine year anniversary of Chatting at the Sky. I started quietly writing here when I was pregnant with our third baby, in the cracks of time I could find while taking care of twin toddlers. I needed an outlet for my scattered brain, a place to put thoughts I knew wouldn’t disappear, and to connect with a few friends who had blogs, too.
Now nine years, three books, and a lot of blog posts later, here we are.
I know a lot has changed in these nine years, both among blogs as a whole and here in this space. I know we aren’t going back to the old days when the comment box was filled with chatter, when you could write something online and know you had a good chance of being heard, and when most of the blog posts you read sounded like real humans wrote them.
With all the noise, we have to work harder than before to remember why we do this.
First, though, I wanted to say this: I’m hopeful about the future for blog writing.
Call me a romantic, but I still think writing on a blog is one of the most important things I do as a writer.
I still think it’s the greatest medium for communicating, for story-telling, for writing through what you think about things.
I still think it’s one of the most lovely outlets for an extraverted introvert like me who loves people but needs a little time to think before I say words to them.
This is where I discovered that I am, in fact, a writer. This is where I work out what I believe. This is where all my books were born and how I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world (the world, I tell you!)
Though it may seem like an oxymoron, consistently writing and reading blogs can offer kind company for our souls and help to encourage intentionality, slowness, and listening.
Early last month, Steff Green wrote a post on ProBlogger giving examples of how blogging is changing and what you can do about it. This observation of hers stuck out to me:
“With social media platforms becoming the online communication too du jour, and with smartphones and other devices becoming for many the preferred platform, blogs have fallen to the wayside in favour of shorter, punchier messages specifically tailored to hit a reader’s buttons.” – from Is Blogging Dead?
This is one of my biggest motivations to keep writing on a blog.
Continuing to write here at Chatting at the Sky is my soul’s own quiet rebellion against the fast-moving world.
I write because I need room for my soul to breathe. And sometimes I have to write my way into that space.
I need a steady, consistent, and reliable online place that will serve my own soul in this quiet way. I bet you need that, too.
For me, that means embracing the short, punchier forms (because they’re fun and a great way to connect) but not at the expense of the longer-form blog writing, my first writing love.
But that doesn’t mean I plan to party like it’s 2008. I want to move with the changes rather than fight against them.
Here’s what staying sane on the Internet means for me, both as a reader of blogs and a writer of one:
As a reader:
- Unsubscribe: I’ve unsubscribed from everything except my top, most favorite, can’t-miss blogs. That means I only regularly read less than 10. And it’s delightful.
- Round Ups: I glance at weekly roundups to see what other writers have found that I’ve missed in various spaces.
- Newsletters: I subscribe to the newsletters of my favorite online writers because, if they’re doing it right, they share some of their best stuff in these. (Here’s where you can sign up to get mine).
- Fun: Pick the shorter forms out of love and fun, rather than fear of missing out. My favorite is Instagram because 1) I love photos 2) It’s a great way to stay connected to friends and writers alike even though I may not read all their posts 3) It’s fun!
- Rescue Time: I’ve installed Rescue Time on my computer so I can easily see how much of my time online is productive vs. distracting. Super helpful.
- Identify panic triggers: When I’m online and feel my soul start to shake on the inside from a low-grade scattered panic, I ask myself why. I don’t have a great solution for this yet (sans shutting off the computer) but I’m starting to pay attention. For those of us who work online, turning the computer off isn’t always an option. So I’m paying attention to the panic triggers.
Those are a few ways I’m practicing sanity in my online reading habits.
When it comes to actually writing online, I started to record some tips that help me but discovered after listing them they felt hollow. Instead, I took some time to really listen to my desire, to the why behind this blog, and what that means for me as a writer. Here’s what came up to the surface:
As a writer:
- I will tell stories.
- I will be myself.
- I will remember it’s “better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self.” (Cyril Connolly)
- I will refuse to romanticize the writing life.
- I will write to connect, not compete.
- I will remember fear is a normal part of the process, but courage gets the final say.
- I will remember how ego feels pushy and afraid but calling feels kind and free. Most of the time.
- I will remember people write online for a million little reasons and I will respect them theirs.
- I will practice writing words I can’t take back.
- I will refuse to write from a frantic place of hurry.
- I will be gentle with myself when I choose to hurry anyway.
- I will be relentlessly helpful to the souls of others.
- I will write as a kind companion rather than a truth machine.
- I will let love lead.
- I will not be a jerk.
Though these are personal to me, perhaps they resonate with you as well. If so, I’ve included them in a simple PDF for you to download or print as you wish: A Manifesto – How to Write on the Internet Without Losing Your Mind. Maybe they’ll help you stay sane on the internet, too.
Blogging is only as dead as you treat it. I plan to have many more years of writing here, of carving out a little space in the corner to sit on a bench and connect with you. So here’s to 2015 – the year we learn to stay sane on the Internet. I hope you’ll continue to join me.
I want to be kind company this year, both for your soul and for mine. Sometimes we forget to be kind to ourselves, don’t we? If this sounds good to you and you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up here to get them delivered directly into your inbox.
If that makes you feel crazy, maybe you’d prefer something a bit more infrequent but equally as encouraging. If so, you can join me on The Bench and receive my once-a-month newsletter (2nd Tuesday of the month).
Both options come with a free copy of my ebook Seven Little Ways to Live Art, sharing one way every day to take a soul breath.
I would love to hear how you’re staying sane on the Internet, both as a reader and a writer. Leave a comment here or join the conversation on Facebook.