Monday, 15 June 2015

Blogging, you're doing it wrong!


The Internet is filled with helpful posts with titles like "How to blog", "28 tips for running a successful blog", "If you don't follow my rules your blog will die in the fiery pits of hell and your lap top will spontaneously combust in disgust at your woeful blogging, which is an abomination in the eyes of God", or something similar.

When I first began blogging I would read these posts and cringe at my lack of blogging skills. I was doing 90% of the things in these lists wrong, or was totally unaware that certain rules existed. I would stew over them, wondering how to best apply them to my fledgling words. My Type A personality was determined to get this blogging malarky right.

And now?

Almost six years after I first pushed publish I realised I wasn't following any of the stock standard rules and I'd stopped reading those posts.

You see blogging with and about chronic illness doesn't always fit into the rules. Talking to fellow chronically ill bloggers it became clear that for many of us the rules don't work, particularly if your symptoms are unpredictable or quite severe. We are constrained by things like fatigue, pain, brain fog and that pesky problem of trying not to puke up on your keyboard (it's a pain in the arse to try and get half digested chunks out from between the keys). Our blogs are also inherently personal and therefore incredibly unique.

For many of us it is not a question of not wanting to write or not having anything to write about. Instead it is the physical constraints of our bodies that hamper our efforts. And let me tell you, there is nothing more frustrating than being foiled by the chronic illness about which you are trying to raise awareness.I even made it to a blogging conference this year, only to miss half of it as I was busy concentrating on not passing out or vomiting on my note pad.

For me writing about Dysautonomia and my various other dodgy body parts is not about providing a medical resource. I don't offer medical advice or doctor recommendations. I offer no services and have no skills to teach. I didn't set out to raise awareness, although that has developed organically.

All I have to offer my readers is my story.

99% of the posts on my blog are simply snippets about my life with chronic illness. Nothing more and nothing less. Every now and then I get a bit mouthy about certain issues pertaining to disability or chronic illness. But mostly it's just me rabbiting on about the things I experience and the thoughts that rattle around in my head. If a lesson is learnt or a process explained it is more luck than planning.

I understand that for many the rules work. Just not for me. And accepting that I just want to write, rather concentrate on branding, or strategies, has kept blogging a pleasure rather than a chore.

I can also accept that I am going to fail at many of the blogging basics.

I don't plan my posts and I have no schedule.

I learnt long ago that scheduling when living with an unpredictable chronic illness, is a lesson in frustration. It simply set me up for failure. Instead I post when it feels right. That could be once a week or three times a week. Being a personal blog that works. Forcing a post shows. If I'm scratching my head for a topic to write about, I know it's time to step away from the keyboard. I tried back in the beginning to create a schedule and stick to it. This ended up with me spending hours staring at the keyboard waiting for inspiration. In the meantime you could hear crickets in my dull and empty head and I was using up my limited energy reserves on a useless endeavour. I can plan to post every Tuesday at 11am. Problem is that at 10am on Tuesday I may be bent over the loo praying for death, or passed out on the tiles surrounded by an accumulation of dust bunnies and short and curlies, courtesy of my lack luster house keeping. Scheduling is not my friend.

I am a grammar and spelling loser. 

Once upon a time I was known for my writing skills. Lecturers and co-workers would always remark on my literary prowess. Now I am reduced to working with one brain cell named Eunice, and poor old Eunice is overworked. My token response to questions of grammar and spelling are to do a quick check on all the words that have a squiggly red line underneath, and trying not end a sentence with a preposition. My initial drafts are 90% red as I have problems coordinating my fingers and I tend to substitute words even though my brain tells me that I am typing the right word. Add in fatigue and a decided lack of O2 to the lack lustre grey blob that resides in my skull and my final post is often a grammatical abomination. And I'm okay with that. It is often only when the humourless bastions of grammatical purity point out my mistakes that I even notice they exist. However, short of a mistake such as forgetting a vitally important letter in 'count' (been there, done that), I don't tend to go back and re-edit a published post. My writing will never be perfect, and I kinda like that. I simply don't have the cognitive skills required any more and I'm not going to head out back for some self-flagellation because someone pointed out that I put a comma where I should have put a semicolon.

I swear.

Not a lot, but I do. The first post I wrote had the F word three times in the first sentence. My last post ended with calling certain people "an arsehole". If you don't like it, don't read it. But I'm not going to sanitise my experience. Sometimes a good swear is what you need. Sometimes a choice, well-placed expletive gives the emphasis needed. Being chronically ill is frustrating. Dealing with ignorance is frustrating. Dealing with the medical system is frustrating. And the vast majority of my readers understand and relate to that frustration. I have no intention of censoring my writing so in all likelihood my future work will be peppered with expletives if it is appropriate to my topic.

I am big on TMI.

My bowels have featured heavily on this blog because their dysfunction has been a large part of the last 8 years. My dysfunctional bowels have landed me in hospital, I have been scoped more times than I can count and had the indignity of being given an enema by an overly chatty nurse. I share my experiences, because it demystifies and normalises them for others in the same position. Illness is scary because it is unknown. Every time I talk about poo I am inundated with emails thanking me for discussing such a sensitive topic. Fear lives because shame keeps us from sharing. So poo and various poo-related jokes will continue to be part of this blog.

I'm not big on the phenomenon of Illness Inspiration.

Everywhere you turn it's all rainbow-farting unicorns and sparkle covered epiphanies. Roll models for perfect patients abound. They are trotted out regularly on day time TV with big hair and Julia Robert's type smiles so that the hosts and viewing public can bask in their inspirational goodness. That's not reality and leaves the rest us patients feeling like we are doing illness wrong. Well pfft to that! I write about the crap times as much as the good times. I have a laugh where I can and am a big fan of glitter, but I am not here to offer up epiphanies and inspiration on a daily basis. Sometimes I am a whingy, whiney, and sour individual and I'll write about that just as much as I'll write about the times I am happy. Perky has never been part of my make up. Sarcasm on the otherhand is my go-to response to most aspect of life.

I don't have clue about SEO or HTML.

I have Google Analytics but tend to only look at the words people used to find my blog ("Don Johnson smells cat wee" is still my favourite) and where people come from (Hi regular reader from Uzbekistan). My technical knowledge is non-existent. I have more chance of solving the Reimann's Hypothesis than working out how to create a blog button. Learning is hard when Eunice is just trying to keep me upright and breathing. I keep thinking I should move my blog and make it look more professional, but the idea of trying to do it myself and a complete lack of funds (if only dust bunnies could be used as currency) means apathy wins out. Plus every time someone looks down on Blogger it makes me dig my heels in further. I can pay out on my blog platform and complain about it's faults, but if you start bad mouthing my platform I'll take you out at the knees.

I am shite at self-promotion.

Networking is exhausting and I always feel like the odd blogger out. I don't feel comfortable about entering blogging competitions and cringe at asking for votes. I never feel confident enough to share my posts widely. (I may need some therapy to get over that) But above all I don't have the energy. By the time I've published a post I am ready for a nanna nap. The idea of sharing and promoting it is pushed aside by the simple need to breathe and wipe the drool from my droopy mouth. It goes in the too hard basket. Self-promotion or pain meds and coma sleep to recover from the writing induced migraine? The latter always wins. I also have the organisational skills of a meth-addled lemur. I did get all proactive at one point and write myself a list of sites where I could share my posts. And then I promptly lost the list because I have a memory like a sieve. I regularly forget to take my meds, which live in a dosette box next to my bed, and are situated where they are the very first thing I see in the morning. So trying to organise promotion for my blog or particular posts is a pipe dream.

Blog statistics bore me senseless.

I know I should know them. I know they are important. But I just can't work up any interest in them. After 7yrs of statistics and research methods when I was doing my undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, I am statisticed out. Watch Judge Judy or check out my page views? Hmmm I would rather watch old Judes rip the dodgy check-cashing, half-wits a new one. Or I could do another Portlandia marathon, or re-watch Season 1 of The Walking Dead, yet again. Or nap. I don't have an Elevator Pitch and have no idea what my Brand is. The fact that people on the other side of the world there are people who call their version of Dysautonomia, Bob is far more exciting and satisfying than my Bounce Rate or Page Views. And everytime I recieve an email to say that I made a difference in someones life, it gives meaning and value to every hard fought word.

My body will continue to get in the way of blogging. I will post about the wrong things, in the wrong style, at the wrong time, and be completely incompetent on all technical aspects of blogging.

So I'm giving myself a break.

Blogging, I'm doing it all wrong. And I'm loving it.

Michelle :)

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13 comments:

  1. A few things for you:
    1. Sarcasm will always carry a person far and I really think your sarcasm is the biggest thing that drew me to reading your posts regularly.
    2. THE dysautonomia doctor in America is aware of you. His nurse practitioner has been known to read your blog. She told me herself. You definitely have street cred, girl.
    3. My BA in English often whimpers from the next room when I try to write. I haven't put my diploma in a frame yet because it's too embarrassed to be seen with me. This grammar Nazi has had to hang up her swastika. I get it. I get you.
    4. You do you and if you're looking for acceptance, I think you're swell. Hell, I think you're fucking awesome.
    5. Sometimes a well placed f-bomb is the most elegant way to express the hellishness.
    6. Did I mention you're awesome?

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    1. Well said Suzanne! I think she is awesome too!

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    2. Aw thanks Suzanne. I think I need to keep you in my pocket for when I'm feeling blargh :) I giggled at you BA in English whimpering in the next room. I have no idea what happened to my ability to string a sentence together. It was so easy once. And my vocab has really dropped off. I know there are words sitting there waiting to be found again but they are so well hidden these days. xx

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    3. Thanks Donna. Really appreciate that xx

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  2. Sing it Suzanne!
    Michelle, I am so glad you never followed the 'rules'. I like your blog better than any other blog on the internet. Those rules might work for regular bloggers and regular readers, but for people who are sick... your heartfelt, real, funny and f-bombed blog is better than medicine. I heart Living With Bob!

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    1. Thanks Rach. I started writing this a while back after I opened up my email to find about 5 how to blog messages sitting there. I know for many other bloggers it seems to work really well, but I just looked at them and realised a) there was no way I could do all of it and b) I wasn't really interested in doing them. I just write and push publish and whatever happen, happens. Does take the pressure off.It is lovely to know that my ramblings resonate with people and help others along the way. xx

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  3. I love this! While I am ok with networking and self promotion, I don't give a shite about SEO either. As I said at Voices of 2015, I don't know about long tailed keywords, and my blogging career is doing ok.
    If all you have is your story, you're doing ok too. It's what I want.

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    1. I had never heard of long tailed keywords until your post on FB. I still don't know what they are. :) I'm sure I could work on the networking and self-promotion issue. It's a confidence and anxiety issue and something I have battled with for years. The thought of making small talk to network sends shivers down my spine. I'd rather dart in and out of conferences and the like, as a stealthy ninja than chance someone saying hi.

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  4. PREACH! Fuck the rules. And please write more about poo. People don't give their bowels the credit they deserve. I tried forcing a post once and I realised that you can't polish a turd (I'm VERY poo oriented having had an ileostomy). I'm an avid hater of illness inspiration and I have no idea what SEO is and don't want to. Blog stats also bore me witless, but I'm happy to admit that I'm a complete and utter grammar nazi. I love your blog SO hard, so please keep doing it 'wrong' :)

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    1. Much talk of poo to be had on here and definitely more in the future. :) Illness inspiration does my head in. I live my life as is, good and bad. SEO everyone talks about SEO all I can think is I really don't care. And 6 years down the track I still don't really understand it!

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  5. Great post! And all so true!

    I think a major thing with doing it all wrong, is, there is nothing in the way of YOUR voice being heard in the readers head. Because your own voice is so unique.

    I do it ALL wrong, and I really don't care. I say I'm an "out of the box blogger". Because I don't fit in with pretty much every 'blogging rules' post I have ever read.

    I came across a blog post of mine from 2008 earlier today (and actually reposted it to my now blog as well). The change in how I write now is insane. Because now, I really don't care if nobody reads my blog.. Back then, I wanted somebody (anybody!) To read it!

    Keep doing it all wrong. You rock at it.

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    1. Wrong is where it's at! I want stories and I want to hear voices. Sometimes those voices are raw and messy and that is all kinds of fabulous. Livin' on the edge is the only way :)

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  6. Nice blog. Please see the comment I just posted on one of your 2012 posts. I wonder if you have ever seen a functional MD, been screened for MTHFR genetic methylation variants, and for heavy metals, toxins, and dental materials reactivity, seen a biologic dentist, etc.

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All who are lovely enough to comment should be showered with cup cakes, glitter and macarons. I promise to use my spoon bending mind powers to try and get that happening for all who are lovely enough to share their words. Those who go the extra step to share posts should really get a free unicorn. Or at least the gift of finding the shortest and quickest line at the supermarket on a regular basis. xx