The Darker Side Of Blogging? 5 (10) Things To Ponder Before You Start Your Own…
I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging recently, partially inspired by other blogs & conversations with friends and partially because…well…I’m a blogger.
I’ve been doing this for over 5 years now, have written over 900 posts and have gotten over 5 million views. That’s a looong time, a lot of stuff written and shared and it kind of overwhelms me when I sit down and really think about it. Most of the time I love blogging (I really do), but sometimes I don’t (I really don’t) and I realized I’ve never talked about that.
So, just like I’ve written about the darker side of RVing in the past, today I thought I would write about the darker side of blogging. To keep it real (and so that all you aspiring bloggers out there don’t get too depressed) I figured I would balance it with the positive side too. A kind of tennis match of blogging….a back and forth of the written word…a ping pong game of light and dark…
Well, you get the picture.
Not everyone will be interested in this since it’s specific to…well…blogging, but some of you aspiring bloggers may find it helps you on your own blogging journey, and some of you non-bloggers may find it interesting to peek into the murky depths of what happens behind the scenes. Plus I’m sure seasoned bloggers will find something they connect with in here. So for those curious read on and for those not, maybe I’ll see you in the next blog 🙂
1/ Blogging Takes Up WAY More Time Than You Think
Most folks who start blogging rapidly realize that it takes up WAY more time than you think. To those reading it may look effortless, which is really the whole point (you want your blogs to flow & read easily), but it can be super time-consuming to achieve that effect. A typical blog can easily take several hours to put together, and several days altogether if you count research, visits, photo processing etc. Since I’m “wordy” most of my blogs take 2-3 hours to write while my campground reviews take 3-4 hours (includes walking loops, taking site pics, making notes, trying facilities etc.).
Besides being a perfectionist (which really doesn’t help), part of my problem is that I’m dyslexic. Not terribly so mind you, but enough that my brain mixes letters, makes up words that aren’t there, and completely misses others that are. So, I usually have to proof read blogs 5-6 times before I post, and then another 3-4 times after publishing simply because I can’t see my mistakes. So, many days I’m stuck behind my computer writing (or editing) blogs when I could legitimately be doing something else. Sometimes it feels like a full-time job.
2/ It’s a Great Way To Keep You Engaged
I don’t think I would be as engaged as I am with our RV travels without blogging. The very act of writing a blog means I seek out more activities in an area than I might otherwise. Plus it pushes me to write & photograph (and improve my writing & photography) to an extent that I don’t think I’d have achieved on my own. I truly enjoy discovering the stories of a place, and trying to impart some of that wonder to others. For me it’s a bit like giving a Christmas present. I try and find that special “thing” every place I go, wrap it up in a story and give it out to the world as a joyful surprise.
Also, to be honest, I wouldn’t remember half of what we’ve done without the blog. It allows us to re-live some of the special moments we’ve had together in our travels and remember details that would otherwise fade into oblivion. Plus when we’re old and senile we’ll be able to look back and read it like a brand new storybook “Oh look honey, these nice young people went to Oregon….”
3/ It Pays Terribly
I’ve had many folks (especially younger folks) tell me they wanted to start a blog so they could fund their RV travels. In theory it seems easy. Just write some posts, slap a few Google Ads on there, maybe sign up for a few Affiliate Programs and BAM….cash rolls in. The truth is that blogging is very unlikely to make you the big bucks unless your blog becomes VERY big (and gets MEGA views), and even then it’s super hard to make enough to live on.
To give you an idea, Amazon Affiliates pays between 4-8% on sales depending on how many items are bought (and some items, like electronics, are capped). So, let’s say you want to make $500/month on Amazon. That means people need too buy over $8,000 of product from your links, each and every month. That’s a TON of sales!!! Google Ads is way worse. There are ways to make more money through sponsored posts and such, but then your blog morphs into something else. Getting that balance right can be tricky.
The truth is that most folks don’t make much, and when you add in the time it takes it’s practically not worth it. For real $$ you’d be better off doing just about any other job out there.
4/ It Can Self-Sustain Quite Easily
For the first 4 years or so of my blog-life I hosted my blog on a free platform which made everything quite easy. No expenses, no maintenance, no income. Then, my blog got too big and I had to go self-hosted. Not only that but by that time my blog had gotten SO big that I couldn’t get the cheapo hosting anymore. I had to spring for the more expensive guys. So, I was suddenly in a dilemma. Shut down the blog, or make a leap of faith and start monetizing to cover costs?
I was worried & super insecure about the whole thing (frankly I wasn’t even sure my blog was worth anything), but to my amazement it worked out. Folks supported the switch and every month since then, thanks to the generosity of those who use our various links we make enough to cover blog costs plus a bit more. It’s not a big money-maker, but it self-sustains and for that I’m deeply appreciative.
5/ Internet People Can Be Vile
At some point every blogger deals with hateful comments. I don’t know what it is about the internet that does this (ease of anonymity I guess?) but people will say things in comments that they would never say in person, and the bigger your blog gets the more of these trolls seem to come out of the woodwork. I’ve had some comments directed at me that were so vile they shocked me to my core, up to the point of people actually telling me I was unworthy to live and should consider killing myself. Considering how fluffy and generally positive my blog is, I’m amazed that anything I write could instigate that kind of intense hatred, but there you go. None of these comments ever get approved (and they all get immediately blacklisted) but they affect me nonetheless. On really bad days I wonder “why do I bother?”
6/Most People Blow You Away With Their Love
The VAST majority of people out there are loving, compassionate, uplifting & inspiring and whatever you put out is typically returned ten-fold in kind. The community and bond you form with other RV bloggers (and RVers) is a strong one with each supporting the other. And most people who seek you out are positively affected by what you do, and their comments reflect that. I know this may sound overly dramatic, but it renews your faith in humanity.
During my darkest moments on the blog (there haven’t been many, but there have been a few) I’ve been BLOWN AWAY by the comments and support I’ve received from readers. People have shared stories that touched me deeply, or provided words of love that lifted my soul. Blogging allows you to touch people and be touched in return, on a scale that I’ve never otherwise experienced elsewhere (that sounded creepy, but you know what I mean). It’s a pretty amazing phenomenon.
7/ Writing Can Become A Burden
Almost every blogger I’ve met has, at some point, considered their blog a burden. Once you start blogging you feel an obligation to continue, especially once you build an audience. After all, the reason most people follow a blog is to be part of the journey, so “keeping up” and blogging regularly is kinda a core part of the gig.
Even if you only blog a few times a week, that’s a few times a week you could be doing something else with your precious time. You could legitimately be hiking, or biking, or drinking beer and instead you’ll be thinking “I’ve got to go write a blog” and you’ll feel the obligation to sit down and do it even if you are not in the writing mood.
If you’re super self-critical (like I am) you feel an extra burden to put out “good stuff”, and as your blog grows (and your viewership increases) you’ll always be second-guessing yourself and wondering if what you’re writing is good enough. When that blank page faces you and the words aren’t coming it can be both a frustrating and depressing experience.
8/ Writing Can be Cathartic Too
The creative process can be a pretty amazing thing. Sometimes I’ll go out for a solo walk, or I’ll watch the sunset, or sit by the sea and I’ll have profound insights that are just bursting to come out. In those moments I’ll go home, get on the computer and words will flow effortlessly and beautifully. Then, once I’ve written I’ll feel like a burden has been lifted and I’ve understood something about the world that I never did before. It’s a totally cathartic experience that’s almost spiritual in nature.
When I write like that I never want to stop, and I think people respond to it in themselves too. My thoughts will touch someone else who’ll share their own story, or perhaps it’ll change their day or give them a moment of joy which they then pass onto with others…and so the cathartic experience grows. Circle of love, baby.
9/ It Can Take Over Your Life
Almost every blogger I know that has blogged for a long(ish) time is constantly thinking about blogging in some form or another. You go to a restaurant and you think about how you’ll blog about it. You go on a hike and you think about how you’ll blog about it. Sometimes it can feel like life is about “how is this going to fit into a blog post” rather than “how am I enjoying my life”. It can honestly be hard to find the balance here and I know bloggers who’ve quit writing for this reason alone.
10/ It Can Expand Your Life In Ways You Never Imagined
We’ve met people and connected to community through the blog in ways that I never, ever expected when I started. I’m always humbled when folks tell me they enjoy the blog, or have been inspired on their own journey’s through it, but when I think back that’s how we started too. Before we ever went RVing we read blogs, and we continue to be inspired by blogs on the road today. Many of my travel ideas come from other blogs, and many of the folks we’ve met through blogging have become close friends. It’s like a big ‘ol family and there’s something quite special about that. One day my blog will be dead and gone, but the friendships and memories I’ve formed through it will last forever. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
In the end blogging is a deeply personal pursuit and like everything in life it evolves and changes over time. My writing has changed (a ton) over the years, but I started this whole thing because I wanted to share a story and I continue to enjoy sharing that story today. The day I feel differently is the day I’ll no longer blog and yes, that day will come (eventually). Life is an evolution after all.
There’s many more aspects to this whole blogging thing, but I think these are my top 5 (10) both good and bad. Have I inspired you to blog? Or to never touch it with a 10-foot computer-blog pole? Feel free to share your thoughts below.